BA Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Contemporary Theatre-Making

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM32001
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


Please note that this unit is delivered on-campus only and is therefore not available to remote learners

This course explores current trends in theatre-making, whereby performances are often created flexibly and holistically (e.g. solo practitioners writing and performing their own work; ensembles devising material work from scratch). Students will be trained in compositional methods enabling them to work in various creative modes, and will explore different options for presentation - from end-on staging to site-specific or durational practice. Working solo or in small groups, they will develop new performance pieces from inception to execution over the duration of the module.


Teaching will be as responsive as possible to the emerging concerns of students, as they begin to generate their own work. Students will engage critically with key performance questions around liveness, uses of space, spectatorship, etc., and will be encouraged to consider how their work might operate within actual production contexts. A key stage in the module will be the ‘pitch’, in which students present their emerging performance ideas – including short work-in-progress extracts – to a panel of potential ‘production partners’, who will then provide formative feedback. 


Pre-requisite units

Any L1 Drama Study or Practical core option


Any L2 Drama Study core option - Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2; Screen, Culture and Society


At least one 20 credit L2 Drama practical course




  • To explore a range of theories, modes and methods for contemporary theatre-making.
  • To develop new theatre pieces, whether solo or collaborative works, which build on students’ personal creative strengths to inform compositional strategies.
  • To highlight and explore the inter-relation of form and content in contemporary practice.
  • To foreground key dramaturgical and theatrical questions around the structuring of time; the uses of space; the relationship between performer(s) and spectator(s); decisions about the use (or non-use) of lighting, sound, objects, etc.
  • To provide students with ‘dry run’ experience of framing and discussing works-in-progress with potential producers and partners.
  • To use critical reading and visits to live performance events as stimuli for creative practice.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand some of the theoretical and practical issues that arise in the making and promotion of small-scale contemporary theatre.
  • Identify and analyse some of the key methods and modes of contemporary theatre practice.
  • Utilise this understanding in the making of original works of theatre which build on personal areas of creative strength and critical interest.
  • Participate in self-reflexive debate on strategies for theatrical composition.
  • Identify key issues in the production and presentation of contemporary practice

Intellectual skills

  • Explore and test various approaches to theatrical composition, through critical examination of spatial, temporal and performer-audience dynamics.
  • Bring together critical thinking and creative research in the development of new performance work.
  • Identify appropriate textual, visual and theatrical strategies for the development and presentation of varying types of narrative and non-narrative content.
  • Work collaboratively and responsively with peers to critique and enhance each others’ creative development.

Practical skills

  • Utilise creative research methods in the development of new theatrical material.
  • Conceive and devise new performance work that builds on personal strengths and concerns.
  • Identify appropriate compositional strategies for the content one wishes to explore.
  • Work effectively with considerations of space, time, spectatorship, theatrical objects, etc. 
  • Articulate the potential impact and appeal of one’s own work while it is still in development.
  • Responsibly incorporate oral testimony and local actors into the performance process.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Communicate effectively with creative partners and potential producers.
  • Plan the logistics of a public event, including negotiating production details, promotion, and space usage, etc.
  • Articulate their own areas of strength (whether textual, visual, choreographic, etc.) as critically-reflexive theatre-makers.
  • Navigate some of the logistical and presentational issues that arise in seeking to engage potential producers with new theatre work.

Employability skills

Group/team working
¿ Ability to work independently and as part of a group to conceive, plan, undertake and evaluate original, well-developed projects that involve complex and unpredictable scenarios ¿ Advanced skills in group-work, leadership, reflexivity, planning and project management
¿ Understanding of and adherence to industry-level professional and ethical standards in practical work ¿ Ability to develop informed critique of professional practice (own and others), drawing on understanding of high quality standards ¿ Development of a professional identity and skills/knowledge base to inform further professional practice, training and learning

Assessment methods

Group Performance 60%
Reflective Essay 40%
Producer’s pitch and supporting documentation.  NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Pitch Presentation –verbal


Performance & Documentation – written and verbal


Reflective essay - written



Recommended reading

Bishop, Claire, ed. Participation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2006.

Tim Etchells, Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment (London: Routledge, 1999)

Freshwater, Helen, Theatre & Audience. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Heddon, Deirdre. Autobiography and Performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Mike Pearson, Site Specific Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Shaw, Peggy & Weaver, Lois, ‘MAKE SOMETHING: a manifesto for making performance about making change.’ Staging International Feminisms. Elaine Aston & Sue-Ellen Case, eds. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

White, Gareth, Audience Participation in Theatre: Aesthetics of the Invitation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 187
Independent study hours
Independent study 213

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Smith Unit coordinator
Simon Parry Unit coordinator
David Calder Unit coordinator

Return to course details