BA Drama and English Literature

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Applied Theatre: Theatre in Prisons

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM30111
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

Applied Theatre: Prisons is an intensive, professional-standard practical module that provides training in drama and theatre workshop techniques, game playing, devising and performing within the context of prisons and the criminal justice system. Students engage in both a practical and theoretical exploration of this context of work. Possible working and placement opportunities include: HMP Risley, HMP Lancaster Farms, HMP Buckley Hall, HMP Styal and HMP Thorn Cross (subject to circumstances and regulations/guidance at the time).

Students will participate in:

  • Workshops in appropriate theatrical skills
  • Seminars engaging with issues in and research about the criminal justice system
  • A residency in a local secure establishment


Students will be expected to:

  • Devise and run workshops suitable for prison settings
  • Prepare for and participate in seminars on related issues in the criminal justice system
  • Undertake appropriate evaluation and monitoring of work
  • Maintain a regular journal of all work



Pre-requisite units

Theatre and Performance 1 OR Theatre and Performance 2 OR Performance Practices 1 OR Performance Practices 2


Theatres of Modernity OR Screen, Culture and Society


Co-requisite units

Drama Dissertation/Research Essay




  • To introduce students to the theory and practice of theatre in criminal justice sites
  • To provide students with an opportunity to conceive, develop, undertake and evaluate a practical project in a criminal justice setting, under supervision
  • To provide students with practical and seminar-based opportunities to encounter best practice, engage with leading professional practitioners and explore cutting-edge research in the field
  • To prepare students for professional work in the field of applied theatre


Knowledge and understanding

  • examine and test in practice some of the key aims and principles that underpin the devising of a criminal justice theatre programme
  • develop well-planned strategies for collaborative group work
  • research, devise and present a theatre programme for a specified prison population or criminal justice establishment
  • apply creative techniques imaginatively for engaging prisoners in participatory theatre
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of the working of professional prison theatre companies and of the development of the field in Britain


Intellectual skills

  • demonstrate that they can systematically draw theory and practice together both in their project and in their writing;
  • critically analyse and evaluate their own and other’s creative work, and draw on feedback to develop and refine ideas and approaches
  • undertake sustained research and reflective writing demonstrating a critical and self-reflexive understanding of creative theatre processes


Practical skills

  • engage in informed discussions with leading professional practitioners
  • design workshops and understand the principles involved in designing a workshop programme
  • facilitate a groupwork process involving theatre and drama
  • use reflexivity to undertake self evaluation
  • grasp and effectively apply ethical principles and practices in the area of theatre and criminal justice
  • demonstrate awareness of and apply professional standards in the area of theatre and criminal justice


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Advanced interpersonal communication and team-working skills
  • Critical thinking skills and creative group-work practice skills (problem-solving, thinking innovatively, drawing on creative approaches of others, evaluating arguments, giving and receiving feedback, time-keeping)
  • Using effective leadership and group-work skills to solve complex problems
  • Performing with confidence and precision for specific audiences/contexts, making use of diverse creative approaches and media


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 ¿ Ability to work independently and as part of a group to solve problems arising from engaging with challenging 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) ¿ Development of a professional identity and skills/knowledge base to inform further training and learning

Assessment methods

Group residency – planning and delivering a theatre project suitable for a secure setting 40%
Group presentation 2  20%
Exit Tutorial (individual)- Based on reflective journal – (students are expected to make 10 posts onto a reflective blog during the course), independent research, and evaluation of their own contribution to the process 40%
Group presentation 1  NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Group residency – written report


Group presentation – written feedback


Exit tutorial – written feedback


Group presentation 1 - verbal feedback



Recommended reading

·         Baim, C. & Brookes, S. & Mountford, A. (2002) The Geese Theatre Handbook: Drama

with Offenders and People at Risk. Sheffield: Waterside Press

·         Balfour, B. Theatre in Prison: Theory and Practice. Exeter: Intellect 2004,

·         Crowley, M. (2012) Behind the Lines: Creative Writing with Offenders and People at

Risk. Sheffield: Waterside Press

·         Johnston, C. (2010) Drama Games for Those Who Like to Say No. London: Nick Hern


·         McAvinchey, C. (2011) Theatre & Prison. London: Palgrave MacMillan

·         Shailor, J. (ed) (2011) Performing New Lives, London: Jessica Kingsley 

Thompson, J. ed. (1998) Prison Theatre: Perspectives and Practices London: Jessica Kingsley

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 88
Placement hours
Placement 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 294

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alison Jeffers Unit coordinator

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