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Performing Theatre Histories (Critical Practice I)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Louise Owen
  • Assessment: a 1000-word coursework exercise plus visual material (10%), performance presentation plus 1000-word critical reflection (40%) and 2000-word essay (50%)

Module description

How is theatre created? What are the key ingredients of theatrical production? And how does historical and material context impact on how theatre is made, and the meanings it generates for audiences? This module responds to these questions through in-depth investigation of one of the most famous plays in the western dramatic canon: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Introducing you to a wide variety of productions and adaptations of the play from the early modern period to the contemporary, the module explores how theatremakers have used language, dramaturgy, performance space, scenography, dramatic form, lighting and sound, actorly performance and costume to produce new meanings on stage. You will consider the political effects of representation in terms of gender, racial identity and sexuality, and consider continuities and changes in theatre practice.

The module is taught via a combination of practice and theory. Each weekly three-hour workshop class involves a combination of seminar discussion, analysis of screenings and performances and practical group work. Throughout the module you will maintain a journal that documents your work in class time, and your research and writing outside of your work together. The module culminates in the creation and presentation of a piece of new performance work developed by the group collaboratively on the basis of your study of Shakespeare’s play.

Indicative module content

    • William Shakespeare's Hamlet as an object of staging practice
    • Aspects of theatrical practice, which will form the basis of historical comparison, analysis and exploration
    • Examples of adaptation and associated theatrical techniques
    • Skills in documenting and analysing performance practice

      Learning objectives

      By the end of this module, you will be able to:

      • demonstrate knowledge of a range of theatrical practices in historical context
      • analyse historically situated theatre and performance techniques and their effects in performance
      • apply techniques of analysis and documentation in your own work, and to the performance work of others
      • engage in performance-making as both technique and outcome of research.