Skip to main content

Our Theatrical World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: coursework of 1500 words (40%) and a 3000-word essay (60%)

Module description

What claims have theatremakers, theorists and critics made regarding the role of theatre and performance in the world? How have they analysed the social, educational and aesthetic effects of theatre and performance? How do theoretical arguments about theatre and performance and theatre practices themselves relate to historical and material contexts?

In this module, we will explore these questions through an introduction to some of the major debates in performance theory and practice from the late nineteenth century to now. The forms and practices we will examine encompass theatrical naturalism, avant-garde theatre and performance, performance art, digital and broadcast media, feminist and queer performance, and anti-racist deconstructions of the theatrical canon. We will investigate the relationship between theatrical function, representational form and historical circumstance, examining the propositions that theatre-makers and critics have made regarding theatre practice and its effects. We will explore definitions of the nature of theatre and performance offered by theorists and theatre-makers, asking questions about ‘liveness’, ‘mediatisation’, ‘performativity’ and the ways in which social identities come to be constructed in and through performance.

Analysis of two contemporary productions will form the basis of discussion in seminars, providing opportunities to apply theoretical debates to current performance practice.

Indicative syllabus

  • Theatricality and naturalism
  • Avant-garde: Alfred Jarry and Antonin Artaud
  • Distanciation and spect-actorship: Brecht and Boal
  • Utopia and theatricality
  • Writing workshop and assessment preparation
  • The ontology of performance
  • Liveness
  • Performativity and gender
  • Repetition and racial identity
  • Performance in the gallery and assessment preparation

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • demonstrate familiarity with some of the major debates in theatre and performance theory of the modern and contemporary periods
  • demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between theatre and performance theories, practices and their historical contexts
  • be able to apply theoretical concepts to different examples of theatre and performance practice
  • demonstrate skills in researching, analysing and critiquing theatre, performance and associated writings.