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EN9A7 Drama and Performance Theory

street theatre

The aim of this module is to introduce students to drama and performance theory, by giving them the opportunity to explore and discuss some of the methodologies, debates and conceptual approaches to drama and performance, both current and historical. It will encourage students to consider these methodologies when reading primary material, and to this end five key primary texts are allotted for the module which will encourage dialectical consideration of theory and practice. There will normally be a tie-in theatre trip late in the course.

There will be one 2 hour seminar/workshop per week in the Autumn term, and the module will be assessed by a 6,000 word essay (or 8,000 if taken as a 36-CATS course). Most classes will be on Monday late afternoon this year, but because of theatre trips and staff availability, we will negotiate the final timetable in week 1.

This is now updated for 2023-4. QUERIES TO

Please read all the primary texts before the start of term (or as many as you can). We will be assuming familiarity with them from week 1.

The plays you will need to acquire and read for 2023-24 are:

Euripides, The Bacchae (trans. David Greig)

Thomas Heywood, The Fair Maid of the West 1 & 2 (links to Google Books). Also available secondhand ed. Robert K. Turner (1967).

Samuel Beckett, Not I and Play. via Drama Online.

Class timetable

1: Dr Steve Purcell: Making Sense of the Stage / Introduction. Freshwater's Theatre & Audience.
2: Dr Steve Purcell: Spectatorship. Bacchae.
3: Dr Teresa Grant: Ritual. Bacchae.
4: Dr Teresa Grant: Theatre and History. Fair Maid of the West
5: Dr Teresa Grant: Theatre as Structure: Comedy. Fair Maid.
6: Dr John West: Theatre as Structure: Tragedy. Bacchae.
7: Dr Michael Meeuwis: Theatre and Archive. In an archive -- arrangements will be made in week 1.
8: Dr Liz Barry: Theatre, Embodiment and Disability. Beckett, Not ILink opens in a new window and PlayLink opens in a new window
9: Dr Steve Purcell: Semiotics.  Beckett, Play
10: Dr Steve Purcell: Theatre in Context. Visit to RSC Fair Maid.


The reading for each week will be advertised on the course Moodle; typically, we will be discussing one play or performance in relation to a number of theoretical texts.

You will be provided with digital copies of most of the theoretical texts. However, you will need constant access to your own copies of the following (you may want a physical copy to scribble in, or both are available electronically via the library):

Gerould, Daniel (2000) [ed.] Theatre/Theory/Theatre: the Major Critical Texts, New York: Applause Books. This is a key textbook for the module and will form the basis of multiple weeks' reading.

Freshwater, Helen (2009) Theatre and Audience, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.