This module examines the relationship between world and stage as a means of understanding what theatre is and how it works. No prior theatre experience is required.

In diverse cultures, theatre has been viewed as a model for interpreting the wider world. Meanwhile, theatre-makers have historically sought to represent, recreate and indeed transform that world by their actions on stage. Examining a range of theatrical forms and the critical debates they have provoked, students will gain a grounding in key historical and contemporary performance practices, and an appreciation of the often contested place of these practices in society.

The module design reflects this variety. Classes will be based on responses to a mixture of critical reading reading and performance DVDs. Each week will combine a seminar class and a practical workshop. There will also be a fieldtrip during the mid-semester break.

The Introduction, ‘Worlding Theatre’, presents the historical, philosophical and practical issues at stake in examining the relationship between theatre and world.

Part One, ‘Theatre’s Worlds’, surveys the various strategies theatre-makers have used to encompass the bewildering scale and complexity of the wider world within the delimited space of the stage. It focuses on theatre history, and includes the study of classical tragedies, naturalistic innovations, and political theatre.

Part Two, ‘One World’, extends and deepens the insights gathered in Part One by presenting an in-depth case study of a specific theatre practice. The first such case study, ‘Wayang Cosmologies’ will focus on Javanese wayang kulit (shadow theatre), and will include a field trip to Jogjakarta during the mid-semester break.

Part Three, ‘Brave New Worlds?’ raises critical questions about the cultural politics of theatre practice, and assesses a variety of analytical and interpretive approaches that have been proposed as a means of addressing these issues. It examines developments in contemporary theatre, and includes the study of performance art and activism.

The Conclusion wraps up the module, and highlights the implications of what has been covered for an appreciation and understanding of theatre in the future.

Assessment tasks are varied, and contain some flexibility, according to individual students’ interests. They include a critical essay, a seminar presentation, a group fieldtrip project, and individual research project. These two projects can take numerous forms, from a short performance or film, to a lecture demonstration or research presentation.

Aims and Objectives

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

  • Demonstrate knowledge of key theatre genres and movements (tragedy, naturalism, political theatre, the avant-garde, interculturalism, post-dramatic theatre) and an appreciation of how they are expressed in selected examples.
  • Identify and critically assess how a range of theatre practices relate to the wider intellectual, social and political circumstances in which they are created and performed.
  • Apply the basic methods of Theatre Studies – such as practice-based enquiry, performance analysis, and critical theory – to the analysis of selected works and aesthetic approaches.
  • Interpret and analyse selected theatre practices and events based on primary and secondary resources.
  • Devise and conduct group and independent research into aspects of the field not directly covered in the syllabus.