Study Abroad and Exchanges



SEL2217 : Popular Performance Here and Now

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module will build upon the skills of analysis introduced in the stage one module ‘Drama, Theatre, Performance' by providing students with the opportunity to analyse and develop a critical response to contemporary popular performance.

It has three main aims:

•       to develop skills of performance analysis;
•       to explore and contextualise the conventions of contemporary performance;
•       to interrogate the concept of ‘the popular’.

The module will provide opportunities for students to develop their own analyses and responses to selected plays and performances through discussion, written analysis and performance demonstration. It will involve analysis of live performance as well as video and scripts. The module will include viewings of a range of contemporary popular performances presented in Newcastle in order to focus its enquiries. The module will frame analysis of this material with investigation of the definition and function of popular performance in contemporary culture.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is designed to provide an overview of contemporary popular performance, looking at a number of specific examples drawn from different genres of live performance. The lectures will explore the conventions of contemporary popular performance, such as mainstream theatrical musicals, stand-up comedy, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, contemporary circus and street performance in order to place them in dialogue with broader theoretical issues including the definition of performance and the concept of the popular.

It will draw upon the work of a wide range of practitioners, critics and theorists, such as Judith Butler, John McGrath and Philip Auslander. Issues raised may include the role of performance in the construction of local and national identities; the significance of liveness in performance and its relation to mediation; ownership, ethics and globalisation; the relationship between text and performance; perceptions of theatre’s agency and influence, including questions of audience response and traditions of anti-theatrical prejudice.

Content will change from year to year according to local theatre programming. In 2016-17 we went to see a livecast of George Bernard Shaw's St Joan at the Tyneside Cinema; a stage adaptation of Frankenstein; a improvised comedy night, and two new pieces of theatre at Northern Stage, Leaving and On Record. Tickets for these shows are purchased and paid for by the School.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice13:003:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork62:3015:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery10:300:30N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1141:30141:30N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The first two thirds of module involve a weekly lecture of one hour and a workshop of two hours.

These two hour workshops will include student-led discussions and presentations; analysis of play scripts; analysis of secondary criticism; practical activities and/ or viewing of video extracts of performance where appropriate. This phase of the module will involve around six two and a half hour fieldwork sessions - visits to view performances at local theatres and other venues - which will be discussed in lectures and workshops.

Between the lecture and the workshop each week students will participate in a one hour self-directed study group.

Lectures, drop-in tutorials and workshops during the final third of the module will be dedicated to the development and delivery of the final assessment on the module.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M40Either i) Description and rationale for a popular performance, or (ii) analysis of live performance seen this term (both 1500 words)
Portfolio2A60Either: individual performance presentation and commentary; submission of script and commentary; or essay (all 2,500 words).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-term written exercise will either require students to offer a critically informed analysis of one of the live performances viewed for the module, or to set out a detailed and critically informed description of an individual piece of popular performance in response to the material covered on the module. This assessment will enable students to apply the skills they have developed through independent research and seminar participation.

The end of term assessment will either require students to offer a critically and theoretically informed analysis of the forms of contemporary popular performance covered on the module in an academic essay, or to present an individual performance presentation or short script which offers a critically informed creative response to the forms of contemporary performance covered on the module. Both script and performance presentation will be accompanied by a critical reflective commentary that provides an opportunity for students to present the independent research leading to the presentation or script, to reflect upon their own learning, and indicate how their creative response may be subjected to critical and/or theoretical analysis.

Reading Lists