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Unit information: Interpreting Plays in 2020/21

Unit name Interpreting Plays
Unit code THTR20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sedgman
Open unit status Not open

THTR10005 Performance Forms and Analysis or DRAM11004 Performance Forms and Analysis

THTR10002 Production for Design and Performance or DRAM10028 Production Skills for Performance 1



School/department Department of Theatre
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit, students will learn how to read play-texts in order to understand how they operate on stage and with a view to exploring them in performance. Students will acquire skills in close textual reading, and examine the conventions of dramatic writing in which the play-text is located. They will be introduced to the importance of understanding genre in approaching a play, including the need to be alert to a writer’s deviations from relevant conventions of playmaking. In addition, they will consider the particular theatrical milieu in which the playwright worked, as well as the theatre practices (such as acting, directing and scenography) prevalent at the time of writing. They will also learn the importance of exploring the broader social, cultural and political environment, which influenced the playwright and the audience of the play. The unit builds on Staging the Text, deepening students’ critical and contextual engagement with play texts, which will generally be drawn from a particular period or genre to allow dedicated and focused study.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:
(1) apply a range of approaches to reading play-texts and explored how they operate in performance;
(2) locate a play in terms of its dramatic conventions, genre and historical period, and the importance of such contextual knowledge;
(3) demonstrate their knowledge of a particular period or genre and the broader social, cultural and political environment, which influenced playwrights and audiences at the time;
(4) interpret a scene or scenes from a play, informed by contextual understanding;
(5) stage a scene or scenes, and demonstrate skills in acting and/or directing appropriate to level I
(6) analyse, make critical judgements and evaluate the effectiveness of interpretations and stagings.

Teaching details

Combination of synchronous and asychronous seminar and workshop sessions and self-directed exercises

Assessment Details

1 x 15-25 minute performance = 60% of unit (choice of digital or live, depending on circumstances); 1 x 2000 critical analysis/case study = 40% of unit

Reading and References

David Edgar (2009) How Plays Work, London: Nick Hern Books.

Tom Postlwait and Bruce A. MCConachie, eds. (1989) Interpreting the Theatrical Past, University of Iowa Press.

Harriet Walter (2003) Other People's Shoes, London: Nick Hern Books.

Glynne Wickham (1965) A History of the Theatre, Phaidon.

Raymond Williams (1987) Drama from Ibsen to Brecht, Penguin.

Phillip B Zarrilli, ed. (2002) Acting Reconsidered, Routledge.