New Ways to Think Theatrically!
One of the best things about my second year as a Theatre & Performance Studies student at Warwick has been having the freedom to choose all of my modules and branch out into other disciplines.
When I talk to non-Theatre students about my degree, they’re often surprised by the topics that the course covers beyond what is typically associated with theatre. Whilst the course certainly does involve the study of theatre in a more traditional sense, many of the modules I’ve taken this year have focused on exploring political and social issues through performance and have involved lots of different performance forms, from films and musicals to protests.
In this post, I’ve chosen a selection of modules that have taught me to think about theatre and performance in new ways and have helped me develop valuable skills beyond what I expected from my degree. I hope this gives you a sense of the huge spectrum of possibilities that the Theatre course gives you the chance to explore!
Social Abjection and Post-war British Theatre
In this module we looked at topical issues such as the migration crisis, homelessness and the North/South divide in Britain through the lens of contemporary plays, as well as analysing how various groups in society are represented through reality TV and in the press. It was really interesting to consider the problems associated with representing groups who are marginalised in society and how all representations – even verbatim plays and documentaries – cultivate a specific view of these groups, views which impact ideas of national identity and politics. It was really exciting to discuss such current issues and to discover so many new plays, and I really enjoyed the module’s focus on a wide variety of representations, from speeches by politicians to films.
Mad, Bad, and Sad: Madness and Cultural Representation
This was a really popular module and definitely one of the most engaging and challenging of my second year! We studied a huge range of artistic portrayals of ‘madness’ including mainstream films like Shutter Island and playwrights such as Sarah Kane. Alongside creative representations, we also studied a wide variety of secondary readings from different time periods, giving us a broad understanding of how the concept of ‘madness’ has been understood and analysed through history.
Due to the sensitive themes that the module covered, we always had really engaging seminar discussions investigating topics such as the pharmaceutical industry, how ideas related to mental health have changed over time and the ethics of exploring ‘madness’ in art.
This module really opened my mind to new ideas, improved my ability to engage with alternative views to my own and helped me understand how to approach sensitive themes.
Placement (Creative Arts & Cultural Industries)
I chose this module as I was keen to get more experience working in the arts industry and felt that it would offer me something a bit different to my other, theory-based modules. I spent three weeks over the Easter break working with a professional theatre company and wrote a 5000 word business-style report which was used to give me a grade for the module.
I was quite nervous to step outside of my comfort zone but it was hugely rewarding and worthwhile; I gained confidence in a new environment, made new contacts and learnt how the skills I’ve been developing as a student are really valuable in the workplace. Writing the report was also extremely useful as it introduced me to a whole new style of writing – instead of writing in an essay format, we had to write a report that was organised and presented information to employees in an efficient way, a skill which will serve me well post-uni.
Theatre in the African Context
Theatre in the African Context was really varied and exciting! We studied a wide range of performance forms (such as dance, song, trance and ritual), different cultures and different political landscapes within Africa. Exploring an area of theatre that I was unfamiliar with meant that the material was quite difficult to get to grips with, but I found it really inspiring to discover new playwrights and learn about how they used theatre to challenge oppressive systems. As many of the plays had an emphasis on song and dance, the seminars often involved physical exercises which helped us to get a better understanding of the plays in performance, making the classes a lot more lively! (You can find out more about my experience of this module in my previous post, ‘African Theatre Module: Exciting, Challenging & Imaginative’)
The Theatre & Performance Studies degree goes way beyond the traditional associations of theatre – it introduces you to new ways of thinking about the world and how everything we experience involves performance. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to study such a range of exciting topics with great lecturers this year and am looking forward to diving into my third year modules!
*Disclaimer: modules vary from year to year, this is just a snapshot of the modules I studied this year!