module specification

SM5010 - Society in Performance (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Society in Performance
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   Essay (1500- 2000 words)
Group Presentation 20%   Group-led live presentation (maximum of 10 minutes per student).
Coursework 40%   Research Project (2500-3000 words)
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

Developing from the knowledge and awarenesses promoted in Identity & Performance, this module will investigate social issues that are both enacted and questioned by established performance practices.
A key emphasis here is on social inter-actions from a performance perspective. In this sense, social interactions are explored in the communication strategies between performance and audience, in the social function of performative languages, in the political and ideological context depicted in performance or embedded in its creation, in the function of performance with respect to marginality and inclusion, and in the sociological study of performance institutions and their organisation within the professional industry.

Module aims

• To evaluate the social context of performance, as it is consciously depicted by this or latently inherent to it;
• To understand performance and performative events as social phenomena;
• To refer to a variety of theoretical perspectives, ranging from critical theories, semiotics and sociological concepts, in the analysis of performance practices;
• To identify established performance practices (contemporary and historical) that investigate ideological and social issues;
• To promoted innovative ways to explore the subject in question, making use of inter-disciplinary, blended learning and creative practice;
• To explore relevant structures and modes of organisation in the performance industry, relating these to its broader cultural context and to questions of marginality and inclusion.


The module will open with broad debate questions related to ideology, making use of a wide range of everyday examples from popular culture. These will be a chance to establish the relevance of the topic and to introduce a range of concepts by established theorists (e.g., Marx, Foucault, Althusser, Marcuse). Following this introduction, the module will focus on a selection of case studies, deliberately chosen to promote an eclectic and multi-disciplinary exploration. These will include dramatic texts (by contrasting playwrights, such as B. Brecht, C. Churchill, S. Mrozek, D. Hare, H. Muller, H. Barker), specific pieces by established performance practitioners (e.g. P. Bausch, Ballets C. De la B., DV8, Punchdrunk, Forced Entertainment), approaches to the creation of performance (Epic Theatre, Forum Theatre, cross-disciplinary devising, immersive theatre) and a selection of performance organisations (theatre and arts venues, community and outreach projects, funding bodies).

According to each case study, students will explore social and ideological implications, identifying a wide range of strategies to approach social issues, whether through artistic content (latently or overtly), theoretical connections, creative research methodologies or institutional policies, particularly with reference to marginality and inclusion. Students will then be guided trough the creation of an independent project (assessed through a project portfolio and a live presentation), in which they will focus on a relevant case study of their own choice and utilise this both to apply the concepts explored in the module and as a creative stimulus to propose a working concept: this may be the proposal for a new production idea , for a relevant outreach project or for a new arts organisation.

Learning and teaching

The following learning and teaching strategies are going to be employed in the course of this module:
• Multi-media lectures
• Student-led seminars
• Online activities through blended learning approaches
• Practical creative tasks (occasional practical workshops, creative writing, design, photography and videography)
• Visits to relevant points of interest
• Interviews to professionals in the industry
• Short professional placements (where applicable)
• One formal essay (assessed)
• An inter-disciplinary research project (assessed)
• Live presentations (assessed)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have gained:
• An understanding of the political and ideological implications of performance, whether consciously raised or latently embedded in this, and the ability to analyse and sustain arguments in relation to this;
• An understanding of the pervasiveness of ideology, critically evaluating relevant theoretical perspectives;
• The ability to apply the methods of research explored to a variety of performance related contexts, including dramatic texts, performative events, live art, performance institutions and applied performance practices;
• The ability to engage with the above contexts on both a critical and creative level, initiating and carrying out relevant projects;
• The opportunity to extend their knowledge in relation to the performance industry and its broader cultural context.

Assessment strategy

Assessment modes on this module are designed to provide a range of opportunities for students to show that they meet the learning outcomes outlined.

Live presentation: this is a 25 minutes group led task, in which students will apply the theories and techniques employed in class to the exploration of a relevant concept/theme agreed with their tutor. Here students will be assessed on the ability to critically and creatively engage with such a concept/theme and communicate these through a range of selected applications (e.g. examples from theatre productions, texts, practitioners and institutions) as well as through practical demonstrations.

Essay: here students will effectuate a close analysis of a chosen performance text (e.g. a play-text or a theatrical production) and reflect on its social and ideological implications, with reference to the theories studied on the module. They will demonstrate their ability to sustain arguments in relation to the ideological implications of the case study and apply relevant theoretical perspectives and research methods.

Research project: for this assignment, students will select a theatre/arts organisation of their own choice (e.g. a venue, a company or a particular initiative) and research its social reach and the ideological implications raised by this. Furthering the complexity of the previous two assessment tasks, here emphasis is placed on applying a variety of methods of research (this may also include statistical analysis and interviews) and communicate this both through a written critical evaluation and through other disciplines, to be featured in the appendix of the work (e.g. photographic and videographic documentation, creative writing etc.).


Bennett, S. 1997. Theatre Audiences. London: Routledge
Counsell, C. and Wolf, L. (eds.) 2001. Performance Analysis. London: Routledge
Fischer-Lichte, E. 2005. Theatre, Sacrifice, Rituals: exploring forms of political theatre, NY: Routledge
Freshwater, H. 2009. Theatre and Audience. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Goodman, L. and De Gay, J. (eds.) 2000. The Routledge reader in Politics and Performance, London: Routledge
Haedicke, S. (ed.) 2009. Political Performances: Theory and Practice. NY: Rodopi (E-resource)
Patterson, M. 2003. Strategies of Political Theatre. Cambridge: CUP
Prentiki, T. and Preston, S. (eds.) 2009. The Applied theatre reader. London: Routledge
Rae, P. 2009. Theatre and Human Rights. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Stone, R. 2008. Key Sociological Thinkers. NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Walwin, J. (ed.) 2010. Searching for Art’s new Publics. Bristol: Intellect (E-resource)