This scheme of work breaks down requirements and offers hints and a working plan to help students to prepare for Unit 1A of AQA’s AS. The specification is, on the face of it, extremely ambitious about what students are to achieve in this section. Not only have students to see productions of live theatre but to experience ‘a range of different styles’. They are expected to write about these productions in a way which shows they can appreciate the technical craft and artistic skills which have gone into the performance as well as the intellectual, historical and dramatic context of the play and the production. It’s a tall order and unless we break it down into logical and incremental chunks, the whole thing may appear too daunting to achieve.
- A final essay needs to have a certain density of ideas. One or two insights cannot be fleshed out into a successful piece; a student needs plenty of points at hand about each production they have seen and reflected upon
- The essay needs to be written with authority. Students need to have assimilated ideas about genre about historical context and about dramatic context; they need to express these ideas precisely and with little fuss
- Finally, students need to be able to zoom in and out of the play. They need to be able to balance general overviews – long shots – of the play and its style with close attention to specific moments – close-ups – in which the techniques and aims of the play were made manifest in performance. They need to select these episodes with objective detachment so that they write about moments which help them precisely to answer the question, even if this means ignoring moments in the play which they might prefer to write about
- Selection is an essential skill in this examination: students must choose not only the right moments to focus on as they zoom in on the play, but they must begin their answer by carefully choosing from their repertoire of experience the best production on which to write in order to address the issues of the question set. In shaping and writing their essays, students need to remember the key sequence of ideas in an essay: description, appreciation, interpretation.