Responses to live theatre
AQA have, thankfully, streamlined the AS Drama and Theatre Studies specification, which should take off some of the pressure faced by staff and students when trying to access the curriculum in the nine months available from start to finish of the course.
Not only should the delivery of the course be more manageable, but the final written paper should also be less of an ordeal. I have always enjoyed teaching the response to live theatre unit because in a curriculum with set texts and set practitioners, it forces students to respond to what’s currently out there in the world of theatre. This part of the students’ assessment remains the freshest because it changes year on year.
Responding to live theatre is also one of the most difficult skills for students to master: they have to develop an analytical style of writing that is both sophisticated and personal. A sound grounding in English literature helps, particularly an appreciation of the symbolic layers of a play text, but a technical expertise is needed to deconstruct the meaning of the semiotics of the text on stage. Furthermore, students have to convey their passion for the subject and express how what they have seen and heard has affected them.
The following ideas have worked particularly well with students in the past. Obviously, the examples were determined by the particular production we saw, however I find many of the techniques it raises are transferable.
- Developing a vocabulary
- What are the examiners looking for?
- Preparing to see a production of a scripted play
- Watching the play in performance
- Analysing the production
- Preparing to see a production of a show without access to the script
- Further ideas to help students learn how to evaluate