DRAM20180 20thCentury AvantGarde Theatre

Academic Year 2022/2023

During the twentieth century, theatre and performance makers engaged in innovative and often radial experimentation to produce works that came to be known as 'avant-garde'. In a century ravaged by vast political upheaval, the avant-garde was concerned with all that was new, with challenging the status quo, and with rehearsing previously unimagined futures. At the same time, theatre and performance increasingly stimulated debate about social and political power relations and offered a location where questions of identity were rehearsed and performed.
This module introduces students to key avant-garde theatre makers and performance artists whose interrogation of the function and possibilities of performance influenced many artists working in theatre and performance today. Through video, photography, text and other documents, you will encounter the works in performance of a number of significant theatre artists and theorists across the twentieth century. You will test various theoretical discourses of performance analysis, and will be supported to examine and reflect critically on performances and productions of leading and influential practitioners. Throughout, we will ask how these performances operate within relevant cultural, artistic, and political contexts.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module students will be familiar with selected performances of leading avant-garde theatre makers and performance artists of the twentieth century.
Students will be able to:
Reflect on and analyse critically selected performances.
Discuss avant-garde performances with recourse to theoretical frameworks of space, audiences and bodies.
Contextualise avant-garde performances within relevant socio-cultural contexts and within key twentieth century performance practices.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative weekly content (subject to change):
1. Introduction to Module: Contexts for 20th Century Avant-Garde Theatre
2. Alfred Jarry: Ubu Roi
3. Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill: Threepenny Opera
4. Josephine Baker: Cabaret and Revue in Paris and Berlin
5. Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno: Butoh
6. Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop: Oh What a Lovely War!
7. Samuel Beckett and Billie Whitelaw: Not I
8. Alvin Ailey Company and Modern Dance in the USA
9. John Cage, Yoko Ono: Fluxus and Performance Art in New York
10. The Wooster Group: Brace Up!
11. Course Review and Recap

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Small Group


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a lecture based module with Small Group Teaching support.
Each class introduces the work of a theatre practitioner and/or theorist giving contexts, and presenting theoretical analytical material. Viewing of practitioners/theorists works is introduced as relevant and as available. In the lecture, students are encouraged to ask questions and contribute. Time is given for Q&A.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
DRAM30170 - Revolutions in twentieth centu

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: End of Term Essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Contribution to Small Group Teaching classes and the submission in advance of class of up to 3 points on required reading /task for each SGT. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Mid-term Assignment
The mid-term assignment is a critical report on a performance. This year, the assignment will focus on an archival performance that each student has watched on video.
Week 6 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback is offered to students within two weeks of the submission of the mid-term Critical Report on Performance assignment. Essay preparation meetings with teaching staff offered in weeks 10 or 11. Feedback is offered to Essay end of term submission post-assessment.

Name Role
Dr Emma Bennett Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Clara Mallon Lecturer / Co-Lecturer