A Level Theatre Studies

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

Plays and performance have long been part of human culture. The theatre is a unique space in which the world, society and the human condition can be explored. It is a public place where the voices of ordinary people can be heard raising questions about the forces that shape our lives. It is furthermore an exciting place. The playwright invites the audience to observe the action whilst asking for their intellectual participation. In the Theatre Studies A level you will take a close and critical look at the playwright’s art. You will consider how different styles and social contexts can shape the interpretation of a script, influence a rehearsal and achieve a successful performance. You will learn how to look at a play from different angles: as a spectator, as an actor and as a director. The course will enable you to develop a deep appreciation of what is involved in a successful piece of theatre.

Lower sixth

The first year of the A-level course will begin with the study of Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’. This will involve both theoretical and practical exploration. Students will also attend a variety of live productions which will be discussed and explored in terms of theatrical merits and style. If students opt to sit the AS level exam they will sit a written paper on both the studied text and one of the live productions seen during the course. Students must also prepare a portfolio of work to accompany a practical examination of an extract of a play.

Upper sixth

The second year of the A level course will continue to study in further depth ‘Jerusalem’ along with the study of a further text, ‘Our Country’s Good’. Students will be encouraged to continue attending as many theatre excursions as possible which could be used to answer Section C of the written paper. The students will complete a 3 hour written exam answering questions on both studied texts and a live production of their choice. Students will perform in both devised and scripted pieces of practical work which will be assessed as part of the A level course. To accompany the practical work students must collate a working notebook and a reflective report which will act as the coursework portion of the course.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Through the detailed study of plays and their presentation, Theatre Studies develops your analytical and interpretative skills along with your ability to articulate your ideas clearly in a written form. It will of course also develop your creative abilities and your understanding of the workings of theatre. It has a natural affinity with degree courses such as English and Drama at university but works well with subjects such as History and Politics. It also provides a basis on which to pursue acting at a drama school or for a career “backstage” in theatre design and management.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

Theatre Studies is an academic subject with a performance element and not a drama course based solely on performance! You will be studying plays both practically and theoretically to examine the social and political themes they raise. Commitment is a must, as you will be in a group devising a piece for performance and thereby contribute to determining everyone’s final grade for the practical elements.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The course comprises two components. For Component 1 (Interpreting Drama), students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of drama and theatre. The exam will be an open-book written exam on the play ‘Jerusalem’ that they will have studied. For Component 2 (Process and Performance), students will undertake a practical exploration and theatrical interpretation of two extracts each taken from a different play. Extract 2 will be performed as a final assessed piece (students may contribute as performer, designer or director). A portfolio will provide evidence of the interpretive process and analysis and evaluation of the performance. Component 1 lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and is worth 40% of the AS. Component 2 is worth 60% of the AS.

A level

For Component 1 (Interpreting Drama), students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of drama and theatre. The exam will be an open- book written exam on the plays ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Our Country’s Good’ that they will have studied. In Component 2 (Creating Original Drama), students will be assessed on the process of creating devised drama and its performance (students may contribute as performer, designer or director). In Component 3, students undertake a practical exploration and interpretation of three extracts each taken from a different play. Extract 3 will be performed as a final assessed piece (students may contribute as performer, designer or director). A reflective report will be written which analyses and evaluates the theatrical interpretation of all three extracts. Component 1 lasts 3 hours and is worth 40% of the A level. Components 2 and 3 are worth 30% each.

Reading

Our Country’s Good
By T. Wertenbaker, edited by B. Naismith
Published by Methuen Drama, ISBN 978-0413692306

Jerusalem
By J. Butterworth
Published by Nick Hern Books, ISBN 978-1848420502

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7261, A level: AQA 7262 (reformed)

Richard Martin
Head of Department