Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Documentary Theatre
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Successful completion of Part 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 10 x 1 hour Lecture/Seminar


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay (3000 words)  60%
Semester Assessment Presentation and Documentation (equivalent to 2000 words)  40%
Supplementary Assessment Essay (3000 words) - (to a new title)  60%
Supplementary Assessment Presentation plan and Documentation (equivalent to 2000 words)  40%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Display a sophisticated critical understanding of the play texts under consideration and be able to communicate the implications of staging these texts.

2. Situate the documentary texts in their cultural, political and historical context, and be able to distinguish the variety of ways documentary theatre has adapted in its approach to "staging the real" and acting with facts.

3. Develop a sohisticated understanding of the various aims and objectives of Documentary Theatre throughout the twentieth and twenty first century as well as exhibiting a sound knowledge of the way technology and media developments have helped to influence these.

4. Produce organized, coherently structured and critically engaged written and/or oral work on the subject of Documentary theatre and performance.

Brief description

The module focuses on issues pertaining to the theatrical representation, performance and evocation of factual material and "the real", and provides students with a detailed study of documentary theatre from the early twentieth century to the present (covering seminal plays from across the globe and investigating key international practitioners involved in this type of theatre/performance). The module will address the continuing development and evolution of this form of theatre/performance, from its earliest didactic and even propagandist incarnations to the more self consciously reflective work based on testimony, memory and the role of "the witness", to multi media approaches that prompt a re-consideration of mediated fact and the potential to manipulate our understanding of truth and the real. Questions posed during the module will include:

Why has there been a noted resurgence in interest in documentary theatre in 21st century? How far can we equate fact with truth and how does documentary theatre expose rather than cover up or gloss over this potential conflict? How has documentary theatre developed during the twentieth and twenty first centuries and how far have key historical events contributed to an altered perception of what is often called "the theatre of fact"? In what ways does documentary theatre and performance facilitate a sense of community, citizenship and participation in the public sphere? Can documentary theatre and performance provide a therapeutic value? In what ways does documentary theatre offer a more nuanced insight into historical and past events that might potentially counter the current proliferation of media spin, "infotainment" and sound-bites? In what ways is multi-media incorporated into recent documentary theatre and performance and to what effect?


1. Documentary Theatre - Challenges, Limitations and Potential Developments

2. The Living Newspapers and the Federal Theatre Project in the United States during the Depression years - Arent's Power (1937)

3. The Unity Theatre in IK : Censorship, The Political Left and the Rise of Working Class Amateur Theatre (Busmen, 1938)

4. The Satirical Voice in the 1960's: Peter Cheeseman and Joan Littlewood - The Knotty (1966) and Oh What a Lovely War! (1968)

5. Peter Weiss' The Investigation (1965), the drama of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in John Kani's Nothing But the Truth (2002) and Mike Von Graan's Green Man Flashing (2003) and Children under Dictatorship in Chile in the ongoing work of Lopeandia, Contreras and Kleiner

6. Giving Voice: Indigenous Testimony and Local Community from California to the Outback: Cherie Moraga's Circle in the Dirt (1995) and Ngapartji, Ngapartji (2005)

7. Healing the Wound: The Documentary Play in Northern Ireland in Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Savile Inquiry (2005) and Israel in Victoria Hanna's Jerusalem Dreaming (2006)

8. Participating in the Public Sphere: Verbatim Theatre and Tribunal Plays: The Tricycle Theatre's Half the Picture (1994) and Justifying War: Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry (2003)

9. Acting with Facts - The Shoah, Urban Riots and Personal Trauma: Antony Sher's Primo (2004), Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles (1992) and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (2007)

10. Where to? A Summation and Current Debates with reference to key dramatists and directors working in the mode: David Edgar, David Hare, Richard Norton Taylor, Anna Deavere Smith, Emily Mann)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written: clear articulation of ideas and analysis in written assessments. Oral: This is assessed through the presentation element.
Improving own Learning and Performance By independent research; tutor feedback on written work and oral presentation in class; interaction of peers during seminar presentation; developing time/work management skills; reflecting upon presentational skills and other written work.
Information Technology For research purposes (for written assessments and class presentations); Use, for example of Powerpoint for class presentation. Using electronic research and bibliographic resources and accessing Blackboard for course materials.
Personal Development and Career planning Personal development and career planning skills will be developed through the module; however, many of the generic skills developed through work on this module will have significant transferability to a wide range of career contexts.
Problem solving By critical engagement (verbal and written) with intellectual concepts raised by plays and their context.
Research skills By preparation for written assessment (essay and exam) and oral contribution/presentation in class.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work By class presentation in small groups.


This module is at CQFW Level 6