|Independent Drama Study|
This guide is intended for students who are preparing for assessment in drama as part of English and English literature exams in the UK. It may also be of general interest to students of modern drama.
Why study a play independently?
If you are in a class studying for exams in English or English literature, your teacher may decide that you will work on a play which the whole class studies. But you may also enjoy going to the theatre, be a member of a theatre group, or be taking a separate exam in drama. So you may know a modern play (or plays) very well in performance. You may also have seen and enjoyed modern drama on television - you are certainly allowed to study this for GCSE coursework.
You may wish to study this modern drama, as well as, or instead of, the play your teacher has chosen for you to study. Ask your teacher if it's all right to do this. Although it is not compulsory for you to have a copy of the script, it is difficult to explain a play without this, as you will want to quote from the dialogue and stage directions.
Getting started - introducing the play
At the start of your work, you should introduce the play you are studying. You must give the name of the playwright. (Note the spelling - it's like the common surname Wright, and not related to the verb to write: the similarity of sound is a misleading coincidence.) You may also give information about when the play was written or first performed, and where and when you saw it performed, or took part in it.
Writing about the play for GCSE coursework
At all levels you are required to consider drama under four headings:
You are not required to keep these separate, but it may help an examiner to see that you have covered them all in your work.
Character and characterization
The play in performance
To show your understanding of how the play should be a performance (not a book to read in class), explain and describe how it was performed in the version(s) you saw and how you would present it for a given medium (stage, film, television or radio). You may do this for the play generally or for specific episodes. Comment on costume, props, the set, lighting, music, sound FX, casting, direction and anything else you think interesting or relevant.
Overview and close-up
You cannot possibly write in great detail about everything in this play. Life (yours and your teachers') is too short. Try to balance general comment about the whole of the play, its broad themes, characters and relationships, with detailed and specific explanations of short episodes.
Making a judgement
Finally, you should make a judgement of the play, whether and in what ways it was good drama. Why, in your view, did the playwright write this play? Give your opinion of the play - what you like or dislike about it. Try to be positive and to relate your comments closely to the detail of the play.
Presenting your work
Theatre is a practical art - your work should recognize this. You may want to include illustrations, sketches, diagrams and plans, to show your ideas about the set, costume, lighting and so on. And remember, it's a play. Refer to the audience not the reader. Do not refer to the book but to the play, performance or production. Set out quotations conventionally, using quotation marks.
© Andrew Moore, 2000; Contact me