3.1 Drama and theatre

This subject content is assessed in a written exam.

See Component 1: Drama and theatre for details.

Knowledge and understanding

Students must develop knowledge and understanding of the following analytical framework for making, performing, interpreting and understanding drama and theatre.

Content Details

The theatrical processes and practices involved in interpreting and performing theatre

How conventions, forms and techniques are used in drama and live theatre to create meaning

How creative and artistic choices influence how meaning is communicated to an audience

Interpretative processes relating to:
  • practical demands of texts
  • the choice and use of performance space
  • patterns of stage movement
  • stage positioning and configuration
  • spatial relationships on stage
  • performer and audience configuration
  • character motivation and interaction
  • performers’ vocal and physical interpretation of character
  • delivery of lines
  • listening and response
  • playing of sub-text
  • development of pace, pitch and dramatic climax
  • relationships between performers and audience
  • design of sets, costume, makeup, lighting, sound and props
  • design fundamentals such as scale, shape, colour, texture.
How performance texts are constructed to be performed, conveying meaning
  • genre and form
  • structure
  • language
  • stage directions
  • character construction
  • style of play.
How performance texts are informed by their social, cultural and historical contexts and are interpreted and performed for an audience
  • the social, cultural and historical contexts of plays
  • interpretative and performance strategies.

Area of study 1 – Set plays

Students must study and explore practically two set plays, one chosen from List A and one chosen from List B.

There are three prohibited play combinations for the exam: students must not answer on both Butterworth’s Jerusalem from List A and Teale’s Brontë, Gurira’s The Convert, or Ellams’ Three Sisters from List B. This is because these texts were written at a similar time.

Study should be targeted at developing ideas for how the plays chosen may be interpreted and performed. For plays in List A, for the purposes of the exam students must be prepared to adopt the perspective of at least two of the following three roles:

  • performer
  • designer (lighting, sound, set and costume)
  • director.

For plays in List B, for the purposes of the exam students must be prepared to adopt the perspective of director, performer and designer (lighting, sound, set, costume). Students must also develop Knowledge and understanding of the content listed, in particular:

  • how the play has been constructed to be performed and to communicate meaning
  • how the play is informed by its social, cultural and historical context.

Students must not answer Section A or Section B of the exam on the same play they answer on for Section C ie the live production seen cannot be one of their set plays.

List A

Specific editions are not prescribed for these plays. However, we've listed the editions we use to set questions.

If you wish to use a different edition, we recommend you source a copy of the one we use to make sure it's similar. This will enable your students to access the questions on the paper. Adaptations are not appropriate.

List A – these plays have been selected to represent significant drama through the ages.

Playwright List A set play
Sophocles Antigone (The Three Theban Plays, translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1984, ISBN: 0140444254)
William Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing (ed Claire McEachern, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2016, ISBN: 1472520297)
Carlo Goldoni A Servant to Two Masters (ed Lee Hall, Methuen Drama, 1999, ISBN 0413748502)
Henrik Ibsen Hedda Gabler (Student Edition, Bloomsbury, 2002, ISBN: 0413770702)
Bertolt Brecht The Caucasian Chalk Circle (ed Eric Bentley, Penguin, 2007, ISBN: 0141189169)
Dario Fo Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Methuen Drama, 1987, ISBN: 0413156109)
Jez Butterworth Jerusalem (Nick Hern Books, 2009, ISBN: 1848420501)

List B

These plays have been selected to represent 20th and 21st century drama.

Specific editions are prescribed for these plays.

PlaywrightList B set play
Federico García LorcaYerma (Methuen Drama, 2007, ISBN: 978-0713683264)
Tennessee WilliamsThe Glass Menagerie (Penguin, 2009, ISBN: 978-0141190266)
Steven BerkoffMetamorphosis (in Three Theatre Adaptations from Franz Kafka, Amber Lane Press, 1988, ISBN: 978-0906399842)
Caryl ChurchillCloud Nine (in Plays: 1, Methuen Drama, ISBN: 978-0413566706)
Timberlake WertenbakerOur Country's Good (Methuen Student Editions, ISBN: 978-1350097889)
Polly TealeBrontë (Polly Teale, Nick Hern Books, 2011, ISBN: 978-1848421707)
Danai Gurira

The Convert (Methuen Drama, 2022, ISBN: 9781350340879)

Inua Ellams

Three Sisters (A new play after Chekhov) (Methuen Drama, ISBN: 978-1-35026278-2)

Area of study 2 – Live theatre production

Students must learn how to analyse and evaluate the work of live theatre makers (performers/designers/directors).

Students should aim to understand productions in terms of the relevant content listed in Knowledge and understanding, and in addition:

  • the perceived or stated aims of the production team and their success in achieving them
  • the creative collaboration of the performers, the designers, the director and other members of the creative team
  • the audience experience and response.

Students should learn how to:

  • articulate their understanding of how the performers/designers/director (as appropriate) communicated meaning to the audience
  • consider in detail how aspects of the performance piece contributed to the impact of the production
  • assess how aspects of the production contributed to its effectiveness as a piece.

Prior to seeing a performance students are expected to have undertaken background research. Live theatre could include:

  • plays
  • physical theatre
  • theatre in education
  • musical theatre.

Productions may be professional or amateur (not peer).

Students certificating after 1 January 2019 are required to experience live performance – in which they are a member of the audience in the same performance space as the performers. This may be a professional or amateur, but not a peer, performance. Schools/colleges must submit a ‘Live Performance Statement’ (which will be available on our website), to confirm that all students have completed this requirement. Failure to provide this statement prior to 1 May in the year of certification will be treated as maladministration. Students may still complete the ‘Live theatre production’ section of the exam paper referring to digital recordings or streamed productions.

Teachers must ensure that students see at least one performance which will enable them to access all of the Section C exam questions and the mark scheme in full. This performance must:

  • be a minimum of 50 minutes in duration excluding any intervals or breaks
  • include at least two actors
  • include dialogue
  • include a range of production values (lighting, sound, set and costume).

Students must not answer Section A or Section B of the exam on the same play they answer on for Section C ie the live production seen cannot be one of their set plays.