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Unit information: Popular Performance in 2021/22

Unit name Popular Performance
Unit code THTR20018
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Reimers
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Theatre
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores the history, development and legacy of popular performance. At once synonymous with a ‘low brow’ entertainment of the masses and often pitted against ‘legitimate theatre,’ the diverse range of popular performance media and venues offer an insightful reflection of social concerns through a celebration of the culture and spectacle of the moment. By exploring these less academically considered and less familiar performances, this unit allows students to explore new perspectives on performance in relation to social and political change and development in the ‘Arts’, and provides a fascinating and varied way of understanding performance history. Depending on staff research interests and expertise, forms studied might include cabaret, music hall, revue, musical theatre, theme parks, stand-up comedy and contemporary popular music and students will have the opportunity to pursue research into other popular performances of interest in their final essay. Students will be prompted to consider the relationship between popular performance and a range of issues, such as: commercialism, industrialisation, urbanisation, authenticity, race, gender and sexuality. The unit will take an international perspective, looking at venues and performances in a range of locations, which might include London, Paris, Berlin, Zurich and New York.

The unit aims:

1. To explore critically a range of less considered and less familiar performance practices.

2. To develop appropriate critical and theoretical approaches to the chosen practices.

3. To encourage critical understandings of the socio-cultural contexts of a range of performance practices.

4. To engage in research-based investigation of appropriate primary and secondary material.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of a range of popular performance forms.

  2. articulate an understanding of the changing social and historical conditions that inform and produce popular forms of performance.

  3. evaluate critical responses to popular performances and consider these in the context of wider understandings of popular culture.

  4. locate, explore and critically evaluate primary and secondary material to create and sustain a cogent academic argument in presentation and essay formats at a level appropriate to level I.

  5. demonstrate ability to work collaboratively on a research project and on the presentation of this research in an appropriate academic format

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous webinars, narrated powerpoints, on-line discussion boards and self-directed reading.

Assessment Information

(1) 2500-word essay (60%) ILOs 1-5

(2) Individual 5-7 minute digital presentation (40%) ILOs 1-5


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THTR20018).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.