EGH223 : Radical Texts: transforming performance, 1920s to the present

Convener(s): Dr Frances Babbage


General Information

What makes a dramatic text or a theatrical performance ‘radical’? How, or how far, can performance cause people to become radical? Is radicalism in art (still) possible within the economic, cultural and physical structures of the established theatre? Do different kinds of radical performance have elements in common? What are the conditions through which radical performance might thrive? This module introduces you to diverse texts for and about performance that have vitally shaped the development of 20th and 21st century practice. We examine the work of selected directors, writers and theatre makers in and beyond Europe and explore fundamental issues raised (directly and implicitly) by their practices. Such issues will include: the ability of art to express and confront contemporary tensions produced by globalisation, consumerism, the diversity of cultural difference; the potential of performance for celebration and for protest; the redefinition of roles/responsibilities of ‘actor’ and ‘spectator’ in the 20th and 21st century; the limits and constraints of ‘theatre’ versus the seeming boundlessness of ‘performance’. Material to be studied is likely to include: (i) manifestos and other key writings by influential practitioners (e.g. Grotowski, Brook, Boal); (ii) texts and documents of performance practices situated beyond the confines of theatre buildings (e.g. the Workers’ Theatre Movement, Welfare State International); and (iii) case studies of radical experimentation within the theatre, in the form of modern and contemporary ‘post-dramatic’ performance (e.g. the Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment).


Weekly lectures and seminars; occasional film screenings. The module also aims to incorporate a theatre visit (subject to programming).


2 x 2,000 word essays

Contact Details

Dr Frances Babbage

Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:39:43 PM (BST)

Please note: This module may or may not run in any individual session. Please check with the course convener.


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK