Theatre and Human Rights

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module analyses relationships between performance, human rights, social justice and how performance might be deployed in the service of specific political and cultural agendas. This course will investigate critical issues in the field of theatre and human rights whilst developing practical professional skills required for working in socially engaged contexts.

The module will engage with a range of key theoretical methods and approaches. It will build on students' introduction to political and ideological debate in theatre practice by focusing on questions of freedom, responsibility, power and protection. The course will consider case studies of theatre work in action, theoretical frames to examine them, and current debates which inform and impact upon the field.

This module explores how political and cultural identity, resistance and belonging is performed in theatre. Of particular interest are performances that trouble how we think or talk about the intersection of rights and social justice with identity categories like race, gender, class, sexuality, age and disability. We will question who have the dominant voices, and how a rights-based performance practice can help build a counter-hegemonic alternative to an orthodox establishment.

This module will explore the traditions and practices of testimonial, verbatim, documentary and tribunal forms of theatre. Raising complex issues such as what it means to 'have a voice' in theatre, notions of authenticity and realness, and of representation and rights, it explores the shaping and framing of material from various sources, including interviews, media, archives and documents.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. To explore the critical and cultural discursive foundations of the field of work, and to engage with methodologies of professional practice alongside skills-based learning towards the development of an ethical and effective creative practice. 2. Enhance the student’s awareness and understanding of contexts and histories of human rights, performance and related arts practice;
3. Provide students with an opportunity to examine issues concerning the politics of identity, representation, ownership, event, and the siting of performance, and to establish a conceptual framework for the critical consideration of these issues. 4. Develop the student’s abilities to understand, evaluate, debate, and employ a range of knowledge, theories and methodologies which inform the diverse field of human rights
5. Introduce students to the concept of theatre and performance operating in an expanded field of social practice and critical enquiry, drawing on research at the leading edge of theatre and performance studies.
6. Foster the student’s critical thinking and develop their understanding of a range of relevant cultural and theoretical discourses for the discipline.
7. Develop a theoretical and somatic approach to a range of performance and theatre practices;
8. Extend the range of relevant practical skills in applied theatre available to students;
9. Enable the student to operate as a thinking practitioner in preparation a range of relevant professional and employment settings;
10. Engage students in the development and deployment of innovative new research methods and practices of enquiry, from auto-ethnography to performative interventions, from aesthetic scenarioplanning to the politics of dialogical and relational practices.

Module learning outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the social, cultural and aesthetic perspectives of rightsbased representations in theatre and performance.
2. Evaluate and respond to a range of rights-based discourses in theatre and theory, using a critical and analytical vocabulary.
3. Explicate a coherent theoretical framework for addressing the relationship between politics and aesthetic practice, and bring this to bear on the critical analysis of empirical materials.
4. Develop a sophisticated understanding of the various aims and objectives of political 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 this development.
5. Demonstrate critical awareness of the plural praxis of theatre and human rights and an overview of the issues governing ethical participatory practice.
6. Demonstrate a thorough and systematic understanding of the application of drama in nontraditional theatre contexts and the critical discourses that attend to the practice of drama in alternative contexts.
7. Evidence and evaluate the performative dynamics of political protests, processes and events.
8. Investigate the performative dynamics of political protest and strategies of governance and state craft, drawing on interdisciplinary work in performance, rights-based discourse and international politics.
9. Adopt a creative, innovative approach to imagining the possibilities of performance as a site of political contestation, challenge and renewal by imaging and developing their own practices of performative intervention.
10. Co-operate as part of a group in offering a performative exploration of a chosen topic relating to the course material.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

For 2020-21, we will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Vinaver, Michel. (c2002) 11 septembre 2001: livret : version française = 11 September 2001 : libretto : English version, Paris: L'Arche.
  • Smith, Stef; Bissett, Cora. (2011) Roadkill, London: Oberon Books.
  • Slovo, Gillian. (2011) The riots: from spoken evidence, London: Oberon Books. vol. Oberon modern plays
  • Sandford, Jeremy. (2003) Cathy come home, London: M. Boyars. vol. [Open forum]
  • Sheers, Owen. (2013, 2014) Pink mist, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Victoria Brittain et al. (2014) The tricycle: collected tribunal plays 1994-2012, London: Oberon Books.
  • Harold Pinter. (1991) Party time, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Price, Tim. (2012) The radicalisation of Bradley Manning, London: Methuen Drama.
  • Caryl Churchill. (2015) Seven Jewish children, London: Bloomsbury. vol. Nick Hern Books collection
  • Juan Radrigán. (2013) Children of Fate, London: Oberon Books.
  • Debbie Tucker Green. (2015) generations, London: Bloomsbury. vol. Nick Hern Books collection
  • Clare Bayley. (2007) The Container, London: Nick Hern.
  • Steve Waters. (2008) Fast labour, London: Nick Hern.
  • Weiss, Peter; Gross, Alexander. (c2005) The investigation: oratorio in 11 cantos, London: M. Boyars.
  • Amir Nizar Zuabi. (2010) I am Yusuf and This Is My Brother, London: Methuen Drama.
  • Norton Taylor, Richard. (2014) 'The Colour of Justice', in The tricycle: collected tribunal plays 1994-2012, London: Oberon Books.
  • Nottage, Lynn. (2010) Ruined, London: Nick Hern.
  • Sarah Grochala. (2009) S-27, London: Oberon Books. vol. Oberon modern plays
  • Augusto Boal. (1999) Legislative theatre, New York: Routledge.
  • Asylum Monologues,

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Performance and critical evaluation     50% 
Coursework   Essay (2,500 words)     45% 
Practical   Participation     5% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Elizabeth Bennett, email:
Dr Elizabeth Bennett
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Karen Savage
University of Lincoln
Head of School
Available via Moodle
Of 67 hours, 24 (35.8%) hours available to students:
15 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
28 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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