Department of Drama UG Module Directory (2022)

DRA323

Madness and Theatricality

Level 6 (30 credits)


This module explores madness and mental illness in recent and historical performance. It asks questions about how a society's constructions of madness are reflected in and produced by performance, and about the versions of subjectivity or selfhood that emerge when we play mad. The module is taught through practice-based case studies of an ancient Greek text and its modern adaptations, early modern texts in recent performance, and twentieth/twenty-first century texts and performances. It examines the versions of madness and mental illness produced in historical performance, and the ways in which these have been reinterpreted and rewritten to reflect current constructions and concerns of and about madness. It explores recent constructions of madness and its 'treatment' on stage.



Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

Welcome to Madness and Theatricality!


This module explores madness and mental illness in recent and historical performance. It asks questions about how a society's constructions of madness are reflected in and produced by performance, and about the versions of subjectivity or selfhood that emerge when we play mad. The module is taught through practice-based case studies of an ancient Greek text and its modern adaptations, early modern texts in recent performance, and twentieth/twenty-first century texts and performances. It examines the versions of madness and mental illness produced in historical performance, and the ways in which these have been reinterpreted and rewritten to reflect current constructions and concerns of and about madness. It explores recent constructions of madness and its 'treatment' on stage.

For our first session you will need to have read The Bacchae by Euripides, in the translation by David Greig. This is available with a QMUL login from Drama Online. 

Go to Drama Online here: 

https://www.dramaonlinelibrary.com/

and follow the instructions to log in through 'your institution' - choose Queen Mary University of London and then you can use your usual QMUL login and password. 

Put 'Bacchae' into the search. The Greig translation has Alan Cumming as Dionysus on the front, wearing a red dress. 

For our second session, you will need to have read Caryl Churchill, David Lan and company's A Mouthful of Birds, also available from Drama Online. There are also hard copies in Mile End library, in Churchill Plays: Three (London: Nick Hern Books, 1998).  It's well worth getting ahead with reading this as it's quite a tricky read, even though it was created in the 1980s and so is in entirely contemporary language. It was created through a devising process, and there are many short scenes and characters which need pulling together with a strong theatrical aesthetic in performance! 

Other plays we will be looking at on the module which you may wish to look at in advance are

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

nut by debbie tucker green (available at Drama Online)

Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall (available as an ebook and in hard copy at QMUL library)

4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (available at Drama Online) 

Content: the plays we study on this module all depict 'madness' or mental distress. Some of the subject matter can be disturbing, particularly for people with experience of mental ill health and/or the mental health services. For example, nut contains a scene of self-harm; Blue/Orange is about racism in the health service; 4.48 Psychosis is about the experience of depression, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with Bridget at b.m.escolme@qmul.ac.uk if you would like to discuss any aspect of the module content before starting the module. She will be available to answer your messages from 22nd August onwards.  

We will be attending one performance as a group on the module and there will be suggestions for other performances to visit alone or in smaller groups. Visits to performances will cost between £20 and £50, depending on how many you decide to see. 

 
Why take Madness and Theatricality?

1. You'll examine the versions of madness and mental illness produced in historical performance.


2. You'll explore the ways in which these have been reinterpreted and rewritten to reflect current constructions and concerns of and about madness. 

3. You'll explore ways of interrogating and critiquing historical and contemporary ways of thinking about mental health. 

Learning Context Practice-based
Semester 1
Assessment
  1. Group Performance Project (15-20 min), 60%
  2. Essay (2800 words), 40%
Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Bridget Escolme