Theatre and Performance Studies vs. Theatre, Performance & Critical Culture: What’s different in the new MA?

The National Theatre, one of my favourite places in London just across the bridge from the Strand campus.

Written by Paula Kramer, Postgraduate student on MA Theatre, Performance & Critical Culture. 

This academic year 2023/24 marks the first time that the MA Theatre, Performance & Critical Culture has been taught at King’s, which has now replaced the old MA Theatre and Performance Studies. This shift is anything but in-name-only, too, as the core lecturers make clear during the MA’s induction: “The new element of ‘critical culture’ is a site for investigation and opportunity and will be a focus point throughout the year”.

To better understand what this shift towards “critical culture” means for students looking to take up this MA, I sat down with MA convenor Prof. Alan Read and asked him a few questions about this new and exciting MA at King’s.

What is different about this year’s MA compared to how it’s been taught in previous years?

Alan Read: For 30 years we’ve had an MA which relates to theatre at King’s College London. The new MA has a specific emphasis on the way in which the theatre and performance of London has an aspect to it which requires examination and critical approach. Critical culture allows us to think about theatre and performance not as something unchangeable, but that something might be transformable about it for the future, and we expect students on this MA to make their own contribution towards that change. So, Theatre, Performance & Critical Culture describes not a vocational cause that serves the theatre as it currently stands, but an invitation and an imperative that contributes to the change of that theatre for a better future.

What can prospective students look forward to?
Alan Read: It’s a broad ranging MA over a year or two years, if you are a part time student. We work on critical histories of writing in and around theories for performance in the first semester and we look at the way in which contemporary theatres operate in and around London and their broader cultural context. In the second part of the year, we focus on a dissertation, which is a 15,000-word project which allows the student to effectively prepare a piece of writing that is gateway research for future work, and also the Performance Lab, a very popular optional module which allows students to work on practice in a laboratory setting.

What is your favourite part of teaching in this MA?

Alan Read: By far, the students. The students come with enormous curiosity. It’s the only qualification we ask for, really, in this programme, although in the details about the programme we are asking in general for 2:1 or first-class degree prior to coming at undergraduate level. Curiosity is all important, because it allows us to draw students together who are committed to thinking through questions to do with theatre and performance in a contemporary context. So, curiosity and students’ curiosity is what fires me up and keeps me going at this stage in my career, where every time I am in a class with students I learn something new.

Thank you for the interview!

Still curious? For more information on the new MA Theatre, Performance & Critical Culture, take a look at the course’s official homepage on the King’s website below:

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