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For Secondary School Students

In 2017 Backbone is offering specialist workshops in contemporary theatre and performance for secondary school students.

Each workshop in the series provides students the opportunity to think analytically and creatively, to develop and learn new skills, and to put what they learn into practice.

As well as providing a general introduction to various styles and forms that comprise contemporary practice, the series gives students experience in performing, creating and writing for contemporary theatre and performance. Other workshops in the series tie contemporary theatre and performance to notable figures and movements in 20th Century theatre, such as Brecht, Absurdism and Physical Theatre. The series also provides a workshop in contemporary political theatre.

The workshops, taught by professional artists who work in contemporary theatre and performance, each run for 90 minutes (and can be extended if required).


This workshop introduces students to a number of key aspects of contemporary theatre and performance – the manipulation of space and time, the rejection of linear narrative, and the relationship between the actor/performer and audience – through games and practical exercises. The approach to the exercises will be built around a theme, which may be selected by the class teacher or by the Backbone facilitator.

Duration: 90 mins


Performance skills that are vital to contemporary theatre and performance practice, such as the performer’s energy, presence, authenticity and vulnerability, are explored during this workshop.

Duration: 90 mins


In some ways, contemporary theatre and performance pick up where Physical Theatre left off. This workshop examines the way the body of the performer can be used in contemporary theatre and performance by exploring qualities of energy, the transformative body, the body as metaphor and the aesthetic of the domestic body.

Duration: 90 mins


Through a series of practical writing exercises, students will be exposed to some key tenets of writing for contemporary theatre and performance: the rejection of linear narrative; the reconsideration and reaction to historical and canonical texts; the drawing of inspiration from any discipline, including science; and the use of personal/autobiographical/biographical material.

Duration: 90 mins


The Theatre of the Absurd has exerted a stylistic influence over many theatre practitioners in the 20th and 21st Centuries. This workshop examines the way Absurdist theatrical devices, such as the use of the body as a metaphor, the manipulation of time, the failure of communication and the way ritual forms a part of everyday life, have influenced contemporary theatre and performance.

Duration: 90 mins


Ever since Brecht overtly politicised the theatre, the theatre has maintained its political engagement with the world in which it is happening. Contemporary political theatre is marked by the use of the performer’s body as a site of contestation and resistance, a constant questioning of the relationship between the performer and their audience, the appropriation of theatrical and non-theatrical texts, and the politicisation of space and time. This workshop explores these techniques to open up contemporary political theatre practice for students.

Duration: 90 mins



During the course of this workshop, students will be led through a process to create a piece of contemporary theatre. The topic for the piece can be suggested by the class teacher or selected by the Backbone facilitator.


Students MUST have done the “Introduction to Contemporary Theatre/Performance” workshop.

It is also SUGGESTED that students have participated in either the “Performance Skills for Contemporary Theatre and Performance” or “The Body in Contemporary Theatre and Performance” before undertaking this workshop.

Duration: 90 mins


The techniques associated with Brecht and Epic Theatre have had a far-reaching effect on contemporary theatre and performance. This workshop explores Brechtian techniques and styles, including the positioning of the actor as an agent of transformation, the rejection of linear narrative through episodic form, breaking the fourth wall and the acknowledgement of theatre’s artifice, and the use of different art forms in the theatre, and examines the way these techniques inform contemporary practice.

Duration: 90 mins