Task One

Task one: Devised performance (40 per cent)

  • Working in your group, you will devise [devise: To plan and arrange ] an original piece of drama.
  • Your performance must last between 10-25 minutes, depending on the size of your group (between two and five people)
  • You will be given a stimulus as a starting point for your work.
  • Your devised performance must be linked to a particular practitioner or genre.
  • You may choose either acting or a theatre design skill.

Building a successful team

You are going to spend a lot of time working together and the group dynamic is the key to either enjoying the process or struggling to succeed.

  • Every member of the group is responsible for the writing, direction, set, costume, lighting and any other devices which are an important part of the finished performance.
  • Remember - the best work usually comes from groups with a positive dynamic.
  • Each of you will have different skills eg someone might be exceptionally good at ICT and could prepare a presentation to highlight a key moment of the performance. Find out what these skills are and use them to the group’s advantage.
  • One of the keys to successful devising is learning to pool ideas. Don't let anyone consistently push their ideas and don't let anyone let everyone else do all the work! Have a word with your teacher if this situation occurs.
  • Accept that different people are going to have different ideas. One of the hardest things to learn during the devising process is that sometimes your own ideas are not necessarily the best ones. Practise saying: “That’s a good idea, what if...?”, “I wish I'd thought of that....” etc.
  • Work with other people who have a similar attitude. Drama is unique in that your final grade will be influenced by other people. Right at the outset of the process, establish some basic rules. Will everyone be prepared to attend extra rehearsals, meet deadlines etc?
  • Remember - a key skill is learning to work with others. This process will certainly develop this.

Practical exercise

Use this exercise at the beginning of the devising process to see how successfully you work with each other and what problems you could encounter.

  1. In groups of three to five, devise the opening of a play in a naturalistic style. Include one sound effect.
  2. Characters must reveal who they are, where they are and their relationship to each other.
  3. Share the finished piece with an audience.

This exercise explores the process of making:

  1. Consider your own and other people’s roles.
  2. Did anyone block ideas?
  3. Did everyone listen?
  4. Was anyone unheard?
  5. Was the outcome successful?
  6. Did anyone take on a leadership role? Did anyone else want to lead?
  7. Did anyone feel responsible for completing the piece?
  8. Was anyone a diplomat?
  9. Did you use time wisely?

Use this quote as your guideline:

“Listen to each other with care and thought. Treat each member of the group with respect and equality.”

Responding to a stimulus

Your teacher will give you a choice of three different types of stimulus. These might include the lyrics of a song, a picture or a quotation. Your devised practical performance must be based on one of these.

Where to start?

When you're first given your stimuli, study them carefully and make notes about:

  • what you see or hear
  • what you read into the stimuli
  • how the stimuli make you feel and what they make you think about

Don't aim to write paragraphs, just simple one-word points or phrases will do. Noting down your first reactions to the stimuli can help you develop your work later. When you've made notes on your stimuli, your teacher might suggest doing some research into the themes and topics you've discovered. It's a good idea to do this - it will help you in developing your drama.

Your choice of stimulus is going to be key to the success of the final piece. Take some time to brainstorm ideas for each of them.

As a group discuss the following questions:

  • What roles could we include?
  • Would everyone have an equal part?
  • Which style / practitioner would best suit our approach to a given stimulus?
  • How could we develop the structure?
  • Where would we set it?
  • What angle would we use to approach the stimuli? eg a narrative style
  • Does it need to be set in a specific time period?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • What type of strategies and techniques could we use eg monologues [monologue: An extended speech performed by one person only ], flashbacks etc.
  • Which stimulus excites us and would let us create an exciting piece of theatre?


A stimulus is just given as a starting point; you don't need to stick rigidly to it. Often the best work comes from thinking outside the box!

The elements of drama

The next step in the devising process is to think about some of the elements of drama that could be shown in your final performance.

This Revision Bite covers the various elements of drama used in drama exploration.

You'll need to show your use of some of these elements in your devised practical performance and discuss how they were used in your devised performance evaluation.

Plot, action and content

a still from tv soap eastenders showing a young man and an unhappy young woman

Teen pregnancy theme in popular soap 'Eastenders'

  • The plot of the drama is shown in the 'through-line' of the drama - its beginning, middle and end - although it doesn't have to be presented in a linear [linear: To follow a series of events in real-time without the use of flash-backs or flash-forwards ] structure. The characters in a play are also part of the plot.
  • The action of the drama consists on the events that the characters take part in as they act the play.
  • The content of the drama lies in the themes it deals with, eg bullying, the responsibilities of power, the bravery of ordinary people etc.

Dramatic form

The form of a drama is the way that the story is told, the way the characters play their parts, and/or the way the themes are explored.

There are various dramatic forms, for example:

  • mime
  • choral readings
  • commedia dell'arte [commedia dell'arte: Often performed outside with very few prompts and an improvised script ](improvised theatre)
  • melodrama
  • physical theatre [physical theatre: A mime technique in which actors use their bodies to create props or part of the set ]
  • combinations of various forms and styles

You'll need to choose the best way to communicate your drama.


a still from eastenders showing two characters - one man throwing a punch at another man

Climax building up in 'Eastenders'

The use of climax and anti-climax (the building and releasing of tension) in a drama is crucial, as it creates a sense of expectation in the audience. We can become incredibly tense as we wait to see what's going to happen in a play, and then we're relieved when things turn out well. It all adds to an interesting experience. For example, imagine you are watching a play and at a particularly dramatic moment towards the end of the play, a character who has been angry and depressed picks up a knife and looks at it intensely. This is the climax of the scene because the audience automatically thinks something terrible is going to happen. Then the character walks over to the table, places the knife carefully on the table, takes out his phone, rings a number and says these words: ”I've made a decision.....” The tension releases and we sigh with relief - this is the anti-climax because we understand that somehow the character is going to try and sort his life and situation out. It's up to the director [director: The person who supervises the drama and instructs actors ] of a drama to create the climax and anti-climax to make sure this happens.


The use of contrast in drama productions - eg stillness contrasted with activity, or silence contrasted with noise - is a useful way to focus the audience's attention. A drama being played with no change of pace or rhythm doesn't usually hold our interest, but most can be brought to life with the use of contrasting sights and sounds. An example of such contrast could be in a courtroom drama. At first there's the hustle and bustle of bringing in the prisoner, with everyone scurrying around trying to see and hear the judge's pronouncement. Then there's the sound of the gavel banging on his desk - and the resulting quiet before he pronounces the sentence. The audience can't fail to be interested!


The way an actor plays a role, using his/her acting skills to create a character in a drama, is known as characterisation [characterisation: To portray a role using voice and physical skills ].

Think about how we describe someone. Of course everyone looks a bit different, but a person's character can be shown in many ways, and this is where the actor's skill comes in. You can show a character in the way they walk and move (body language [body language: The non-verbal way in which a person communicates their physical and mental state through using facial expressions, gesture and posture ]), in the way they speak (vocal qualities) and in their reaction to events in the drama.

When creating a character we may use techniques such as hot-seating [hot-seating: To question an individual while they remain in character ] to develop the role, but we also need to think about these other aspects of presenting the character so they can 'come alive' within the drama.

Dramatic conventions

There's a range of dramatic conventions (techniques) that have been used to create dramatic effects in plays and spectacles for centuries. Among these are:

  • slow motion
  • freeze-frame
  • audience aside
  • soliloquy [soliloquy: A speech performed by an individual, often depicting that person thinking or talking aloud ]
  • establishing one part of the space as one location, and a different part of the space as another location


Dramas are produced to a great extent through the use of symbols - or representations - standing in for real things. Many of the following can be understood as symbols.

a womans hands holding a wedding photograph that has been torn in half

Prop - torn wedding photograph - what could it represent?

  • props (eg a torn wedding photograph to represent a divorce)
  • gestures (eg finger on lips as a symbol of silence)
  • expressions (eg open mouth to represent surprise)
  • costume (a white costume as a symbol of innocence)
  • lighting (eg blue lighting to represent night-time)
  • setting (dry ice vapour to represent a snowy wood)

How to devise a performance

In Unit 1, you will devise drama from the stimuli [stimuli: In drama, stimuli refer to the drama texts (photos, texts, video etc) you have been given to work with ] you have been presented with.

This Revision Bite will help you understand the process and stages of devising a piece of drama work. Look how the different elements of drama have been used

'Joyriding' - opening lines

Imagine you've been set a piece of work titled Joyriding. You've been given the following stimuli, and you know that the opening of a piece of drama is very important.


Imagine your drama opens with three characters on stage, each with an opening line:

illustration of a woman

Character 1: I was 18 the first time I drove a car, that was when my dad gave me my first lesson.

illustration of a man with glasses

Character 2: The first time I drove a car was on my 17th birthday - my parents had bought me a series of driving lessons.

illustration of a boy wearing a baseball cap

Character 3: The first time I drove a car was when I was 15, and me and my mates stole one - it was also the last time I drove one anywhere.

The opening uses the rule of three. The first statement is clear. The second statement is similar to the first one and sets up the audience expectation for the third statement. The third statement starts off following the pattern set, but then brings in a surprise element that gives the audience a bit of a shock.

In what way would you stage the opening of this piece of drama using the short piece of script [script: The text of a play or drama production - usually the script will give suggestions for the setting of the scene and contain direction for the characters ] above? See the next page for ideas.

Ideas for drama opening

Option 1: Traverse stage

diagram of a traverse stage, showing positions of the actors described in the text

With audience on two sides, characters 1 and 2 enter at one end of the traverse, and speak their lines. They smile broadly at each other, and 'freeze'. Character 3 enters at the opposite end, and says his/her line with the attitude of someone intending to shock. Characters 1 and 2 react by turning their heads towards 3, with shock registering on their faces.

Option 2: End-on staging

diagram of end-on staging, showing positions of the actors described in the text

Spotlights come up on each character as they speak their lines. Characters 1 and 2 should react to character 3's declaration, so that there is a brief tableau after character 3 speaks. The characters are not on levels.

Option 3: Theatre in the round

diagram of theatre in the round, showing positions of the actors described in the text

The characters come into the acting area one by one, and just stand facing two sections of the audience. During their entrances, car engine sound effects can be played. When this has stopped, the actors speak the lines.


Think about the age and gender of the characters (do you want to play a character of your own age or not?). What ages would be most interesting for the drama to work well with an audience?

Here are some different character ideas for the three characters of our opening sequence.

Table showing different character ideas

CharactersOption 1Option 2

Character 1

illustration of a woman

  • 40 years old
  • Has spouse and children
  • Works hard and runs a youth club ***
  • 35 years old
  • Has just broken up with spouse
  • Wants children to spend plenty of time with both parents

Character 2

illustration of a man with glasses

  • 25 years old
  • Has just got engaged
  • Is hoping to start a new job at a hospital ***
  • 28 years old
  • Has arrived in the country as a junior doctor from Ghana
  • Hopes to work permanently in Britain

Character 3

illustration of a boy wearing a baseball cap

  • 15 years old
  • Has got in with a bad crowd
  • Comes from a good family ***
  • 15 years old
  • Has always had a bad reputation
  • Tends to lead others into trouble

The possibilities are endless, so it might help to think about devising characters that will connect with your particular audience.

*** These characters will be used for the rest of this exercise.

After each character has said their opening line, what do you want the audience to be thinking?

character 3 - did he cause the accident, or is that too obvious?

They'll probably presume that the cause of the accident is character 3. A twist could be that one of the other characters caused the accident. It's for you to decide who this might be, and create a character who suits your version of events.

In the opening lines there's a hint that something unusual has happened. It's for you to choose who this has happened to, and why.

If the drama is to work well, the audience has to feel some empathy [empathy: An awareness and understanding of another person's feelings, situation or motives. ] for the characters, so they care what happens to them.

To make this happen, you need to focus the drama on the characters.Hot-seating [hot-seating: To question an individual while they remain in character ] the characters could reveal important information about them, and provide ideas for scenes that help an audience get to know them.

do character 2 and character 3 meet at the hospital?

When developing scenes for your drama, decide whether you want the characters to have met before the drama starts. For example, could the Ghanaian doctor have treated character 3 for injuries he got when he was fighting drunk?

do characters 1 and 3 meet at the youth club?

Could character 3 have met character 1 when his gang caused trouble at the club at an earlier time?

This is a way of showing that the two characters had met before, little knowing that their paths would cross again. At the same time you can show something of what they're like.

Scenes for each character

To create scenes that show something important about each character, look at each one in turn, and think about the events in their lives that are significant in the story you are telling.

Some ideas:

Character scenes

Character 1: Youth club managerCharacter 2: Ghanaian doctorCharacter 3: Teen tearaway

illustration of a woman

  • Wedding day of young couple - best man is giving a speech.
  • Her first child is born, and she is opening a card in hospital.
  • Letter (read out) from a youth club member, thanking her for help at a time of trouble.

illustration of a man with glasses

  • The day in which the character receives his offer of a post as a junior doctor abroad.
  • Saying goodbye to the family at the airport.
  • Writing home about work and other aspects of life in UK. You could use a back-projection showing a view of British life, perhaps some news footage.

illustration of a boy wearing a baseball cap

  • In trouble at school for exhorting money from younger students.
  • Newsflash about youths seen vandalising a churchyard.
  • Distraught girlfriend tells him she is pregnant. He says that she's on her own, he doesn't want this child.

Cross-cutting [cross-cutting: A technique used to show flash-backs, flash-forwards or to create the illusion of two or more actions occuring at the same time ] is a good technique because it can be used to:

  • highlight certain aspects of the plot, perhaps with contrasting scenes.
  • add to the tension by delaying the action
  • keep the plot dynamic and interesting.
  • enhance the pace of the plot and performance

Accident scene

Here are some ideas about how you can stage the important central accident scene.

Option 1

illustration of character 3, with two friends

Character 3 and two friends are driving along (stage this with two characters standing in a spotlight with the third character leaning into the space between their heads and shoulders). They are laughing and shouting. The 'car' stops and the two friends exit, leaving character 3 alone. The action freezes, and the lights go up on the other side of stage.

illustration of a woman

Character 1 is shouting off-stage, having an argument with her husband. She crosses the stage, grabbing her car keys as she goes.

illustration of a man with glasses

Character 2 is at home, when the sound of a crash outside is heard.

He goes to the 'window' and looks out. He mimes picking up a phone, and gives details of the scene he can see outside. He says he's a doctor and will go to help. Blackout.

illustration of all three characters

When the lights come on again, the sound of loud music is heard and two bodies are seen, lying awkwardly - one on the ground and the other on the chairs (as if in a car). Character 2 approaches the bodies and leans into the 'car' to turn off the radio. Silence.

Character 2 looks at the two bodies, and bends down to check for signs of life. He starts making the accident victims more comfortable. Character 3 starts moaning, character 2 tells him that the ambulance will soon be here. Freeze.

Option 2

illustration of character 1 - woman, with character 3 - boy wearing a baseball cap

Using physical theatre, characters 1 and 3 are drivers of cars made up of the other actors. Each 'vehicle' faces the audience, and each is lit by a spotlight, with the rest of the stage in darkness. The actors making up the vehicles can make the sound of the cars, gear-changing etc.

illustration of a woman

Character 1 is angry and driving badly. She talks about her husband and their argument this morning. She makes angry comments about other drivers on the road. She jumps a red light, saying 'No-one will be around this time of the morning'.

illustration of character 1 - woman, with character 3 - boy wearing a baseball cap

Character 3 is playing music (perhaps rap style performed by a member of the cast forming his car.) He sees character 1 crossing his path, and shouts, 'I can't stop!' Character 1 shouts, 'Oh no! Another car - I'm gonna hit him!'. Sound effects can be used here to create the skidding noises, engine noises and sound of breaking glass. The lights go out. Silence. General lights come back up to reveal two bodies lying on the 'road'.

Voices are heard saying things such as: 'She drove straight through the red light!' 'The other driver didn't have a chance!' 'She was going too fast!' 'Are they still alive?' Everything sounds confused and chaotic. Eventually a siren is heard as the lights fade.

The ending

Deciding on the ending is important too. Do you want to finish using the same sequence as at the start? This could focus the audience's mind on the characters and how they came together in a fateful manner.

Do you want to have character 3 in a wheelchair - facing his life without hope of walking again? Perhaps using a monologue to tell the audience how he feels?

Do you want the families of each of the characters trying to come to terms with what has happened?

The final scene must have impact, and make clear the whole point that you intend for your drama.

Choosing a style or practitioner for your devised piece.

One of the things you have to consider when devising your exam performance is which style or practitioner is going to influence your work.


Someone who has had a massive influence on how plays are written, performed or staged. These people have changed the world of theatre and will certainly influence the work you devise and perform.

Here are some practitioners you might be familiar with:

  • Konstantin Stanislavski
  • Betrolt Brecht
  • Augusto Boal
  • Antonin Artaud


Download this document to read more about the key methods and techniques of some of the most influential practitioners (PDF file 397kb)


Indicates a specific way of performing. Sometimes a style is linked closely with a particular practitioner eg Naturalism is linked closely with Stanislavski; Forum Theatre is linked with Boal; Physical Theatre is linked with Artaud.

Here are some other styles you might be familiar with:

  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Melodrama
  • Musical Theatre
  • Theatre in Education

Each style and practitioner has methods and techniques which are usually unique to them although sometimes they are influenced by others!

Your task is to show your teacher and the moderator that you understand these methods and how they have influenced your preparation and final performance.

It is very important that you choose something you are familiar with and know something about.


Download this document to find out more about different styles (PDF file 397kb)

Examiner's Tip:

When choosing a style or practitioner for your final devised performance try to concentrate on a specific one. Mixing lots of different methods and styles will make your devised performance look messy and disjointed.

Practical activity:

Go back to the scenario using the stimuli based on joy riding. How could you adapt it to show:

  • The methods of Stanislavski.
  • The methods of Artaud.
  • The style of Theatre in Education.

Structure of your play

What is structure?

The way a play is organised or shaped.

The type of structure you use will depend on your chosen style or practitioner. Practitioners chart

Naturalistic Structure:

This structure is usually associated with Stanislavski.

It gives the illusion of real life presented on stage. There is unity of time and place (a recognisable situation and time-span). The action evolves through the situations and personalities of the characters. EastEnders is a good example of a naturalistic structure.

Classical Structure:

This structure is usually associated with the plays of Shakespeare.

This follows the shape of three acts. Act one usually introduces the main protagonist and an incident that needs to be solved. The second act will deal with the character and plot development. The final act resolves the action. If the play ends badly it is a tragedy. If it ends well it is classed as a comedy. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller follows a classical structure.

Surreal structure:

This structure is associated with Artaud, Stephen Berkoff and Absurdist theatre.

The play is not set in a recognisable place or time. The task is to take the audience on a journey into the subconscious or dream-world.

Episodic Structure:

This structure is associated with the plays of Brecht. Lots of relatively short scenes are linked together by the same character, place or theme. Scenes could be shuffled around and placed in a different order because there is no overall beginning, middle and end. Dr Kovak's Example and Stone Cold are examples of plays that use an episodic structure.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do make sure that you write down (either in script form or by summarising) what happens in each scene. This will help you to develop the shape of your play.
  • Don't make the scenes too short - this will make your play seem disjointed.
  • Don't have two characters simply talking for too long. Unless you are an extremely talented playwright, lengthy pages of dialogue are extremely difficult to write.
  • Do experiment with different explorative strategies [explorative strategies: Eight individual techniques used in drama work to explore the possibilities of the drama. ]. Remember - you want to create an exciting piece of theatre that holds the audience's attention.
  • Do ensure that the audience knows what is happening by the end of the play.
  • Do have scenes that contrast each other. Too many emotional scenes that follow in quick succession become boring and lose their impact.
  • Do think carefully about the sequence of events and whether they will work in the final performance.
  • Don't be afraid to reject a scene if it’s not working in rehearsal.
  • Don't forget - successful editing is often the key to successful devised work.


Create a flowchart of the story and highlight the key scenes. Experimenting with structure may help you to create a more imaginative and original play.


In unit two practical performance from a text you will find a section called Role on the Wall. This is a great technique to get you you thinking about your character. Its also a great way to start you thinking about relationships and plot line.

Example of a play

Here is an example of a play written by a group of students for their devised practical performance.



Read it through and look at the examiner's comments to what elements make it a successful and interesting as a piece of theatre.

The group's stimulus was a picture of an old typewriter

They use the methods of Stanislavski as their main practitioner


Drama: Sacrifice of War (1.86mb)

Examiner's Comments

  • The play has been carefully scripted so the group will be clear about what they need to do when rehearsing the play.
  • The stimulus, a picture of an old typewriter, has been used in an interesting and subtle way.
  • There is a definite time period which the group has tried to reflect in both the language the characters use and also their choice of situation eg the war.
  • The play is carefully structured. There is a good sense of pace to the scenes and a clear development of characters and action.
  • There is an effective balance between the emotional content of the scenes. Some of the scenes are funny, others are quite sad. This contrast would be highly effective in performance.
  • The characters are equally balanced and are well-developed. The inter-relationships between the characters are believable and effective.
  • Although some of the devices do not reflect Stanislavski's methods eg flashbacks are not part of naturalism, the characters and most of the situations are realistic and believable and the group shows a high level of understanding of naturalism in this important area.
  • The group has chosen devising techniques carefully eg monologue, narrator cross cutting, letters, flashbacks, movement for the battle scene and used them to develop both the plot, characters and structure of the play. These techniques also contribute in making the play effective in performance and for an audience.
  • The group has researched the period in which they have set the play and put in some interesting details eg the boys are sent to Yorkshire for their initial training: the cigarette cards with the pictures of popular film stars; the name of a specific gun used by the German army.
  • The dialogue is well written. It is developed, descriptive, reflects where and when the characters live and has pace.
  • The stage directions are clear and precise and this would be a big help when rehearsing a play.
  • They have also thought about the technical elements right at the beginning of the process and how they would enhance the play.
  • There are quite a number of different scenes and lots of scenes changes could spoil the flow of the play. However, they have carefully fixed the space and each location could be suggested simply and effectively. They also tell the audience through the dialogue where the characters are.
  • The play is atmospheric and would have an impact on an audience.
  • It is an appropriate length for five characters

Explorative strategies

Your drama practical work and devised performance report will require you to demonstrate a variety of explorative strategies to show that you have fully explored the character, scene, style or stimuli you've been working on.

This Revision Bite will define the eight explorative strategies you should know.

A Video examples of each explorative strategy can be found on each page of this Revision Bite.

Still image/freeze frame

This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Brecht, TIE or Artaud as your chosen style.

Here are some ways to create a still image:

  • one person acts as a sculptor [sculptor: Person responsible for positioning individuals ] and creates images by positioning individuals in the group in relation to one another to create a still image.
  • a group can create an image one by one, to show a large group situation eg after a road accident.
  • a piece of action can be stopped at a particular moment, to allow an audience to appreciate what is happening.

Why a still image? What does it add to a drama?

Just like a photograph, a still image can be examined closely, and the audience can note body language, facial expressions or proxemics [proxemics: The distance between two interacting individuals ] to give clues as to the situation or the people within the situation at that moment.


This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Brecht or Stanislavski as your chosen style.

Thought-tracking helps inform an audience about a character. You see it in action when:

  • a character speaks out loud about his/her inner thoughts at a particular moment in the drama.
  • a character speaks out loud about his/her inner thoughts during a freeze frame/still-image.

Why give a thought-track? What does it add to a drama?

Sometimes in daily life we would like to know what someone thinks at important moments. We really want to know how people have been affected by a situation. When we know more of what they are feeling, we understand them better. In drama, too, when we know more of what a character thinks or feels, the drama is deepened and the audience becomes more involved.


This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Brecht, TIE, Musical Theatre or Artaud as your chosen style.

Narrating is what you do when you're giving a spoken commentary on the action taking place during a drama. It's a useful technique when you want to inform the audience of what is happening.

Why use narrating? What can it add to a drama?

Narrating can make a drama more understandable or stylised [stylised: An attempt to enhance a scene using unnatural methods ] in a number of ways:

  • an actor can speak the commentary over the action happening in the drama.
  • a character can speak out what s/he thinks the audience needs to know about the characters or the situation of which s/he is a part - this is called self-narrating.
  • an actor can just tell the audience what they need to know in between scenes.
  • a character can read or write a diary or letter that informs the audience what is important for them to know about what is happening or going to happen.


This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Stanislavski as your chosen style.

Role-play is what you do when you're pretending to be another person and using your imagination to speak, think and even feel like that character.

Why use role-play? What does it add to a drama?

If you don't pretend to be someone else while acting in a drama, then the audience will see only 'you' and not the character you are meant to be portraying. They will only see 'you' in the situations that are described. If you make the role-play realistic and believable, then the audience will be more likely to suspend their disbelief (forget that they're watching a drama, and feel personally involved).


This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Brecht, TIE or Stanislavski as your chosen style.

Cross-cutting is what you do after you've created a series of scenes or sequences, and you re-order them to create a drama that goes forwards and backwards in time.

Why use cross-cutting? What can it add to a drama?

Sometimes a drama that starts and carries on in a linear manner can be too predictable, which makes it boring to watch. With cross-cutting we can show the moment when something important happened in the past (using a flash-back), or we can move the drama forward in time (using a flash-forward). In this way the action can be broken up to enhance tension or the narrative.

NB - the cross-cutting video example can be found on the next page, with the hot-seating video.


This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Stanislavski as your chosen style.

Hot-seating is a way of developing (or deepening) character. If you are in the hot-seat you answer questions from others in the group while you are 'in role'.

Why use hot-seating? What can it add to a drama?

The characters will seem more realistic if you feel you really 'know' them. It is easier to be spontaneous and believable if you have carefully explored a character in your drama during the hot-seating process.

Forum theatre

This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using TIE as your chosen style.

Forum theatre is a technique you can use while acting out a scene. The group watching is encouraged to stop the action when they think it necessary, to suggest a different action. At other times, the actors themselves can stop the action, and ask for help. Sometimes someone else can step in and take over a role - or even introduce a new one.

Why use forum theatre? What can it add to a drama?

Sometimes it is hard, when devising drama, to imagine what a character might do or say at a particular moment. If you stop the drama when in role, and ask for help from your group, someone will probably give you a good idea of what to do or say next. They might also offer to take over the role to try out their idea - or even join the scene as another character altogether, to take things in a new direction.

Marking the moment

This explorative strategy would be effective if you were using Brecht or TIE as your chosen style.

Marking the moment can happen when a scene has been created, and the group decides it's a significant moment in the drama, and they want to show this in some way.

Why mark the moment? What can this add to a drama?

At times things happen in a scene very quickly - and yet we know these moments can change the whole direction of a drama. This is when something is needed to emphasise the moment.

  • We could use a spotlight to literally 'highlight' the moment.
  • We could insert a thought-track.
  • We could slow down time, or use a still image/freeze-frame.
  • We could use narrating by another actor, or self-narrating, to draw the audience's attention to this moment.

Interpreting and staging a scene

Once you've worked out your initial ideas, you will need to discuss how to interpret and stage your scene.

This Revision Bite will outline points you need to think of when interpreting and staging your scene, and techniques you can use.

Points to consider

As you work out your ideas for your devised performance, remember to consider the following:

  • how many people are in your group?
  • what facilities do you have?
  • what style, medium or elements have you decided to use?
  • what's the intended message of the play?
  • what are the skills of the group members?

Techniques for your scene

The exciting thing about devised work is the process and watching how your play changes and develops from the initial ideas. If your group continually sits around talking about ideas you will soon get bored and lose interest. It’s important that you explore and develop ideas practically.

Use the following rule as a guideline:

25 per cent talk, 75 per cent practical work.

Here are some ideas you could explore in rehearsals:

  • role on the wall ['role on the wall': An activity used to develop characters and present information about that character ]
  • in-role ['in-role': When you are acting as your character and behaving and thinking as they would. 'In-role' writing involves you writing about feelings/situations through your character's eyes. ] 'writing'
  • use of music
  • use of costumes
  • extra emphasis for key moments in the scene (mark the moment)
  • realising emotions
  • rhythm/pace/tempo of the scene
  • use of voice
  • thought-tracking [thought-tracking: One of the explorative strategies in which a character speaks out his/her inner thoughts ]
  • fixing space
  • using levels
  • using props
  • listening and responding between different characters within a specific scene

Look at the following scenario to see how a devised performance could be approached.

Discuss it in your group.

Which ideas would work in your devised performance?

Example scenario: Megan


Megan is part of a group who bully a younger girl. Megan is ashamed of herself after bullying the student, and for taking her money.

Think about how you would interpret and stage this scene.

How would you do this using three actors?

Would you focus on the victim or the bully?

What theme would you focus on - guilt, peer pressure, regrets?

Would you use flash-forwards or flash-backs?

Scene ideas where the victim is not present

The following ideas for scenes do not include the victim:

megan addressing the audience

Megan and her friends laugh and joke together, talking about what they've done. Freeze. Megan steps out of the group and speaks to the audience with a direct address, saying that she wishes she hadn't done it, that she feels ashamed, that her parents would be horrified, and that she wonders how she can make amends.

megan writing in her diary

Megan and her friends laugh and joke together, talking about what they've done. Freeze. Megan steps out of the group as the lights dim, and goes DS (down stage) to sit at a small table as the lights come up. She writes in her diary, speaking out loud about her sense of shame, how her parents would be horrified and her ideas for making amends.

megan being told off by a teacher

Megan and her friends laugh and joke together, talking about what they've done. Freeze. One of the characters steps out of the scene, leaving Megan and the remaining actor who alters body language and vocal register to become the teacher. Megan is now in trouble with a teacher for having bullied the younger child. The teacher questions her, then asks her how she feels. Megan speaks of her shame and how her parents will be horrified. She says she should make amends for her actions and that she deserves punishment.

These scenes would work well using a small group of three people.

By not including the victim the audience is able to imagine what she is like and the effects of the bullying, but the focus is kept clearly on Megan herself and her own realisation of how she has become a bully. There is a Social, Cultural and Historical element to the subject of bullying that should be mentioned in your devised performance evaluation.

Scene ideas where the victim is present

The following scenes show the victim being bullied by Megan's gang:

megan feels ashamed

Megan and her friends stop a younger student from moving away from them by positioning themselves around her using threatening proxemics. They verbally threaten her and ask for her money. They take the money and her bag, throwing it on the ground. They walk away laughing. Megan looks back and the scene freezes.. She speaks to the audience with a direct address, saying she wishes she hadn't done it, that she feels ashamed, that her parents would be horrified, and that she wants to make amends. Looking at her friends, she realises aloud that she can't do that at the moment.

the victim sitting on the floor

Megan and her friends stop a younger student from moving away from them by positioning themselves around her. They threaten her and ask for her money. They take the money and her bag, throwing it on the ground. The young girl looks up at the bullies, asking why they want to do this to someone smaller than themselves. The older girls all laugh - freeze. Megan stops laughing and turns to the audience, serious now. She remembers how the same thing once happened to her, and how she felt. She's always felt angry about it since it happened. She realises how the girl feels, and is ashamed. She looks at the frozen image of her friends and their victim, and says that she's not going to do anything about it now, but later she'll give the money back and apologise. She knows that she'll get into trouble anyway, as the girl will tell a teacher.

These scenes will need at least a couple more actors. They focus on Megan's regret, and the guilt she feels about being a bully.

By including a victim or series of victims the focus of the drama widens to show the extent of Megan's bullying behaviour. There is a Social, Cultural and Historical element to the subject of bullying that should be mentioned in your Documentary Response also.

Scene ideas using flash-backs

The following scenes use flash-backs into the past to describe the story:

megan apologises to the victim

Megan is in the headteacher's office, with the Head (DSL/R). The Head gives the victim's account of what happened. As she tells her account the lights dim and Megan joins the group CS, and re-enacts the scene as the lights go up. The commentary fades out as the scene is played. Freeze. Megan rejoins the Head in her office with her head bowed. The Head asks what she has to say. She apologises, and says that she's ashamed etc. The Head brings in the victim, and Megan has to apologise - the victim doesn't answer.

megan's daughter is horrified by her story

Megan is now a mother, whose daughter has been accused of bullying. The scene takes place in the headteacher's office. Megan is horrified to hear of what her daughter has done, and tells of what happened when she was at school. Lights dim. She joins group CS and re-plays the scene. Freeze. She returns to the headteacher's office and it is still in the past (slightly dimmer lighting than previously). The scene unfolds, with a telling-off and a statement by (young) Megan about how she feels about what she's done and what her parents will say. Freeze. Lights fully up and the scene is now today. Megan's daughter is told about what happened in the past, and is thoughtful. The headteacher asks that Megan's daughter be excluded from school for a day, to think about what will happen in the future.

These scenes will need more than three actors. Again, they focus on Megan's regret, and the guilt she feels about being a bully.

By using flashbacks to Megan's earlier life a link is made to the incidents of bullying behaviour that both Megan as a child and as a parent of a bullying child has to deal with. The Social, Cultural and Historical aspects of the subject are communicated more clearly than ever using this technique and scenario… although you will need to explain this clearly in your Documentary Response.

The drama medium

This Revision Bite explores the different drama mediums you could use when preparing your devised practical performance


You will need to discuss the different mediums, how you used them, where you used them and what you have achieved by using them in your final devised performance report.

There are drama medium video examples and activities throughout this Revision Bite.

Costume, masks and make-up

a student dressed as a japanese geisha

Student in costume and make-up

Costume can be modern clothes, period costume or a fantasy outfit. You may want to wear full costume, or perhaps just wear black, with indications of character as an extra feature. For example, a hat, shawl or jacket could signify character.

Sometimes, in stylised drama, the items of costume are exaggerated - so a jacket could be in very bright colours.

Masks may be single colour, painted, full-face or half-face. They are usually used in stylised work to indicate non-human characters, for example, in a Greek chorus, in Animal Farm, or in a play with demons. Masks would be effective if you were using Artaud or physical theatre as your chosen style.

Make-up functions in different ways. Sometimes it's used to 'age' an actor, or it may indicate a fantasy character such as a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. At other times it can alter the gender of a character, or communicate a different style of theatre, eg Kabuki [kabuki: A style of theatre, popular in Japan, often featuring elaborate costumes, music and dancing ].

Use the dressing room activity to design and print costumes for your character.

Remember to check out the costume gallery and the hats, wigs, masks and make-up gallery

Sound and music

Sound and music obviously play a crucial part in musicals but, whichever style or practitioner that you choose, they are extremely important to:

  • add atmosphere
  • emphasise action happening on stage
  • help set the scene
  • indicate a change of time or location
  • focus attention on a character


As well as helping the actors to be seen, lighting can also indicate the time of day, or a place, and can focus audience attention on a character.

Different lighting effects

Spot has a hard-edged effect, used to light characters or elements on the stage. Coloured filters can be used with this lamp.
Fresnel used for a softer edged effect, with a diffusing lens in front of the lamp. It's useful for good overall light, when used with others. Coloured filters can be used with this lamp.
Flood produces a clear wide-angled light, but there is little control over the spread of the light. Coloured filters can be used with this lamp.
Strobe a flashing light, used for special effects. Often used to give the effect of old movies. Produces a jerky effect on the movements of actors when used on its own.

Space and levels

The acting area is generally called a stage, and might be a proper stage or just an area of a hall or small room. How this area is used will affect how your drama will look.

levels in action

Levels give a stage more visual interest, and the various levels can be useful, as they allow different characters the opportunity to communicate different status, for example. The various levels might represent different locations, or may just allow the audience to see particular bits of the action more clearly.

Set and props

You may use very simple or very detailed sets and props.

Stage sets help create the background to a drama, but it's usually best to keep them simple. Shakespeare's stage used little in the way of set, and the modern trend is also to keep things low-key. Look back at the chart on the different practitioners and styles to see which approach to set is best suited to your devised performance style.

Examiner's Tip:

Too many or messy scene changes will spoil the flow of your play and could affect your final mark. Keep your set simple, mark your space so each area of your stage indicates a different location and keep rehearsing your scene changes before the final exam to ensure they are slick and quick.

police hat props

Props are the items that are held or used by an actor in a scene to make it more realistic. These are also best kept to a minimum. A briefcase might be enough to portray a businessman, without using a phone as well, or a hat might signify one character when it's on and a different character when it's off.


If you use props in your drama, start working with them as soon as you can. Props can slow down the action at times, and you'll need lots of practice if you want a slick pace.

Movement, mime and gesture

1. Movement

Whichever practitioner or style you choose this area is going to be extremely important.

Don't forget - 20 out of 80 marks in your devised practical performance are awarded for how you use your voice and movement.

Movement covers:

  • where we move to on and around the stage - upstage, downstage, avoiding masking [masking: When one actor obstructs the audiences view of another ] another actor, etc.
  • how we move to help with characterisation - slowly, painfully, lightly, etc.
  • how we move in relation to other characters - threateningly, fearfully, in a friendly manner, etc.

2. Mime

Mime covers:

  • working in silence, or with few sounds or words, to show activities – eg painting a wall, opening a door.
  • working with dialogue, but miming any props or set – eg looking in a mirror, perhaps facing the audience, to put on make-up while speaking to another character.
  • physical theatre, which also uses mime techniques, and where actors can also mime items of set or props.

3. Gesture

Gesture covers the use of our arms (and sometimes legs) to communicate ideas to the audience.

Examples of gesture in melodrama include:

  • holding the back of the hand to the forehead to indicate that you are upset.
  • when the heroine pleads for her life by clasping her hands up towards the villain.
  • when Lady Bracknell holds out her hand to be kissed.
gesture - what's up there?

Focus on body language

Body language is an important aspect of performance. An actor's body language plays a crucial part in telling the audience about the character they are playing.

In this Revision Bite, you will learn how to evaluate body language.

What is body language?

Body language is the way in which our bodies communicate our own or a character's attitudes.

An audience or viewer can watch it to pick up on someone's age, emotions, status, or health.

For example, a student being told off by a teacher in a drama can easily tell the audience that she's not feeling sorry for what she's done by:

  • curling her lip
  • showing a bored look in her eyes
  • having her head slightly lowered
  • putting a hand on her hip
  • having her hip stuck out, with her weight on one leg.
a still from the tv series little britain showing the characters vicky pollard and mr collier

An example of body language

In this still from the comedy series 'Little Britain', the schoolgirl character's body language suggests defiance - she has her hand on her hip, and is not making eye contact with the teacher. Notice the teacher character's body language too - his face is stern, and he is looking down directly onto the schoolgirl character.

When you're acting, make sure your body language is appropriate for the character you play. It's important that your gestures communicate to another person in your group what you intend.

How to evaluate?

When you're considering the body language from a scene or a still image, ask yourself the following:

  • what is the scene or image trying to communicate to the audience – i.e. what's it about?
  • how well did the actors use appropriate body language?
  • what could the actors improve upon (if anything)?


This body language worksheet can help you think about these points (PDF file 622kb)


When using your voice during your drama, think about:

  • Tone: does your voice sounds appropriate - perhaps harsh or soft, angry or happy? Is it suitable for the character you're playing?
  • Volume: have you got the loudness or quietness of your speech right? Can everyone in the audience hear you?
  • Pitch: does your character speak with a high or low pitched voice? If you were playing a hanging judge, would a squeaky voice sound right?
  • Pace: how quickly do you say your lines? Too fast, and the audience won't keep up, too slow and they might get bored. Can you alter the pace according to what's happening in the drama? (Ask friends for feedback!)
  • Clarity:have you practised speaking very, very clearly? It's crucial!
  • Accent: If you decide to give your character an accent don't forget you will have to sustain it throughout the play.

Spoken language

There's a vast range of spoken language you can use in a drama. The words you choose need to be just right for the character, the setting and the situation. Here are some pointers to help you.

  • Language registers: remember to change the way you speak to different people. We wouldn't say "Hello, darlin', you all right?" to a judge in real life, so if you're playing a judge in a drama, keep the register formal, and don't ask your witness, "Right, mate, what happened next then?" Our language register should match the role that we play.
  • Verse: use this in stylised drama, or in genres such as pantomime.
  • Language of the Time or Period: Remember - if your play is set during the Second World War, the way the characters speak and the words they use would be very different from how we speak today. If you decide to set your play in a specific period you would need to research it to make the language of your play sound authentic.
  • Slang: use this if you want to reflect down-to-earth daily life. We might have local words for various objects, for example. However, remember not to use slang in the wrong setting. Using 'OK' instead of 'Yes' in a Victorian drama, for example, would sound very strange!

Create a devised performance calendar


  • The devised performance exam will probably take place in the summer term of year 10 or the autumn term of year 11. However, your teacher will decide which time will best suit the class.
  • You will be given around 30 hours to develop and rehearse your exam piece. Before you get carried away with your drama work, create a calendar showing what you need to do as you lead up to the exam.

It'll help all members of your group to know what they're working towards each week and will help to keep you focused.

Your calendar might look something like this.

A sample performance calendar



Stimuli given outGroups formedDiscussion and research on chosen stimuliJobs allocated in groups: gathering props, making set, costume etc


Development of initial ideasDevelopment of initial ideasDiscussion of chosen style/practitioner Discussion and development of initial structure


Rehearsals and development using exploratory techniquesIdeas for music/sound etcProps starting to be found


Rehearsals and development continue: emphasis on experimenting with different types of staging. Scenes are put in running orderMusic sources should be explored and decidedProps should be used as they're found


Rehearsals and development continue: emphasis on developing appropriate movement and gesture. Group discussion on amendments to scriptMusic sources should be explored and decidedProps should be used as they're found


Rehearsals and development continue: emphasis on development of vocal techniqueMusic sources should be explored and decidedProps should be used as they're found


Rehearsals and development continueMusic sources should be explored and decidedProps should be used as they're found


Rehearsals and development continue. Devised performance filmed, viewed and amended.Music sources should be explored and decidedProps should be used as they're found


Ymarferion a pherffeithio'r perfformiadFfynonellau i gael eu harchwilio a'u penderfynuProps i gael eu defnyddio unwaith y byddan nhw wedi cael eu canfod


Rehearsals and finalising performanceMusic CDs etc need to be finalised and usedProps and costume need to be readyLighting and set needs to be ready


Rehearsals and finalising performanceTech and dress rehearsals


Final performance filmed. Marked by teacher and sent to moderator

Exam Tips:

  • Always present work to a constructive audience during development. Listen to their feedback - they will see what you have missed and what you could improve on.
  • To help you with your devised performance evaluation, keep some notes during rehearsals. You will be able to use these when writing your final evaluation. Use the notebook printed below.

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