TP6004 - Popular Performance

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will engage in a research driven exploration on popular performance. The precise focus and thematic direction of this exploration will be devised in line with staff expertise and interests. ‘Popular performance’ is defined in broad terms and is inclusive of stand up, cabaret, clowning, musical comedy, panto, etc. The module is designed to enable you to explore and develop solo (or duo) modes of popular performance. Situating your work within relevant social and political contexts, the overarching goal is to create a proposal for material that you could perform in front of a live audience in a relevant popular performance setting. This proposal will likely be shared as a short performance, but can also be submitted in a range of media (video, etc.) as agreed by the module leader. You will be able to utilise this material not just during the assessment but also indicate where else you might adapt and transport it.

How will I learn on this module?

Your learning will be primarily through practical exploration. It is a practice-based module which emphasises learning by doing and showing rather than telling. A key principle in the learning process is that 'funny' or 'evocative' can only be evidenced by the provocation of audience response (laughter, applause, etc.), and that no amount of theorizing will determine what will 'work ' (or not work) in the context of a cabaret or comedy routine. Rather, we will generate material from starting points, some private study, some shared in the moment improvisation.

You will explore the relationship between the audience and the performer within the context of live club events, collaborative workshops, writing exercises; and through a series of workshops that support spontaneous creation of material. You will be introduced to a wide variety of cabaret and comedic styles via web and audio-visual archives. This will influence your choice of material and your ability to situate your work within a popular performance tradition. After selecting your material you will be supported to hone and polish your own 7 minute comedy 'set' or cabaret 'turn' (or combination of the two). This will be an opportunity to develop a suite of material that you can take with you beyond the life of the module and perform in a variety of settings. Your practical knowledge will be underpinned by weekly readings of comedy and cabaret theory and or texts which engage working comedy and cabaret performers in discussion about their process. Where possible there will be visits and talks from industry professionals.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Due to the experiential and discursive nature of the learning in this module there will be lots of opportunity to get tutor feedback on your work; the successful development of your work will rely on highly detailed formative feedback not just with tutors but with guest lecturers and fellow students. Accepting that there is no single approach to comedy or cabaret that will work for everyone, we encourage a supportive trusting environment. Learning, in this context, is not just a matter of learning how to do but learning how to fail: failure is an intrinsic part of the process and we will ensure students have plenty of opportunities to “fail”…and recover! A key method in the process will be the recording of individual performance to allow for careful evaluation and improvement.

You are welcome to make use of Office Hours, email and telephone communication at other times to seek out further support and guidance.
Information and resources will be available to you on Blackboard and the 'Reading List' contains links to websites and online video material which can help you develop appropriate knowledge and understanding.

Written assessment feedback will be provided within 20 working days of summative assignment submission. Access to library facilities is available 24-7 all year round.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
? Articulate an informed capacity to communicate critical ideas directly and concisely through popular performance techniques and/or practices.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
? Select, craft and execute a persuasive proposal for performance in response to a research enquiry.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
? Consider the ethical implications of form, content and technique in the presentation of popular performance.

How will I be assessed?

You will share your arguments in response to a set provocation as an oral presentation. Staff and peers will offer feedback in class.

Practice Research project (100%) comprising:
• A demonstration of practice (c. 5 – 10 minutes, as appropriate to form of practice and in discussion with tutor);
• A 1000-words (or equivalent) statement contextualising the practice research demonstration.

In response to a staff provocation or live brief, you will work in small groups to develop, rehearse and realise a practical response (such as performance, workshop, installation or another agreed other format) that investigates the intersection of practice and theory.

The format of the practical demonstration will be agreed in discussion with the module convenor. The 1000 word (or equivalent) research statement will outline the critical and creative references that have informed the project, and how they have done so





Module abstract

Do you have a skill or quirk that you want to share with the world? Do you long to speak out publicly about something important? This module enables you to explore and create performance suitable for variety and cabaret settings. ‘Popular performance’ can include stand-up comedy, cabaret, clowning, musical comedy and pantomime. It tends to involve a direct connection between audience and performer, often embracing topical events and issues of the day. Investigating forms of popular performance, you will create a short piece of your own for a club setting. Supported the research expertise of tutors, you will explore how and why popular performance matters. You will also learn from engagement with NewcastleGateshead’s vibrant local comedy and cabaret scene, such as the Stand Comedy Club and Alphabetti Theatre. The module is underpinned by an investigation of the value of popular performance as a means to explore personal and social identity.

Course info

UCAS Code W405

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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