To begin with, your essay should open with a strong introduction that clearly outlines what you will be discussing in the coming paragraphs. For example, you may choose to dedicate a paragraph to each of the following areas: lighting design, sound, props, set-design, and voice etc. Should this be the case, your introduction should list these points in the order that you will be writing about them. This allows the reader to get an idea of what to expect when they read your essay. It also makes your essay sound more professional and well thought through. In my personal experience, I find that it is much easier to come back to the introduction once the rest of your essay has been completed. You will find that, by doing this, it will be much easier for you to write your introduction (after all… beginning an essay is the most difficult part of the process).
As you are writing about a live theatre performance, your introduction should also mention the name of the play you saw, where you saw it, who directed the piece, and also some brief information explaining what the play is about (including, posibly, its themes and the issues that it explores). This is essential, as it will highlight your knowledge of the play to the examiner.
For example, you introduction might say: On the 5th November 2016, I watched Sally Sample’s adaptation of Sheldon Sample’s ‘play’ at the ‘Theatre’. The play focus on the relationship between two friends – character x and character y – and how the events of their childhood fuels a dark hatred between them in adulthood. It is a play that explores the limits of friendship, and the consequences of seeking revenge. In this essay, I will be exploring how the different mediums of drama work together in order to create a specific type of atmosphere with ‘play’. I will focus on scenes a and b and pay specific attention to lighting design, sound, props, set-design, and voice. Top Tip: always write play titles in italics if writing your essay electronically.
When writing the main body of the essay (i.e. the paragraphs that begin exploring, in-depth, your chosen mediums of drama) you should make your points, back-up each point with evidence (e.g. a quotation from the performance, or a reference a certain scene or pivotal moment), and then explain your evidence in depth. This style of analysis is often abbreviated to PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain).
To provide a very basic example: Simon Sample’s lighting design, in my opinion, perfectly complemented the dark and sinister nature of the play’s narrative. In particular, during the scene where character x attempts to murder character y, the open white flood lighting present at the beginning of the scene rapidly crossfades to red on character x’s entrance. A deep rumbling sound accompanied this lighting change, causing the red lighting to create an atmosphere of evil and hatred rather than one of love and romance, as red can symbolise either of these polar opposite themes. This therefore marks the motives of character x as sinister, and makes us – as an audience – feel uneasy as he moves closer to character y who is unaware of his presence. Therefore, I feel that this use of lighting and sound work together in order to communicate one of the central themes of the play: revenge.
As you can see, the ‘explain’ section of the above example is much longer than the ‘point’ and ‘evidence’ parts. This is because the ‘explain’ section is where you should be analysing your evidence in-depth and putting across your own opinions. In this type of essay, where you are analysing a performance, this part is also where most of the marks are gained. Therefore, I would recommend that you spend most of your time on the 'explain' sections, making them as detailed as possible. I will now analyse the above example, and unpick the parts that make it a good answer. Firstly, there is mention of the type of atmosphere that is created within the auditorium as a result of the sound and lighting used within the scene. The effect on the audience is something you should be continually referring to as it shows that you are receptive to the messages and themes that the production is trying to communicate to you. Secondly, there is mention of how sound is able to assist lighting to create meaning. This shows an understanding that the different mediums of drama all work together to create a particular type of atmosphere. There is also mention of how these mediums of drama (lighting and sound) are able to communicate the central theme of revenge, showing that you have a good understanding of what the play is about.
This process should be repeated until you have written a paragraph that analyses the use of all of the mediums of drama mentioned within your introduction. Top Tip: Be careful not to mention something in your introduction and forget to write about it in the essay. Always check your introduction at the end to make sure it is reflective of what you have written.
Finally, you should always close your essay with a strong conclusion. Top Tip: make sure not to repeat what you have said in your introduction within your conclusion.
A very basic conclusion may be: In summary, the different mediums of drama – including lighting design, sound, props, set-design, and voice – all work together in order to effectively communicate the theme of revenge and hatred to the audience by creating a sinister atmosphere, whilst also creating a comic atmosphere at times in order to lighten the dark mood of the plot.
The conclusion, like the introduction, is very tricky to write and it might take some time. But never fear! Follow the above guidelines, stay focused and your essay will be brilliant. If you have any further questions, send me a message and I will aim to get back to you as quickly as possible. I wish you all the best of luck!
African Drama and Performance is a collection of innovative and wide-ranging essays that bring conceptually fresh perspectives, from both renowned and emerging voices, to the study of drama, theatre, and performance in Africa. Topics range from studies of major dramatic authors and formal literary dramas to improvisational theatre and popular video films. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are analyzed as a kind of social performance, and aspects of African performance in the diaspora are also considered. This dynamic volume underscores theatre's role in postcolonial society and politics and reexamines performance as a form of high art and everyday social ritual.
Contributors are Akin Adesokan, Daniel Avorgbedor, Karin Barber, Nicholas Brown, Catherine Cole, John Conteh-Morgan, Johannes Fabian, Joachim Fiebach, Marie-José Hourantier, Loren Kruger, Pius Ngandu Nkashama, Isidore Okpewho, Tejumola Olaniyan, Ato Quayson, Sandra L. Richards, Wole Soyinka, Dominic Thomas, and Bob W. White.