What is ‘Pre-1900’?
For those looking to study the BA Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance degree, there is an exciting module in 3rd Year known as ‘Pre-1900’. This module is a chance to work collaboratively in a group, and put on industry-standard productions of a play that was written ‘pre-1900’ – hence the name.
At the beginning of the module, your group elects a Director and a Producer, and then you audition to be in the cast, or apply to be part of the production team. It’s an intense module, but has a huge pay-off in the end. If you’re like me, then you will absolutely feel the post-show blues too.
In my year, we hosted a triple bill of Molière comedies. My group staged ‘Scapin the Schemer’, a comedy about a self-proclaimed genius who helps two sons trick their fathers into accepting their marriages.
What did I do in this module?
In this module, I chose to act. This was certainly a rogue choice for me, as acting was never really something in my repertoire. However, I was so taken by the play that I thought I would give acting one last spin. Something I particularly enjoyed about this module was the freedom to put yourself forward for whatever role you wanted, regardless of experience. Across my degree, I have had the opportunity to explore so many avenues of theatre, from theory, to production, to practical. I found this a great chance to take the risk and perform for a public audience – something I had not done since my A levels.
It was an absolute joy to act. I think it even surprised my peers with the decision I had taken. I played the role of Silvestre, Scapin’s right-hand man. A real highlight of performing was my freedom to eye-roll. I sometimes wonder if I had been type-cast. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful challenge and experience to get stuck into.
What was the process like? What makes ‘Pre-1900’ so special?
The module is an intense one. However, the intensity motivates you because your group has the collective goal to make theatre and develop a fantastic production.
The intensity reminded me how much I enjoy theatre, and why I had originally wanted to pursue it beyond university. Especially after the last few years with the pandemic, having this chance to put on a full production, with a live audience, was amazing. Our hearts sang to have that opportunity once more, and it reminded us why we chose this course in particular. There is simply nothing else like getting the chance to put on so many full-scale productions.
The variety the module has to offer is nothing like I had received in my previous education, and every step of the way, you had the whole Department supporting your journey.
The Pre-1900 module is one of the first performances you watch as a first year, and something that you become inspired by. I still remember after watching the Pre-1900 performances in my first year being nothing but inspired. I wanted to create theatre to that standard of professionalism and, hopefully, I achieved that in the production my peers and I created.
So if you are looking to challenge yourself by creating innovative theatre from before 1900, then this module will absolutely be up your street. The years leading up to this module also structure and develop your theatre toolbox, preparing you for this module. Even if you think plays from before 1900 don’t quite excite you as much as contemporary plays do, I can assure you that this module will change your mind. It changed my mind. Now I have caught the bug in reviving and modernising old plays for contemporary audiences.