Theatre Studies

Theatre as a form of cultural expression has been performed for audiences from the early ages and is an integral part of all cultures.  In VCE Theatre Studies, through practical and theoretical engagement with scripts, from the pre-modern era to the present day, students gain an insight into the history and rich possibilities of script-based theatrical production.

Students in VCE Theatre Studies select a monologue from an annual list. They explore the context of the script, including the time, place, culture, playwright, theatrical style, language and meaning. In the examination, students interpret the monologue, either through acting and direction or through two areas of design. They also deliver an oral statement that explains and justifies their interpretive choices.

Watch Top Class students shine

See Theatre Studies performances from students that were selected to appear in Top Class 2020. 

Melissa Joy

Caulfield Grammar School, St Kilda East

Alice Carrying Shoes into the Unknown, Rosemary Johns

Set and costume: Vintage suitcases, paint, dress, belt, headband, heels, purse, cardigan

My interpretation of Rosemary Johns’ Carrying Shoes into the Unknown takes into consideration the fashion trends of the period between 1977 and 1979. I dressed Alice in a brightly coloured dress that reflects her cultural misunderstanding, as it shows extreme contrast to the clothing and colour pallet of the Iranian community. This bright dress will be eventually covered by contrasting layers of dark clothing that the actor will add as the monologue progresses. This demonstrates how Alice is trying to change her appearance, and further emphasises that she doesn’t fit into this alien culture.

As the theatrical style is naturalistic due to a transformation of time and place, I’ve adopted this style by dressing Alice in a costume that would have commonly been worn by young Western women. Elements of epic and poor theatre are shown through the use of political signage within the suitcases, as well as prop transformation. The prop choices will be manipulated by the actor to transform into multiple other objects, such as a building, or a taxi. This is done to show a clear and cohesive scene transformation. My prop choices of having the space filled with shoes and suitcases represent instant chaos and reflect the turmoil the fall of the Shah has caused within the Iranian community. Including the Qur’an in my interpretation of the monologue was a decision to further emphasise Alice’s growing respect for and understanding of the Iranian community.

Including the Qur’an in my interpretation of the monologue was a decision to further emphasise Alice’s growing respect for and understanding of the Iranian community.

Ella McDermott

Billanook College, Mooroolbark

Nina Zarietchnaya
The Seagull, Anton Chekhov

Set and costume: Steel, plastic, silk, velvet, cotton, lace

Through my research I discovered that playwright Chekhov had a personal understanding of how easily people can be struck into poverty, which is a core idea in the plot of his play The Seagull. At the beginning of the play, Nina is still living with her wealthy father and thus her costume is heavily influenced by my research into Russian high society culture during the 1890s. I also conducted research into the types of flowers that bloom in western Russia during summer, which I replicated in my design.

Cohesion was evident in both of my production roles whereby Nina’s costume became a part of the set in order to indicate the scene transition. Motion was created through actor interaction with my costume design, particularly the skirt, sleeves and cloak.

As the monologue occurs in the first act, Nina’s white dress conveys her innocence and purity. Later in the play, the grey undertones become more prominent as Nina become more helpless.

My understanding of the whole script informed my set design concept, whereby I specifically designed the nest to work as a central set piece. My set design initially communicates the outdoor garden setting without detracting from the actor in the space. In the following act, set in Sorin’s drawing room, the branches could be separated, intertwined with the furniture and strewn about the floor and carelessly stepped over by actors to further emphasise Nina’s downfall.

Ashleigh Miron

Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg

Mrs Lovett
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim

Set: Calico, adhesive, vinyl, shoe polish, acrylic paints, paper

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a musical theatre tragedy set in London in 1846. At the beginning of the play, a key scene establishes Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett’s partnership in business, and is the turning point in Sweeney’s personality. The intended meaning of the play is that people in power control people who don’t have power, and the idea of revenge.

I primarily focused on the theatre composition element of cohesion in my design, as all prop pieces are run-down, damaged or old-looking. This is in keeping with the theme of Mrs Lovett’s filthy character and successfully creates the environment of the run-down areas of London during the 19th century. This style also relates to the theatre style of tragedy as it shows the flaws associated with the character.

Through this design, the audience will be able to see that Mrs Lovett is a deceitful and manipulative character, who will do anything to get the life she dreams of with Sweeney. It is also intended that the audience is aware that Mrs Lovett knows about Sweeney Todd’s true identity the whole time. I decided to represent Mrs Lovett as growing weary of her current lifestyle, jealous of Lucy for her relationship with Sweeney, and desperate to get what she wants.

Amy Norton

Eltham College, Research

Loren and Barnacle (Loren voice-over)
The Encounter, Simon McBurney

Set and sound: Wooden desk, paint, books, magazines, reed diffuser, fake plants, sound

My design interpretation for the monologue from Complicité’s The Encounter stays true to the original contexts of the playscript in the way that it aids the transformation of time and place.

My design ideas are eclectic. The monologue is set in the Amazon jungle in 1969; however, the set design represents Simon McBurney’s apartment in 2011. I emphasise the theme of isolation and the idea that there are multiple levels of consciousness through creating a sensory experience, true to the immersive theatre style of the playscript.

The Theatre of Cruelty convention of assaulting the audience’s senses is incorporated via fragrances in the set design and a complex sound design. Surrealist elements are also used in the way I contrast the realistic and representational style of the set design with the stylised atmospheric soundscape. This denotes the chaotic universe within the world of the play and conveys Loren’s inner state, which transcends the logical.

A fluid motion between the space of Simon’s home to the realistic and metaphysical realm of the Amazon jungle is a major feature in my design concept, as is a contrast in worlds and in the inner and outer consciousness of Loren.

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