Book Review: 200 Plays for GCSE and A-Level

200 Plays for GCSE and A-Level Performance by Jason Hanlan

  • Suggested materials that works for 16–19-year-olds for the scripted performance of their exams
  • Pieces ranging from 480 BCE to material of the moment
  • Theatre from around the world from many cultures and religions
  • Laser-sharp insights into what examiners are looking for
  • Gold-standard guidance and notes

Making art is everything and that is the spirit of this new drama teacher’s guide by Jason Hanlan.

200 Plays for GCSE and A-Level Performance attempts the impossible and yet somehow manages to achieve it.

Finding the best material for meeting the needs of super-diverse student populations asks a lot of teachers and this can be very time-consuming.

But drama teachers can call off the search thanks to the privileged insights of this book about what works and why. Written by a highly experienced teacher and moderator/examiner it also provides us with a list of plays that enable talent, ignite imagination and challenge all abilities.

This book isn’t going to do all the work for you as drama teachers have to know their plays, the specification and their students inside out. What the book will do though is steer your students in the right direction, provide you with the best advice possible and help students succeed in their exam performances.

The first part of the resource contains eight chapters and begins by emphasising the importance of knowing the individual abilities of students. The author encourages us to do a skills audit so we can find out what other energies and passions students can bring to the table so their talents are fully utilised in new and creative ways.

The book then moves into the crucial aspect of guiding students with their chosen performance pieces that dovetails with their skill set and the bottom line of making the right text and extract choices.

There is an excellent chapter that focuses on the important decisions involved in design options and why this should not be considered as just ‘other’ options as they are fundamental to a successful production.

Other highly informative and insightful chapters include preparing your students for performance exams, performance spaces, Shakespeare and the language of the theatre.

The meat of the book centres on 200 carefully selected plays that should cover all bases and how you can help students discover what is best for them. It is designed as a tool for guiding teachers selecting the best fit and are the result of the author’s 30 years teaching, training, moderating and examining drama and so tap into a wealth of experience.

The plays are presented in chunks of female-only, male-only, mixed cast, flexible casting and ten Shakespeare plays.

They are very accessible because they are presented in clear and easy to read tables that focus on the title and publisher, playwright and date, casting and sections or scenes.

The most useful part of these charts house detailed notes, guidance and considerations that also contain warnings to be mindful and watchful of so you can be sure that you are making the best match and are appropriate.

These are brilliantly succinct too and provide a description of the play, a summary, where and when, themes covered, pointers, design/tech notes along with workshop and rehearsal notes with further ideas.  If you are looking for a write-up or critique of the plays then you won’t find them here because the resource is only intended as a handy reference to great plays.

Let’s not beat around the bush with this stage whisper: this book upstages anything else out there and would be a hard act to follow.

The verdict

  • Perfect for guiding students in their choices of the material best suited to their talents and passions
  • Something for every student and suitable for all abilities and requirements
  • Avoids the overdramatic, sensational and unsuitable
  • Sound and sage advice for ensuring you are working in students’ best interests
  • Easy to navigate charts for at a glance suitability and appropriateness

Upgrade if…

You are looking for a resource full of trusted material that will inspire and guide you and your students in selecting the right material, the right group and the best design concepts.

Cost: Paperback £17.09, Ebook £13.67

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