elements of drama

Drama is created and shaped by the elements of drama which, for the Drama ATAR course, are listed as: role, character and relationships, situation, voice, movement, space and time, language and texts, symbol and metaphor, mood and atmosphere, audience and dramatic tension.

  • atmosphere: the interaction between the audience and the mood of a drama performance.
  • character: a person or individual in the drama that may have defined personal qualities and/or histories. Flat characters (or two dimensional characters) demonstrate a lack of depth or change in the course of a drama event. Rounded characters (or three dimensional characters) feature more elaborate and complex traits and histories and are changed by dramatic action in the drama event.
  • dramatic tension: drives the drama and keeps an audience interested. The tension comes when opposing characters, dramatic action, ideas, attitudes, values, emotions and desires are in conflict creating a problem that needs to be resolved (or unresolved) through drama.
  • language and texts: referring to the use of spoken or written words that observe particular conventions and language registers that communicate ideas, feelings and other associations. Texts refer to the use of published texts, online materials and other compositions the reference of which adds meaning to the drama.
  • metaphor: creating an image or idea of one thing by saying it is something else. For example, ‘He is a lion of a man.’ In drama, the use of metaphor can be more subtle such as a metaphor of a mouse created through a character having a squeaky voice and small darting movements. Design and stylistic elements can also be metaphors for characterisation or provide meaning in terms of theme.
  • mood: describes the feelings and attitudes, often combined of the roles or characters involved in dramatic action often supported by other Elements of Drama as well as design elements. The mood is the emotional impact intended by the playwright, director and/or other members of the creative team.
  • relationships: refers to the qualities of the connection between two or more characters or roles. That relationship may be fixed (largely unchanged by the dramatic action) or variable (challenged or changed by the dramatic action). The relationship may be cooperative (as in a friendship), adversarial (as in enemies), neutral (neither positive nor negative) or non-existent (as in total strangers). Those relationships will be defined by shared interests, common objectives, cultural values and/or human need.
  • role: a performer can present in performance a role that represents an abstract concept, stereotyped figure, or person reduced to a particular dominant trait (occupation, human condition or social vocation) that lacks depth or a backstory normally present in a ‘Character’.
  • situation: the condition or circumstances in which a character or characters are presented often at the opening of a performance.
  • space: the place where dramatic action is situated and the qualities of that place including temperature, features, light levels, population levels and other environmental factors that may be presented to or imagined by the characters/audience.
  • symbol: symbolic parts of the scenography or design represent and add further meaning to themes, narrative, emotion, mood and atmosphere. Different colours are symbolic. Other symbols might be found in a sound effect, music, style, images. Some symbols are literal while others infer meaning.
  • time: both the time of day, time of the year and time in history or the future. Time also reflects changes in time within a scene or drama event. Time also refers to the flow of time over the length of a drama event: fragmented time, cyclical time, linear time and so forth.