Gavin Bolton's Contextual Drama (Book)

The Road Less Travelled

Gavin Bolton’s Contextual Drama is the result of more than two decades of study of Bolton’s theory and practice. For teachers and those in the caring professions, it will clarify the power of contextual drama as a beneficial learning medium for children and adults, both within and beyond the classroom. The core of the book is a detailed analysis of nine examples of the contextual drama mode; the first five demonstrate and analyse Bolton’s practice with children and young people and the final four describe his teaching with adults. Each chapter is framed by an introduction that contextualizes Bolton, from his initial beginnings working with visually and aurally-challenged children to his position as reader in drama at Durham University. The final two chapters offer reflection on the nature of this work and, in particular, the significance of Bolton’s contributions to education.


Margaret R. Burke is a retired professor of drama and theatre in education at Brock University and the University of Victoria.

Introduction – Gavin Bolton’s Improvised Drama in Schools: A History of Confusion

Chapter 1: What Exactly is Contextual Drama? 

Chapter 2: Why Should I Use Contextual Drama? 

Chapter 3: How to Use Contextual Drama: The Ins & Outs 

Chapter 4: Case Studies 

Part I: Bolton in the 1980s 

Case Study 1: Theresa 

Case Study 2: Violence 

Case Study 3: The Haunted House – The Gatekeeper and The Key

Case Study 4: Drunken Robbers – Orpheus 

Case Study 5: The Crucible 

Part II: Bolton in the 1990s 

Case Study 6: The Sleeping Beauty 

Case Study 7: The Green-Poolers – Victimization

Case Study 8: The Sacred Mountain 

Case Study 9: Maria: A Drama of Oppression

Chapter 5: The Importance of Reflection & Assessment 

Chapter 6: Try, Try and Try Again: Stepping Out with Annie 

Appendix A: Gavin Bolton’s Writings 

Appendix B: Gavin Bolton’s Travels & Awards

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