Confused about theatre? Here is an explainer of the types of performances |

If it’s your first time to a theatre production, you should know that it’s not simply about someone acting out on stage – there are different types of productions that cover different themes and styles. From singing comedies to thought-provoking plays, here are some basic theatrical performances you can expect to find at local theatres.


Musicals are plays that are performed completely in song and dance form, and usually incorporate some dance choreography. Made immensely popular by London’s West End and New York’s Broadway theatre, they are often big budget performances featuring elaborate backdrops, multiple cast members, and live orchestra. Sometimes, a popular musical troupe travels around the world to perform a certain title, while in other cases, the musical is adapted by a local theatre company.

Sample: Phantom of the Opera, Aladdin, Urinetown


Sometimes called ‘straight play’, the term specifically refers to a non-musical play. It’s usually divided into Acts (segments); a short play may consist of only a single Act (called a ‘one-acter’) while a typical Shakespeare play has 5 Acts. Acts are subdivided into Scenes, both of which are numbered (ie. Act 5, Scene 1). Each Scene refers to one location/backdrop which can be changed between Scenes. A play encompasses many genres, ranging from comedy to romance and tragedy.

Sample: anything Shakespeare

Fringe Theatre

In terms of technicalities and production value, fringe theatre is frugal in nature. Often played in small theatres or rented rooms, these plays are experimental in style and narrative, and are often full of edgy and unconventional stories, usually (but not always) led by one person in a single act that commonly lasts an hour long. There are plenty of Fringe Festivals worldwide which allow the public to view a collection of these plays in one place.

Sample: M1 Fringe Festival

Solo Theatre

As its name suggests, a solo theatre (or solo performance) is a one-person show that can incorporate comedy, poetry, music, visual arts, theatre, and dance. It stems from the rich history of oral storytelling present in almost every culture. To make sure the act does not get boring, some performers interact with the audience, or take up multiple roles (ie. Patrick Stewart played all 43 parts in his version of A Christmas Carol).

Sample: A Christmas Carol, Forked

Autobiographical Play

Autobiographical plays are told from a first person perspective, usually with a topic in mind (ie. dementia, feminism). The lead actor walks the audience through his/her life and its many moments, and are intertwined with questions about identity, truth, and memory. Often profoundly philosophical, they can either be a solo play or a multi-character play, and can be entertaining, funny, and at times, harrowing.

Sample: Still Life (about local playwright Dana Lam)

Immersive Theatre

Immersive theatre is an experiential form of theatre. Unlike conventional forms of theatre, where performers perform for the audience, immersive theatre audiences are an active part of the play, however small their roles may be. The play may be staged in one building and take place across multiple rooms, or it can even take place across multiple locations across town. The audience may also be involved in the plot development, making it an interesting theatre format.

Sample: Caught, anything from ANDSOFORTH