Taught course

Acting - Classical

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London · Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London

Entry requirements

Applicants will normally have either undertaken conservatoire training, have professional acting experience or have a degree in the broad field of performance and drama studies. Students from other disciplines may be considered if you have sufficient experience of theatre. An offer will normally only be made after audition/interview, and you may also be required to take part in a short practical workshop and/or submit a short piece of written work. Applicants for whom English is not their first language are required to gain an overall score of 7.0 in an IELTS test. We do accept equivalent English language qualifications.

Classical and Contemporary

Months of entry


Course content

A creatively, physically and intellectually demanding one-year advanced level conservatoire classical acting programme, designed for students with previous experience and/or training. The course follows the development of the theatre from its earliest ritual roots to the birth of naturalism, and aims to hone individual’s technical acting craft within an ensemble.

This course draws on the influential theories and techniques of the great French acting teacher Michel Saint-Denis, training the expressive body, voice and imagination. Working with some of the greatest dramatic texts ever written students are asked to consider what they mean now.

Four key periods of innovation and transition in Western theatre are examined:

  • Greek Tragedy, Chorus and the Neutral Mask
  • Clowning and Commedia dell’arte
  • Shakespeare and the English Renaissance
  • Stanislavski, the Method and ‘Realist’ Theatre.

Students are encouraged to understand the demands of both art and craft, as participants in, and practitioners of, these theatrical traditions.

Maintaining Central’s tradition of innovation in actor training, this course is taught over an extended 42 weeks, with up to 35 hours per week of classes, rehearsals, seminars and tutorials.

Indicative course content includes:

In the first four-week intensive (September – October), the ensemble principle is nurtured through practical work on the chorus of ancient Greek tragedy (with examination of several different choric styles), in-depth neutral mask and intensive physical and vocal training. Accompanying seminars address Aristotelian theory of tragedy and the social and political discourses of ancient Greek drama. Regular voice and movement training continues throughout the course.

In the subsequent studio (October – December), practical classes in commedia dell’arte, character mask and clowning examine the oldest unbroken European theatre tradition: comedy. In the second half of the term, students undertake work on scenes from Early Modern plays using approaches derived from clown, animal work and improvisational techniques. Practical assessments, showings and critiques take place at the end of each studio, and individual personal guidance from tutors is available throughout the year. Stage fighting classes also take place in this term, leading to a basic stage combat qualification.

In the second studio (January – March), the course focuses on acting approaches to Shakespeare and his contemporaries: narrative structure and storytelling, textual form, heightened realistic expression, character analysis, gesture and movement psychology, and the actor’s relationship to the audience and to space. Accompanying seminars address the political dynamics of Renaissance drama and ideas of psychological truth and stylisation. Students can choose to work on scenes from Shakespeare, other Early Modern English playwrights and playwrights from the European Renaissance canon, such as Calderón, Lope de Vega, Corneille or Racine. Period dance classes in this term examine a range of historical dances and hone movement and gestural skills.

In the second intensive (March – April), students rehearse and perform a fully-supported production of a Shakespeare, Renaissance or other appropriate play, integrating their work-to-date in chorus, clowning, acting and characterisation, movement and voice.

In the third studio (April – June), the course examines the revolution of the realist and expressionist theatres in the 19th and early 20th centuries and their contemporary legacy. Underpinning classes are the theories on narrative and character of Constantin Stanislavski and his successors. Students can choose to work on scenes from a wide range of realist, expressionist and proto-naturalist plays (such as those by Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht, Büchner, Williams, O’Neill or Shaw). During this term, students will also perform in an industry showcase at Central, or a professional venue together with students from the Contemporary course.

In the final intensive (July – August), students rehearse and perform a fully-supported production of a play from the Western canon as a final summation of their practical work. Both productions will be chosen and cast to both challenge and best represent the particular character of the cohort and the individual students. Throughout the practical training, students work on a Sustained Independent Project (SIP) of written and/or performance enquiry, part of which may be presented as a solo performance.

After the final intensive (August – September), there is a writing-up period for the final stage of the SIP.


Assessment is through a mixture of practical work, including clown improvisations, scene studies and public production work.

To successfully complete the MA Acting - Classical, students will also submit a Sustained Independent Project which may include elements of solo performance and critical writing.

Information for international students

Central holds international auditions and interviews in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Santiago, Bangkok and Singapore. Please see Central’s website for details. To book an audition/interview please email admissions@cssd.ac.uk. We are not able to consider DVD or Distance Interviews for this course - applicants must attend a live audition.

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months

Course contact details

Admissions and Student Recruitment Office