Taught course

Acting - Contemporary

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 and interview, and you may also be required to take part in a short practical workshop and/or submit a short piece of written work. English Language Requirements Applicants for whom English is not their first language are required to prove their English language proficiency by gaining an overall score of 7.0 in an IELTS test.

Months of entry


Course content

A creatively, physically and intellectually demanding one-year advanced level conservatoire contemporary acting programme, designed for students with previous experience and/or training. The course addresses the actor’s relationship with the writer, from Early Modern times to the present day and aims to hone individual’s technical acting craft within an ensemble.

MA Acting - Contemporary combines teaching in voice, movement and acting techniques with an exploration of some of the key playwrights who have helped forge the canon of Western theatre, including the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists, Chekhov, Beckett and Kane. Uniquely, it explores the relationship between the two artists at the core of much Western theatre: the actor and the writer.

On this course, plays are frequently developed in collaboration and students are encouraged to explore their role as creative artists. There will be a chance to work with, and alongside, established playwrights as well as students on Central’s MA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media.

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), students will explore the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries both in their historical context and their influence on contemporary theatre, as well as some of the approaches by leading contemporary practitioners associated with Early Modern theatre. These may include Declan Donnellan, Peter Brook, John Barton and Sir Peter Hall. Complementing this will be an introduction to the neutral mask, and intensive physical and vocal work.

In the subsequent studio (October – December), students will examine Stanislavski and some of the contemporary acting techniques that have derived from the grandfather of modern acting pedagogy. Students will also practice period dance, stage combat, clowning and storytelling, undertaking a series of études that will develop skills in observation, imagination, transformation and character analysis. These will continue into the remaining studios. Students will continue to work on voice and movement alongside scenes from plays of the early 20th century, including those of Chekhov. Practical assessments, showings and critique take place at the end of each studio, and individual personal guidance from tutors is available throughout the year.

In the second studio (January – March), the course examines plays from the latter half of the 20th century, including the work of Pinter and Kane. There is also the possibility for students to bring in scenes from other leading European and American playwrights. Students will study textual form, including the use of fractured narratives, codified silence and stillness, and the semiotics of the actor. Alongside voice and movement, students will begin the process of collaborating directly with writers.

In the second intensive (March – April), students rehearse and perform a fully-supported production of an existing 20th or 21st century text or new play. Here students will apply all of the practical and character analysis skills they have developed to date.

In the third studio (April – June), the course concentrates on the development of new work. Students will work in collaboration with a number of playwrights at different stages of the development process. This may include working with writers on the MA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media course on the development of a script for the final production, or on rehearsed readings and workshops at Central or in industry venues. Students will also be encouraged to visit a number of new writing venues. During this studio, students will also perform in an industry showcase at Central, or a professional venue, in collaboration with students on the Classical course.

In the final intensive (July – August), students rehearse and perform a fully-supported production of either a new play or existing 20th or 21st century script as a final summation of their practical work. This may be especially commissioned for the group. Productions will be chosen and cast both to 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 - Contemporary, students will also submit a Sustained Independent Project which may include elements of solo performance and critical writing.

Information for international students

Each year Central hosts a number of auditions outside of the UK, with a team of tutors from Central traveling to meet applicants. See our Events Finder for listings of upcoming audition locations and dates. http://www.cssd.ac.uk/events

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months

Course contact details

Admissions and Student Recruitment Office