Taught course

Applied Theatre

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

Entry requirements

You will normally have a degree or equivalent qualification in an arts-related subject and/or at least two years' relevant professional experience. An offer will normally only be made after interview. See Central's website for details of Prior Learning Accreditation. 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.

Months of entry


Course content

For those interested in using theatre in community and education settings or with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. This course encourages investigation into the possibilities and contradictions of applied theatre and drama as transformative and rehabilitative, and engages with a range of theories and practices.

This courses provides an opportunity to explore applied theatre via one of two specialist pathways: Drama in the Community and Drama Education or Drama and the Criminal Justice System. Each pathway is designed to support current practice at work, or a particular field of interest in applied theatre and drama.

Students will develop their own practice and scholarship, learn key practices in applied theatre, engage with new ideas in the field, undertake project-based study examining specific professional work with a range of client groups, or specialise in working with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system.

The course receives substantial support from the Leverhulme Trust and a further anonymous donor. This unique funding of approximately £50,000 a year is specifically to enable both MA and BA applied theatre students to undertake projects and placements inside London, regionally, and abroad.

MA Applied Theatre > Drama in the Community and Drama Education

This pathway is for individuals wishing to develop current – or new – practice of using theatre and drama with people in a range of settings that may include schools, theatres, outreach departments, hospitals and prisons.

MA Applied Theatre > Drama and the Criminal Justice System

This pathway is for individuals wishing to develop current – or new – practice of using theatre and drama with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system.

Both Pathways

During Terms One and Two, students will investigate applied theatre in a variety of contexts, communities and settings. They will explore the field’s diverse practices and engage creatively with the forms and aesthetics of applied theatre, the transformative potential of theatre and the ethics of intervention and notions of inclusive practice when working with specific groups. Units of study will focus on theatre practices that promote inclusion and will address the ways in which theatre can be an agent for change, enablement and transformation while problematising these terms. Students will participate in workshops and seminars to explore practices that make a difference to people by engaging with issues, dramatising relevant stories, representing role models or possibilities for action, and involving participants in processes that they find useful, informative or exciting. This will also develop an understanding of the social and cultural contexts of applied theatre.

For both pathways, study is undertaken through traditional academic means as well as hands-on learning. Learning will be guided by tuition from professional specialists involved in theatre in a variety of community settings, including the academic experience of Central’s renowned applied theatre and drama education tutors. Students will have the opportunity to engage with relevant research methods in their field, usually presenting their work at Central’s annual postgraduate conference.

During Term Three, students may undertake project work (or further placement/professional practice) as part of an assessed unit. On the Drama in the Community and Drama Education pathway, students may work individually, or as part of a small group, on a practical project, which might include an arts residency in a primary or special needs school, a devised play and workshops for refugee children in the UK or abroad, creative playwriting workshops with selected client groups, or a performance and workshop on Bertolt Brecht’s theatre practice for post-16 students in schools and colleges in and around London. On the Drama and the Criminal Justice System pathway, students may work individually, or as part of a small group, on a practical project which might include a residency in a prison or young offenders’ institution, a devised play and workshops with fathers in prison for their children, or creative playwriting workshops with prisoners or ex-prisoners. On both pathways, students will theorise this work, interrogating its relationship within current and seminal discourses in the field.

Term Three may lead to a performance with a specified community, or may be more process orientated. Recent examples of project work include a community radio project in Brazil, a series of workshops with the young platform dwellers of Jaipur station in India, working with students in a hospital school in London, teaching English as a second language through drama with hotel staff in Thailand, working on Shakespeare in performance with a youth theatre, developing a range of theatre activities within a centre for the homeless in London, and introducing drama techniques to a special needs school in Ghana.

Recent examples of work within the criminal justice system have included an arts residency in HMYOI Feltham, a variety of performance-related work at Doncaster Prison working with Second Shot in the areas of restorative justice, Theatre-in-Education (TIE) for those at risk and devising and performing plays for invited audiences.

Students may also work alongside a professional host or in one of Central’s partner placement institutions in the third term, or use their own work-based practice. In addition, students have the option to join one of Central’s many cross-School optional courses.

At the end of the year, students on both pathways consolidate their knowledge and understanding through a Sustained Independent Project (SIP). This is a dissertation about an area of particular interest in Applied Theatre.


Each unit has a written and/or practical assessment and submission of a dissertation addressing the student’s specialist area of interest.

Information for international students

Central holds international auditions/interviews in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Santiago, Bangkok and Singapore. Please see Central’s website for details. To book a place please email admissions@cssd.ac.uk. If you are unable to attend in person, the course admissions tutor may offer you the opportunity of a distance audition/interview.

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months


AssessmentWhat kind of work will I be doing? (proportionally)
Written coursework / continuous assessment50
Professional practice20

Course contact details

Admissions and Student Recruitment Office