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About the course

Designed primarily for students with previous experience and/or training, the MA Acting - Classical masters programme at Central is a creatively, physically and intellectually demanding, advanced level, conservatoire acting programme specialising in Classical plays.

  • Perform in two fully-realised public productions and an industry showcase 
  • Hone the individual technical craft of the actor, and release your collaborative and imaginative creativity within a small ensemble company (typically 14-16 students)
  • Take part in practical group classes in acting, movement and voice, undertaking separate period dance and stage combat training

The Classical course follows the development of the theatrical art from its earliest ritual roots to the birth of naturalism:

> Greek Tragedy, Chorus and the Neutral Mask

> Clowning and Commedia dell’arte

> Shakespeare and the English Renaissance

> Stanislavski, the Method, Realism and Expressionism.

The course draws on the hugely 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, you are asked to consider what they mean now, and how their 21st century reinterpretation and re-imagining still holds a ‘mirror up to nature’.

You are encouraged to understand the demands of both art and craft, as participants in, and practitioners of, the Western theatrical tradition, through a course structure that examines, in chronological order, four key periods of innovation and transition.

Course Detail

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), 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 accompany work on the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries: you will work on 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. 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 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 Stanislavski and his successors. You can choose to work on scenes from a range of realist, expressionist and proto-naturalist plays (such as those by Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht, Büchner, Williams, O’Neill or Shaw). Period dance classes in this term examine a range of historical dances and hone your movement and gestural skills.

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

In the third studio (April – June), training in specific acting, voice and movement methodologies continues, with a focus on bringing the classical tradition up-to-date and on the professional preparation of the students. In addition, screen acting classes help to prepare you for auditions for TV and film. During this term, you 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), you will rehearse and perform in a fully-supported production of a play from the Western canon as a final summation of your practical work. Both productions will be chosen and cast to challenge and best represent the particular character of the cohort and the individual students. Throughout the practical training, you will 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 your SIP.


Assessment is through a mixture of practical assessments, including clown improvisations, scene studies and public production work. To complete the MA Acting, you will also submit a Sustained Independent Project (SIP), which may include elements of solo performance and critical writing.

All staff are well connected to industry. In the past few years, Classical students have participated in a research symposium, worked on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe and performed at the Brighton Festival with poet Alice Oswald. Several recent alumni have performed professionally at the Pop-Up Globe in Auckland, New Zealand.

Recent graduates have worked at the National Theatre and on major international tours. Students on both Classical and Contemporary courses have acted in masterclasses with directors including Michael Grandage and Ian Rickson, taken part in workshops with Hannah Miller (Head of Casting, Royal Shakespeare Company) and attended sessions with Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave. Students from Ireland and the USA have participated in showcases in Ireland, New York and Los Angeles, and all students participate in the MA Acting Showcase.

How to Apply for Postgraduate Courses

All applications to postgraduate courses at Central must be made directly to the School. We have an online application system through which you should submit your application.

Visit the website for further details.

Visit the MA Acting - Classical page on the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama website for more details!






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Recipient: Royal Central School of Speech & Drama

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