This course is a creatively, physically and intellectually demanding programme designed primarily for students with previous experience and/or training. The course aims to hone the individual technical craft of the actor, and to release their collaborative and imaginative creativity within an ensemble. In teaching we draw on the creative background and experience of each student as well as Central’s resources and reputation for actor training.
Practical classes in acting, movement and voice are taught in strand groups, while research projects and seminars combine both strands in collaborative enquiry. Each strand follows the same basic structure of ‘intensives’ and ‘studios’ with classes examining particular theatrical forms combined with physical and vocal training, individual and group research. Students on each strand will take part in two fully-supported productions and an industry showcase.
The Classical strand 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 and ‘realist’ theatre.
The Classical strand draws on the hugely influential theories and techniques of the great French acting teacher Michel St 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, and how their 21st century re-interpretation and re-imagining still holds a ‘mirror up to nature’. Students 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 which examines in chronological order four key periods of innovation and transition.
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; these scenes are also used as the basis for the first formal individual assessments. Further practical assessments, showings and critique 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 from the European Renaissance canon: for instance Calderón, Lope de Vega, Corneille or Racine. You will develop a practical group research project in collaboration with students from the Contemporary strand which will be presented at Central’s postgraduate conference. 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 or other Renaissance 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 Vakhtangov, Strasberg, and Meisner, and the physical training of Laban and Malmgren. Students can choose to work on scenes from a wide range of realist, expressionist and proto-naturalist plays (for instance Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht, Buchner, Williams, O’Neill, or Shaw). During this term students will also perform monologues or duologues in an industry showcase at Central together with students from the Contemporary strand.
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 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 enquiry. This is divided into three sections, submitted progressively through the course:
- Character study: historical representations and approaches to a selected character from classical drama
- Research project: theoretical enquiry into a particular debate, period or approach related to classical drama
- Critical reflection: a personal examination of learning processes related to the student’s evolving craft.
From August – September after the final studio, there is a writing-up period for the final stage of the SIP.
The Contemporary strand addresses the actor’s relationship with the writer, from Early Modern times to the present day through the exploration of:
- Shakespeare and his legacy
- Chekhov, Stanislavski and the birth of naturalism
- the actor and 20th century playwriting
- new writing and the development of new work.
The Contemporary strand combines teaching in practical voice, movement and acting techniques with an exploration of some of the key playwrights that have helped forge the canon of Western theatre, from the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists to Chekhov and from Beckett to Kane. Uniquely it explores the relationship between the two artists at the core of much Western theatre, the writer and the actor.
From Shakespeare and the King’s Men to the work of modern day producing houses, plays are frequently developed in collaboration between actors and writers, sometimes directly and sometimes mediated by a director. Students are encouraged to explore their role as creative artists in relation to writers and the written word. Throughout the course you will have the chance to work with and alongside writers on plays in development, both the next generation of playwrights on the MA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media, and established playwrights with a track record of produced plays.
In the first four-week intensive (September – October), you will explore the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries both in their historical context and their influence on contemporary theatre. You will explore 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 there will be an introduction to the neutral mask, and intensive physical and vocal work. Accompanying seminars will explore the significant influence of Early Modern drama on contemporary theatre.
In the subsequent studio (October – December), you will examine Stanislavski and some of the contemporary acting techniques that have derived from the grandfather of modern acting pedagogy. You will also practice period dance, clowning and improvisation, undertaking a series of etudes that will develop skills in observation, imagination and character analysis. You will continue to work on voice and movement alongside scenes from plays of the early twentieth century, including those of Anton Chekhov. These scenes are also used as the basis for the first formal individual assessments. Further 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 twentieth century, including the work of Beckett, Pinter and Kane. There is also the possibility for students to bring in scenes from other leading European and American playwrights. You will study textual form including the use of fractured narratives, codified silence and stillness, and the semiotics of the actor. Alongside voice and movement you will take classes in stage combat, begin the process of collaborating directly with writers, and develop a group research project with students from the Classical strand which will be presented as part of Central’s postgraduate conference.
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 you will apply all of the practical and character analysis skills you have developed to date.
In the third studio (April – June), the course concentrates on the development of new work. You 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 your final production, on rehearsed readings and workshops at Central or in industry venues. You will also be encouraged to visit a number of new writing venues. During this studio students will also perform monologues or duologues in an industry showcase at Central in collaboration with students on the Classical strand.
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. Both 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 enquiry. The information is the same as for the Classical strand above.
Intense practice-based course for existing professionals and exceptional postgraduate students to develop their skills through practical classes and designated rehearsal periods. It enshrines the core values of Central's world-renowned training in acting, voice and movement. Interrogates these values in relation to the needs of the contemporary actor engaging with different acting styles, processes and techniques.