Acting - Classical, MA


One year, full-time, January start


Master of Arts in Acting (180 credits)

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 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.

Download MA Acting Programme Specification 2019-2020.pdf (1.2 MB)

Entry Requirements and Admissions

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.

We particularly encourage applications from groups currently under-represented in higher education, such as students with disabilities and members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Find out more information on Central’s commitment to equality and diversity.

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. We do accept equivalent English language qualifications. Applicants are advised to gain this certification as early as possible and more information can be found through the English Language Requirements page. 


If you are selected for an audition for a place on MA Acting we will require you to undertake the following:

  • an audition for which applicants are required to prepare two contrasting speeches of their own choice lasting no more than two minutes each. One of these must be from an Elizabethan or Jacobean play, the other a 20th or 21st century modern piece. One or both of these speeches may be required during the audition. Applicants may be asked to discuss their choice of speeches and should be prepared to work on them as required
  • an interview to discuss your choice of speeches, your skills and experience, and reasons for applying to the MA Acting at Central.

Please wear comfortable, appropriate clothing, as for a movement workshop or a rehearsal. You may be asked to work barefoot.

The process will also give you the opportunity to learn more about the course. On the day all applicants will be allocated their individual audition time slots. Please leave the rest of the day clear of other commitments.

Selected candidates will be invited to attend a recall audition at a later date, and may also be asked to submit a short piece of written work (again at a later date) to demonstrate their aptitude for the course.

All candidates will be informed of the outcome of their audition at a later date.

International Auditions

Each year Central hosts a number of auditions outside of the UK, with a team of tutors from Central traveling to meet applicants. The international auditions are designed to replicate the London-based audition experience in every aspect (other than a tour of our site!). See our Event Finder for listings of upcoming audition locations and dates.

Distance Auditions

We are not able to consider DVD or distance auditions/interviews for this course - all applicants must attend a live group audition and interview.

International Students

Visit the International Students section to view details of English language requirements for Central's courses.

Industry Links

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.

Recent Visiting Professionals

  • Riz Ahmed
  • Mark Bell
  • Rachel Bown-Williams
  • John Caird
  • Ally Cologna
  • Natasha Fedorova
  • Michael Grandage CBE
  • Paul Harris
  • Anna Healey
  • Stephen Hudson
  • Robert Icke
  • Hannah Miller
  • Anna Morrissey
  • Jenny Ogilvie
  • Thomas Ostermeier
  • Jeff Perry
  • Ian Rickson
  • Dame Janet Suzman
  • Sergei Tcherkasski
  • Prof Sir Stanley Wells CBE

Notable Graduates

In only 10 years the MA Acting course has built up an impressive alumni list including:

Riz Ahmed (2006) Riz won the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for HBO’s The Night Of.  His film credits include Una, Rogue One, Jason Bourne, Nightcrawler, Ill ManorsThe Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Road To Guantanamo, Shifty and Four Lions. He has been nominated for several British Independent Film Awards and a BAFTA Rising Star Award. As Riz MC, he is also an accomplished rapper, having performed at the Glastonbury Festival, appeared in Gaddafi: The Living Myth at ENO, and worked with Asian Dub Foundation. Together with Heems he founded The Swet Shop Boys.

Zoe Boyle (2006) TV credits include Downton Abbey, Breathless and Sons Of Anarchy. Theatre includes productions for the RSC, Royal Court, The Old Vic and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Jamie Cameron (2013) On graduating Jamie joined the company of Once in the West End. He has since worked on various productions at the RSC, Almeida and Old Vic.

Lara Jean Chorostecki (2008) Film credits include Antiviral and Please Kill Mr Know It All. TV credits include Hannibal, Camelot, Dan For Mayor and Copper.

Elicia Daly (2007) Theatre credits include Her Naked Skin (NT), and The Beautiful Cosmos Of Ivor Cutler (Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland) for which she won Best Actress at the 2014 Critics Award for Theatre Scotland.

Matthew Darcy (2012) Matt’s theatre credits include King Lear (NT), Electra (Old Vic), Farinelli and the King and Lady Windermere’s Fan (West End).

Konstantinos Kavakiotis (2008) As well as working extensively in London, Konstantinos played the title role in Macbeth at the National Theatre of Northern Greece.

George Kemp (2012) On graduating George joined Sydney Theatre Company for their productions of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead and Cyrano de Bergerac. He also appeared across Australia in The Play That Goes Wrong.

Sandha Khin (2008) Sandha’s film credits include Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Low Down and Runner Runner. She also writes, directs and improvises.

Harriet Madeley (2011) Harriet’s debut play, The Listening Room, garnered stellar reviews and an Off West End nomination; it’s due to transfer to the Theatre Royal Stratford East and tour. She’s also appeared in several films.

James McNicholas (2008) is one-third of the acclaimed comedy sketch troupe Beasts.

Christopher O’Shea (2009) Chris’ major TV and film credits include Gone, Madam Secretary and Patriots’ Day; theatre includes Stoppard’s The Hard Problem (Lincoln Center, NYC premiere).

Kitty Paitazoglou (2011) and Erato Pissi (2012) both play leading roles at the National Theatre of Greece.

Natalie Perera (2011) Natalie’s film credits include Bazodee and Der Koch, and she also wrote and starred in the acclaimed short National Anthems.

Martino Rivas (2011) Martino’s many film and TV credits include Cable Girls, I Know Who You Are, and Blind Sunflowers (nominated for a GOYA for Best New Actor). He also played Romeo in a Spanish film of Shakespeare’s play.

Elizabeth Sankey (2008) is lyricist and singer of the band Summer Camp, as well as acting and writing.

Patricia Summersett (2009) has extensive film and TV credits including Mother, Bellevue and The Bold Type, and voices Princess Zelda in the video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Brittany N Williams (2011) Actor, singer, cultural critic and comedian Brittany was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for her work on Three Little Birds (Washington DC and New York), and has extensive theatre credits across the US.

Recent Graduate Employment

Graduate employment and career pathways include:

Actors in leading theatre venues worldwide

Including national and international tours, in the West End and on Broadway, and for the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre of Scotland, Royal Court Theatre, The Bush Theatre, English National Opera, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Old Vic, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, National Theatre of Norway in Bergen, National Theatre of Greece, Teatro Gayarre in Pamplona, The Shaw Festival Theatre in Ontario, The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Sydney Theatre Company in Australia.


Hannibal, NBC; The Night Of, HBO; Sons Of Anarchy, FX; Camelot, Starz; Baby Daddy, ABC.


American Patriot, Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie, Jason Bourne, Nightcrawler, Shifty, The Hours, Four Lions.

Graduates have also worked as writers, directors, designers, filmmakers, producers, agents, musicians, singers, scholars, comedians, acting teachers, acrobats and dancers.

Staff on the Course

View profiles of the academic staff who teach on this course. Click on each staff member to find out more about them.

Martin Wylde, BA, MPhil, PG Cert LTHE, FHEA

Principal Lecturer, Programme Leader MA Acting

Ben Naylor, BA

Senior Lecturer, Course Leader MA Acting Classical

Sarah Davey-Hull, BA, MA

Course Leader MA Acting Contemporary

2018 Graduates

2019 Graduates

Class of 2020

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