Acting - Contemporary, 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 - Contemporary masters programme at Central is a creatively, physically and intellectually demanding, advanced level, conservatoire acting programme specialising in Contemporary 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
  • Follow the basic structure of ‘intensives’ and ‘studios’ with classes examining particular theatrical forms combined with physical and vocal training, and individual research.

The Contemporary course 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 course combines teaching in practical voice, movement and acting techniques with an exploration of some of the key playwrights who have helped forge the canon of Western theatre, from the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists to Chekhov, and from Beckett to Kane and beyond.

Uniquely it explores the relationship between the two artists at the core of much Western theatre: the actor and the writer. Plays are frequently developed in collaboration between actors and writers, sometimes directly and sometimes mediated by a director. You are encouraged to explore your role as a creative artist in relation to writers and the written word, as well as exploring your role as a theatre maker.

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/MFA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media course, and established playwrights with a track record of produced plays.

Course Detail

Indicative course content includes:

In the first four-week intensive (September – October), you will undertake a number of training approaches that explore the psychophysical, ‘self with others’ and Viewpoints.This work is all leading towards the formation of an ensemble. Complementing this will be an introduction to the neutral mask, and intensive physical and vocal work. Alongside this, you will explore the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, both in their historical context and in their influence on contemporary theatre.

In the subsequent studio (October – December), you will examine Stanislavski and contemporary acting techniques that have derived from the grandfather of modern acting pedagogy. You will explore the process of creating a role though practical scene study, text analysis and improvisation from plays of the early 20th century, including those of Chekhov. You will continue to work on voice and movement alongside scene work. You 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. Practical assessments, showings and critiques 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 you 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 begin the process of collaborating directly with writers.

In the second intensive (March – April), you will rehearse and perform in 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 that 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/MFA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media course, on the development of a script for the final production, and 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, you will 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), you rehearse and perform in a fully-supported production of either a new play or existing 20th or 21st century script as a final summation of your practical work. This may be specially 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, 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. This offers an exciting opportunity to draw upon your new skills and to follow your own passions to create a unique piece of work.

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, 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 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.

Each year a new play is commissioned by a leading playwright who works with the Contemporary students (Anna Jordan in 2016, Amanda Whittington in 2015 and Rebecca Lenkiewicz in 2014). Contemporary students have also worked at the Royal Court Theatre with their writers’ groups and with members of the experimental theatre company The Factory.

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
  • Ally Cologna
  • Natasha Fedorova
  • Stephen Hudson
  • Federay Holmes
  • Michael Grandage CBE
  • Paul Harris
  • Anna Healey
  • Ian Rickson
  • Hannah Miller
  • Anna Morrissey
  • Thomas Ostermeier
  • Jeff Perry
  • Guy Retallack
  • Grace Savage

Notable Graduates

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

Riz Ahmed (2006), film credits include NightcrawlerIll 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. AKA Riz MC, he is also an accomplished rapper having performed at the Glastonbury Festival and 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) Television credits include Lavinia Squire in Downton Abbey, Jean Truscott in Breathless and Trinity Ashby in Sons Of Anarchy. Theatre includes productions for the RSC, Royal Court, The Old Vic and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Jamie Cameron (2013) Immediately on graduating joined the company of Once, The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End.

Lara Jean Chorostecki (2008) Film credits include Michelle in Antiviral and Sally in Please Kill Mr Know It All. Television credits include Freddie Lounds in Hannibal, Bridget in Camelot and Charlie in Dan For Mayor.

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

George Kemp (2012) On graduating joined Sydney Theatre Company for their production of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead with Tim Minchin.

Martino Rivas (2011) Film credits include Los Girasoles Ciegos (nominated for a GOYA for Best New Actor).

Nicholas Thompson (2008) Until recently was the Artistic Director for The Old Red Lion in Islington.

Peter Wilkinson (2007) Actor, writer, Senior Lecturer at Teeside University, and filmmaker. Girl In The Woods his first short film with Blind Crow Pictures was long listed for a BAFTA in 2013.

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

Sarah Davey-Hull, BA, MA

Course Leader MA Acting Contemporary

Ben Naylor, BA

Senior Lecturer, Course Leader MA Acting Classical

2018 Graduates

2019 Graduates

Class of 2020

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