MA Playwriting / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Dissertation (Playwriting)

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72000
Credit rating 60
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module is focused on the writing of a polished, industry-standard festival or main house play, drawing on learning across the programme. The theme and form of the play will be decided by the student, supported by tutors. You may choose between the following options: to develop the short play written for ‘Playwriting and Structure’ into a full-length, main house play; to develop the adaptation begun as part of ‘The Working Playwright’ module into a full-length play or to propose an entirely new version of a Festival or main house play, drawing on an idea (character, narrative or motif) connected to your work from any part of the programme. The module is support by one-to-one supervision with course tutors.


You will be expected to start thinking about your final project at the beginning of the second semester. To begin, you will present several ideas in brief to be discussed with the tutor. On the basis of those discussions you will decide which idea merits developing and for what reasons. You will log all of these discussions as a way of reflecting on what you are learning, and how your ideas have changed. You will then develop the idea by fleshing out the story and main character outlines into a treatment form through the second semester. By the end of the second semester you will take the script to a rough first draft stage which will then be discussed with your tutor.


Throughout the module you will be encouraged to read and watch plays from the genre you are working in to improve your expertise and knowledge and help you understand where your project is placed within this pantheon. Your development on this module is supported by the seminars and workshops undertaken as part of ‘The Festival Play’ module, where you will have an opportunity to explore your ideas with peers and course tutors in a group setting.


During the summer the student will send the stages of the script to their supervisor and in-depth dramaturgical consultations will follow which mirror industry practice. This will include giving in-depth written and oral notes, and offering help with problem areas of the script.



Pre-requisite units

Playwriting and Form; Playwriting and Structure



The unit aims to:


  • Refine and extend your playwriting skills so you are able to critically evaluate your writing process and work to a professional standard


  • Fully equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to produce the final draft of a play for the stage


  • Develop your ability to work independently, including your confidence in exercising initiative, making difficult creative decisions, evaluating your progress, and ability to complete a major project to a deadline


Teaching and learning methods


Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of script construction both in general and in relation to specific formats, styles and genres.

Demonstrate a systematic knowledge and understanding of the production process in playwriting from initial pitch to research and development, working with a dramaturg to final draft.

Intellectual skills

Effectively and imaginatively respond to professional feedback.

Fully and effectively reflect on your own learning and development.

Develop a script from initial idea to first draft and then to final draft.

Practical skills

Effectively present yourself and your script ideas both verbally and in writing.

Work effectively and flexibly with others on develop and honing script ideas.

Enhance your ability to use a workshop environment to develop specific scenarios and sections of a script.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate your ideas effectively both verbally and in writing.

Manage your time and workload effectively in order to meet deadlines.

Work effectively and independently to research, draft and re-draft, critically evaluate, revise and complete a substantial project.

Assessment methods

Festival or mainhouse play 100%


Feedback methods

Formative feedback (written and oral) provided via individual supervision and via The Festival Play module.

Recommended reading


 You are encouraged to read widely, and to especially read plays that are related to the genre and form of your play. Individual supervisors and staff from Centre for New Writing and Drama Department are available for advice on specific suggestions. The libraries (Lenagan library in the Martin Harris Centre and the Main library) have a range of works which you can browse, and you have access to Methuen Drama Online and Digital Theatre Plus. Drama Online provides digital access to more than 2500 plays published by Bloomsbury, Aurora Metro Books, Nick Hern Books and Playwrights Canada Press, as well as a range of audio-visual and textual sources. 300+ audiovisual recordings of theatre productions from the UK and a stunning range of productions from a range of international contexts (and additional textual and audio-visual resources, including interviews with performers and playwrights).


Ayckbourn, A (2004) The Crafty Art of Playmaking London: Faber & Faber

Brooker, C (2004) The Seven Basic Plots, London: Continuum Books

Cartmell & Whelehan eds. (1999) Adaptations: From Text to Screen, Screen to Text, London: Routledge

Caulfield, A (2009) Writing for Radio: A Practical Guide, Ramsbury: Crowood Press

Dunne, W (2009) The Dramatic Writer’s Companion

Edgar, D (2009) How Plays Work, London: Nick Hern Books

Fountain, T (2007) So You Want To Be A Playwright? London: Nick Hern Books

Frayn, M (2009) Constructions, London: Faber and Faber

Gill, P (2008) Apprenticeship, London: Oberon Books

Gooch, S (2001) Writing A Play: Third Edition, London: A&C Black

Greig, N (2004) Playwriting – a practical guide, London: Routledge

Hammond & Steward eds. (2008) Verbatim Verbatim: Techniques in Contemporary Documentary Theatre, London: Oberon Books

Hutcheon, L (2006) A Theory of Adaptation, London: Routledge

Jeffreys , S (2019) Playwriting: Structure, Character, How and What to Write, Nick Hern

Jester, C & Caridad Svich (2017) Fifty playwrights on their craft, Bloomsbury/Methuen

 McKee, R (1999) Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, London: Methuen

Omasta, M and N. B. Adkins (2017) Playwriting and Young Audiences: Collected Wisdom and Practical Advice from the Field, Bristol: Intellect

Sanders, J (2005) Adaptation and Appropriation: Routledge

Sigal, S (2016) Writing in Collaborative Theatre-Making, Palgrave

 Spencer, S (2002) The Playwright’s Guidebook, London: Faber and Faber

 Stephens, S (2016) Simon Stephens: A Working Diary, London: Bloomsbury Methuen

 Unwin, S (2011) The Well Read Play, London: Oberon Books

Vogler, C (1996) The Writer’s Journey, London: Pan Books

Waters, S (2010) The Secret Life of Plays, London: Nick Hern Books

There are also a wealth of resources that you might find useful online including:

TheatreVoice -

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 600

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Clements Unit coordinator
Tim Price Unit coordinator

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