MA Playwriting / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Playwriting: Forms

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72111
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module will explore how a playwright might work with the relationship between form and content when writing a play. During the module, you will engage with both popular and innovative formal conventions and devices found in a range of plays, starting with the naturalistic genre and extending from here to consider farce, postdramatic and experimental plays. You will develop a technical language for describing formal innovation in plays, working from a baseline of naturalism, and then learning in a controlled way, how to disrupt the formal conventions of naturalism. The module explores narrative, character, speech and dialogue, and will equip you with a suite of tools to help you find the right form for the content of the original plays you want to write. This module will be taught via a combination of study of existing plays and practical writing exercises.



Co-requisite units

Playwriting and Structure



The unit aims to:


  • develop your understanding of the relationship between form and content when writing a play
  • develop your knowledge of the comprehensive range of forms in use in plays, drawing on examples of significance from contemporary and historical playwriting
  • equip you with a systematic range of tools and techniques to help you find the right form for the content of the original plays you want to write


Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the significance of the formal decisions writers make, and be able to articulate the impact of form in/on the building, shaping and meaning of a range of plays.

Articulate a detailed and thorough understanding of a range of key formal conventions along with a critical awareness of both historical and contemporary formal innovations in the field of playwriting. 

Demonstrate their understanding of theatre form and use this as a diagnostic tool to feedback on peers’ work and their own to develop a resilient drafting process.

Articulate the ways in which playwrights draw on a developed theatrical imagination in their writing.

Intellectual skills

Critically analyse, interpret and judge the work of leading playwrights and to comment effectively on their use of form, and the relationships between form, story, plot, character and genre.

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of a range of theatre forms, and be able execute control over the application of conventions and the use of formal devices in their own work.

Use a real or adopted professional perspective throughout to frame their discussions and reflections.

Practical skills

Evaluate, critique, and develop their own work, with reference to conventions of theatre form and identify appropriate creative solutions and possibilities in their writing.

Develop transferrable dramaturgical skills, applicable to all kinds of story-telling and play-making.

Use e-tools to collaborate with peers. Students should have worked to develop their skills in offering well-informed and supportive critique in response to the work of fellow students.

Control, develop and hone the form of their playwriting, utilising formal devices in their own way, and for their own ends.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing.

Develop a sophisticated language when talking about playwriting and story design that is of professional and industry standard.

Collaborate constructively in group situations with peers to develop ideas and understanding and find solutions and creative possibilities with a shared language.

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

Assessment methods


1 One-act play and 1 Reflective piece 100%


Feedback methods

Verbal and written formative feedback provided via individual tutorials x 2 during the module.

Written summative feedback.

Recommended reading

See indicative reading list for ‘The Dissertation Play’ module.


Plays explored on this module may include:

Travis Alabanza, Burgerz

Annie Baker, The Flick

Mike Bartlett, My Child

Alice Birch, Anatomy of a Suicide

Phoebe Waller Bridge, Fleabag

Jez Butterworth, Jerusalem

Caryl Churchill, Escaped Alone

Martin Crimp, Attempts on Her Life

Claire Dowie, Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt?

Chris Goode, Men in the Cities (or, Mirabel)

James Graham, This House

David Greig, The Events

Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

Jon Fosse, I am the Wind

Natasha Gordon, Nine Night

debbie tucker green, ear for eye

David Greig, San Diego

Inua Elams, Barbershop Chronicles

Elfriede Jelinek, Bambiland

Katori Hall, The Mountaintop

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Ella Hickson, The Writer

Sarah Kane, Blasted

Dennis Kelly, Love and Money

Young Jean Lee, Straight White Men

Duncan Macmillan, Lungs

Alistair McDowall, Pomona

Phyllis Nagy, Butterfly Kiss

Anthony Nielson, The Wonderful World of Dissocia

Joe Orton, What the Butler Saw

Gary Owen, Iphigenia in Splott

Nick Payne, Constellations

Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party

Tim Price, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning

Mark Ravenhill, Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat

Wallace Shawn, Aunt Dan and Lemon

Sleepwalk Collective, Domestica

Andy Smith, Summit

Simon Stephens, Pornography

Chris Thorpe, Victory Condition

Enda Walsh, The Walworth Farce

Laura Wade, Home, I’m Darling

Anne Washburn, Mr Burns

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Tutorials 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 265

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Clements Unit coordinator
Tim Price Unit coordinator

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