MA Playwriting / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Playwriting: Structures

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72211
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
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module will explore the conventions of dramatic structure that are useful to consider when writing a play for the stage. The module will focus specifically on a five-act structure and will identify the fundamental building blocks for dramatic playwriting. You will reflect on the role of the protagonist and the journey of change, and the distinct functions of individual acts. This module will be taught via a combination of student discussion of canonical and contemporary texts alongside practical writing exercises, formative feedback and the sharing of work, building towards students executing the five acts through an original piece of assessed work.



Co-requisite units

Playwriting Forms



The unit aims to:

  • Develop your conceptual and critical understanding of the principles of story structure
  • Facilitate your understanding of the five act structure, including the particular content and purpose of each act and the relationships between them
  • Train you to use a vocabulary that will allow you to talk about playwriting with a new degree of professionalism and sophistication
  • Provide a conceptual framework to analyse successful, professionally written plays as well as those of your peers

On completion of the module, you will have acquired a set of diagnostic tools empowering you to identify where your own play has gone wrong, and be able to identify a roadmap to remedy.


Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the formal, technical and professional choices industry practitioners make when designing story.

Demonstrate a detailed and systematic understanding of story structure, and a critical awareness of contemporary innovations in the field of playwriting. 

Demonstrate their understanding of the five-act structure and use it as a diagnostic tool to feedback on peers work and their own to develop a resilient drafting process.

Intellectual skills

Be able to critically analyse, interpret and judge how leading playwrights have developed a structure for their plays.

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of story design and execute control over the application of conventions.

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

Practical skills

Be able to evaluate and critique their own work, with reference to the professional conventions of story design and identify solutions.

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

Use e-tools to collaborate with peers.

Be able to write plays utilising controlled story-design.

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 groups with peers to develop ideas and understanding and find common solutions with a shared language.

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

Assessment methods

1 Five-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:

The Ferryman – Jez Butterworth

Top Girls – Caryl Churchill

A Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen

Misty – Arinze Kene

Chimerica – Lucy Kirkwood

People Place’s Things – Duncan Macmillan

This Wide Night – Chloe Moss

Look Back in Anger – John Osborne

Enron – Lucy Prebble

Richard III – William Shakespeare

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Posh – Laura Wade

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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