MA Playwriting / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
The Festival Play

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72312
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module will focus on the development of plays at festivals of new work, including The Edinburgh Fringe, Dublin Fringe, High Tide Festival, Latitude, Brighton Festival, Mayfest LIFT festival, Ignite, 24-7, Manchester International Festival, as well as smaller-scale ventures such as Pus, S!CK, and other festival-style events supported by fringe venues such as 53two as well as smaller-scale producing theatres like the Octagon in Bolton. Students will consider the distinctions between a festival and a main-house play, and learn how to conceive and adapt original ideas for these very different contexts of production. The necessary restrictions for new plays in a festival context (for e.g. cast size, set design etc.) mean that the module will be focused on produce-ability, a key challenge for new playwrights. This module will support the emergence of industry-ready, as-yet uncredited writers attractive to producing companies and literary agents, and will also give playwrights the opportunity to develop the kind of material that they will be able to produce themselves with their peers at a major festival.



Pre-requisite units

Playwriting: Forms; Playwriting: Structure



The unit aims to:

  • To facilitate the writing of produce-able studio plays with minimal set and design
  • To develop your understanding of how the context and presentation of your work needs to impact upon the conceiving of their work
  • To develop your understanding of how to write for different audiences
  • To develop your understanding of the trajectories of a festival play – the role of the festival circuit and participation in festivals to new artists
  • To engage you with successful examples of festival plays that have had a significant after-life (for e.g. Fleabag, Lungs)
  • To enhance your ability to make use of techniques of form and structure when writing for a small cast and limited space


Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the formal, technical and professional choices industry practitioners make when creating plays for festival presentation.

Demonstrate a detailed and systematic understanding of the demands of festival presentation and a critical awareness of contemporary innovations in the field. 

Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of the collaborative, project-oriented nature of making work for festival presentation.

Demonstrate originality and demonstrate self-direction in the planning and implementation of remedial re-drafting.

Demonstrate an understanding of the formal, technical and contextual distinctions between plays written for a festival context and plays written for mainhouse production

Intellectual skills

Be able to critically analyse, interpret and judge the work of leading playwrights in a festival context, and differentiate this work from a wider industry context.

Students will use a real or adopted professional perspective throughout to frame their discussions and reflections.

Demonstrate their understanding of the methods industry practitioners employ to decant their ideas into a festival-ready format.

Practical skills

Be able to evaluate and critique their own work, with reference to festival shows by leading professionals.

Use e-tools to collaborate with peers.

Be able to write plays utilising knowledge of festival conventions.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing.

Collaborate constructively in groups with peers to develop ideas and understanding.

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

Assessment methods

Draft of a Festival Play 100%


Feedback methods

Draft of a Festival Play:

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

Written summative feedback.



Formative feedback at a mid way point in the module.

Written summative feedback

Recommended reading

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


Plays explored on this module may include:

Last Christmas – Matt Bulgo

Songlines – Tallulah Brown

Midsummer – David Greig

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart – David Greig

Sugar Baby – Alan Harris

Is Everyone Okay? - Joel Horwood

Ulster American – David Ireland

Orphans – Dennis Kelly

Every Brilliant Thing – Duncan Macmillan

Lungs – Duncan MacMillan

Angry Alan – Penny Skinner

Fucked – Penny Skinner

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons – Sam Steiner

Fleabag – Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Disco Pigs – Enda Walsh



On festivals:

Peter Brook (1968) The Empty Space

Viv Egan & John Gracey (2014) Cracking The Fringe

David Mamet (2007) Three Uses of the Knife

Keren Zaiontz (2014) Theatre & Festivals

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tim Price Unit coordinator

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