MA Playwriting / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Plays, Politics and Power: The Working Playwright

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72412
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 explore power on and off stage. Onstage, one of the best motors that drives a scene and a story is a (frequently unequal) power dynamic. What does each character want from the other, and how is that affected by the power they have over one another? But there’s also the bigger picture—how much of each character’s status, beliefs and life opportunities derives from the world around them, from unspoken assumptions about power, money, gender, race and sexuality? We will interrogate bigger questions around politics, finance and the environment in order to expand your understanding of the macro-frames within which drama takes place, and sharpen your ability to write driving, meaningful plays. We will also learn how to discuss, debate and most importantly disagree with one another in a mutually respectful but also fruitful manner.


The module will also investigate the power dynamics of the theatre industry—giving you the skills and capacities to sustain a career in playwriting and an awareness of the range of issues currently shaping opportunities for new playwrights in the UK. You will learn about pitching, working with a dramaturg/producer, working to a commission, working with issues of access and diversity, professional identity and voice, publicity and promotion, developing resilience, freelancing (basics of self employment, tax returns and accounting, rates of pay, rights and working conditions), publishing, legal issues (copyright, performance rights etc.), writing and ethics (representation, confidentiality, risk).



Pre-requisite units

Playwriting: Forms; Playwriting: Structure



The unit aims to:

  • Develop your ability to frame social and political questions in dramatic terms, to give meaning and power to stories on stages in theatres and in a range of settings beyond theatre buildings
  • Develop your understanding of the challenges of, and your skills in, adapting work for the stage. In particular, your understanding of the role and function of power in driving the dramatic potential in a source text, and your use of that understanding to adapt source texts for the stage
  • Develop a systematic knowledge of a range of work opportunities open to new playwrights and to the contrasting career paths taken by contemporary playwrights in the UK


Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate, through discussion, a comprehensive understanding of the career paths of a selected range of established playwrights currently working in UK theatre


Demonstrate, through discussion, a systematic understanding of the issues affecting the production of new writing in the UK theatre


Evidence their awareness of basic and advanced approaches to collaborative writing, writing for contexts beyond the theatre stage and writing with groups


Evidence their awareness of the ethical issues involved in collaborative writing projects

Intellectual skills

Respond imaginatively, creatively and with originality to a project brief

Effectively give and receive feedback

Practical skills

Demonstrate an ability to design and complete a new drama in response to a project brief set in advance

Demonstrate an ability to complete work to a challenging brief on time

Articulate in a way that is clear and authentic as well as understandable to other professionals their values, identity, ethos and work as a writer

Consider and implement range of approaches to fostering resilience as a writer

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Facilitate creative writing in a range of settings

Work to deliver a brief on time

Adapt skills and interests to diverse contexts

Communicate effectively their unique identity and voice as working artist

Assessment methods

Adaptation of a play 100%
Reflective Essay 0%


Feedback methods


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


Reflective essay:

Pitch for collaborative writing project to be presented in week 4, for formative feedback.

Written summative feedback.

Recommended reading

Plays explored on this module may include:

Harold Pinter, One For The Road

Caryl Churchill, Far Away

Stefano Massini, The Lehman Trilogy

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon

Kieran Hurley, Beats

Yolanda Mercy, Quarter Life Crisis

Charlotte Josephine, Bitch Boxer

Caryl Churchill, The Skriker

Anders Lustgarten, The Seven Acts of Mercy

Hannah Khalil: Scenes From 68* Years

Lucy Kirkwood, Chimerica

Bola Agbaje, Belong

Arthur Miller, Enemy of the People

Gary Owen, Violence and Son

Lola Arias - Minefield

Clean Break – Inside Bitch

Rebecca Pritchard/Clean Break – Yard Gal

Ali Taylor/Cardboard Citizens – Cathy

Chris Thorpe – The Mysteries

Abi Horsfield/Collective Encounters – Cracked

Quarantine/Kevin Fegan – White Trash

Common Wealth – No Guts, No Heart, No Glory

Cardboard Citizens – Home Truths


Other reading materials may include:

Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell

Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Clements Unit coordinator

Return to course details