MA Theatre Directing: Text and Production


Whilst a Drama student at UEA, Greg James tried his hand as a presenter on UEA's radio station and went on to win 'best Make Presenter' at the Student Radio Awards. He presented his first show on radion 1 the day after his graduation ball. Where could your passion get you?

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"I am reliably told (by my employer) that I was employed in the role that I am now in, partly due to my MA and the focus of its study. My job has grown extensively in the past 6 years"

In their words

Teresa Zoers, MA Theatre Direction: Text and Production


After Hours is a new six-part comedy drama co-written by UEA graduates Molly Naylor and John Osborne. Based around an internet radio station, and starring Jaime Winstone and Ardal O’Hanlon, it is broadcast on Sky1 on Mondays at 9.30pm.

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UEA has announced the launch of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW), which contains the extensive personal archive of the Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing, and literary material from other prominent authors such as Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, Malcolm Bradbury, Amit Chaudhuri, J.D. Salinger, Roger Deakin, Lorna Sage, WG Sebald and the playwright Snoo Wilson.

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The MA in Theatre Directing is a one-year course on which students learn through practice in three main areas: working as a director of historical and poetic texts with undergraduate drama students, guided by our professional directors; working with new stage writing as taught by major contemporary playwrights and in collaboration with MA students in scriptwriting; creating a philosophical and critical language to identify the common elements and skills required by the theatrical art, in relation to the genres of painting, literature, architecture and music.

The longest established such MA in the country, it was founded in 1993 in response to the Gulbenkian Report on Director Training of 1989, by Tony Gash, who has taught at RADA as well as UEA. He continues as its director, teaching alongside James Robert Carson, Opera and Theatre Director, Steve Waters and Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwrights, and Mike Bernardin, an experienced actor trainer.


Text-based directing, and performance based theory

The MA in Theatre directing at the University of East Anglia is one of the longest established in the country. Following the Gulbenkian Report on director training of 1989 it was founded by Tony Gash, a Shakespearean scholar who had studied at Oxford and taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It was made possible by the building of a newly designed Studio Theatre at the University, which was opened by Harold Pinter in 1993. Its earliest advisers included the practitioners Cicely Berry( RSC) Max Stafford-Clark (Royal Court/Out of Joint) and Mike Alfreds (Shared Experience/ Method and Madness) who are all also published writers on directorial method. One of the founding principles of the MA ever since has been to establish a firm connection between the academic or critical study of dramatic texts and the director’s working with actors. We do this by, on the one hand, refusing to separate theatrical theory or literary reading from performance (the texts are scripts) and, on the other, by refusing to separate ‘performance art’ or ‘physical’ theatre from working in detail with texts, verse and language. We do not isolate theory from practice, but, often working in the Studio, search continually for the points of intersection between the verbal, emotional and the physical, both practically, and via the two concepts of speech acts and scenic structure.

To this end the MA directing students start by regularly rehearsing student actors on scenes of their own choosing which are then re-worked by their instructors in such a way as bring out an alternative aspect of the scene. In a supporting class they learn how to apply a variety of directing methods , many of which are commonly used in professional directing and actor training - e.g. Stanislavskian objectives, Laban’s effort anaylsis, Lecoq’s levels of tension., Keith Johnstone’s status, Meisner’s interactivity, but now, in the University context, also subjected to philosophical and historical scrutiny. This is where ‘speech acts’ the common theme of philosophy, literary criticism, linguistics and the great directors Stanislavski and Brecht come in; as does the recurrent rivalry between the claims of truth and those of form. By seeking out the foundational questions which underlie modern theories of the theatre, we are also able to see how great playwrights, like Shakespeare, are already implicit theorists and directors before those terms were used.


One of the strong appeals of the 'MA Theatre Directing: Text and Production' at the University Of East Anglia is its place within the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. It has been usual for individual MA directing students to study alongside graduate scriptwriting students in some units available to both, such as Adaptation and Interpretation or Scriptwriting: Dramaturgy, and sometimes to direct their work in rehearsed readings or performances. But equally important is the possibility of working with critics who specialize in cultural history and dramatic criticism, such as Peter Womack, Professor of Literature and Drama, who offers a unit in The Actor in Space, which is of great value to any director working with a designer. Just as important for any modern director is a consideration of the influence of globalization, immigration, and ‘interculturalism’ on modern theatre throughout the world. This is the emphasis of an optional unit on Contemporary World Theatre, which also gives an opportunity to the Theatre Directing students to meet Theatre and Development graduates registered in the adjoining School of Development.Studies. In their search for new theatrical possibilities, Theatre Directing students are also able to draw on the British Centre for Literary Translation. All these explorations of so-called ‘interdisciplinarity’ are not so much journeys outward from one subject to another as inwards to the heart of the theatrical art-form where many modes which are academically separated, such as the sociological and the aesthetic, or literary and plastic arts are here experienced in their unity. For this reason too we like to consider applicants from a range of disciplines or professions.

Individual development and practical research

Each year a very small number of Theatre Directing students are selected. All are encouraged to recognize that, in spite of the misleading word, ‘directing’ is a collaborative process, where directors are facilitators who, on the one hand, must serve the skills of their collaborators, but, on the other, must discover and communicate their own creative strengths. Both semesters provide opportunities for the MA students to direct undergraduate students in formal, but not public, contexts where directors and actors will be assessed. In the first semester, there is a regular Scene Class where the directors are encouraged to range generically and historically while practising newly learned techniques. In the second, the study of the work of contemporary theory and performance groups in Postmodernism in Performance culminates in the application some of their methods and styles to the production of extracts from two or three modern plays performed by undergraduate drama students.

After Easter each student will pursue one of a number of personally chosen modes of practical research independently, culminating in either a written dissertation, a public production, or various combinations of the two. The evidence of practical research must be the equivalent of the 15000 word written dissertation demanded by the other MA courses. Applications for university studio productions are competitive and will be adjudicated by the course director and senior technician, but there are sometimes opportunities to direct outside the university. If a public production is undertaken, the student must provide a detailed design, financial and casting plan well in advance, but even more importantly the production must have some original idea or text behind it. Last year, for example, a successful studio production undertook a montage of a variety of plays on the theme of master and servant, thus creating a new but unified play. But there are also forms of research into particular methods or texts or themes which may be better suited to assessment by workshops or master classes: last year an individual’s research into Kantor’s aesthetics led to such a series of workshops, and was accompanied by pictures and model-boxes as well as writing. Another possibility is to combine a placement at a professional theatre, or Drama School, with written recording and analysis of the rehearsal process in which the student may participate as assistant director. And yet another is to base a dissertation on a combination of historical research and a review of contemporary productions. New translations of plays from another language into English, or adaptatations from a non-dramatic genre may also be submitted. All these, and many other possibilities depend on the individual’s interests, ingenuity, strengths and career plans, which may include teaching, writing or doctoral research as well as professional directing. Choices and development will be regularly discussed with each student in personal tutorials.


The course is still led and taught by its founder Tony Gash. In 2008-9 he was joined by Dr. Holly Maples, who was trained in acting at the Central School of speech and Drama, and has a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin, for her research into the Abbey Theatre. She is now a full time lecturer at UEA and directs professionally. Other professional directors and designers visit regularly, including some who have themselves studied at UEA. In the Summer of 2009 two ex-UEA students directed at the Globe Theatre, and in May, the Drama programmes at UEA were listed in the Guardian league table as the best in the country. In the same year both Sam West and Richard Eyre lectured here on their personal conceptions of directing.

This course is also available on a part time basis.

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Course Modules 2017/8

Students must study the following modules for 140 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module considers the relationship between actor training and directing via regular workshops with contemporary professionals currently involved in the theatre industry. It tries to find out, experientially, what methods contemporary directors are using and where they have learnt them, with particular attention to the traditions, often uncharted, which flow into their work through the training that their actors have received in drama schools. How each director or trainer balances physical image, text and musicality, is a recurrent question. MA directors will concurrently continue the practice of their accrued knowledge as they direct first-year undergraduates in post-war material. Part of the director's task is to support the post-war tutors in communicating the essential aspects of the various writers' output to the first-year students. This process, as in the Autumn term is assessed formatively by the MA tutor throughout the term. At the end of the Spring semester this culminates in their directing an hour long post-war extract with a larger group of actors. THIS MODULE IS FOR STUDENTS ON THE MA THEATRE DIRECTING:TEXT AND PRODUCTION ONLY.




Students are required to write a dissertation of a length as specified in their MA Course Guide on a topic approved by the Course Director or other authorised person.




The 10 credit module is compulsory.




The module comprises two elements. One consists of a weekly three hour tutorial in which we study various methods of directing via textual analysis. These include 'actioning', working with verse and language, Laban's effort analyses, status games and an introduction to Lecoq's physical methods. In these sessions we also become acquainted with some of the major theories of what the theatre is or could be - for example, those of Gordon Craig, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brooks, in relation to many The other part of the module is a series of 'scene-classes' in which MA students direct undergraduate students in rehearsed scenework. The process of directing the undergraduates, which requires an average of 6 additional hours per week of rehearsal, is also reviewed as a formative reflective exercise in the weekly tutorials.



Students will select 40 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


Critical reading and creative writing meet in the activity of adapting a text in one medium for presentation in another. The module focuses on dramatic adaptation, establishing a foundation in basic theory and then focusing on readings or original works and screenings. Discussions probe the choices offered by original texts and explore the possibilities and limitations inherent in different dramatic forms. In the later sessions, students will have the opportunity to workshop an adaptation for a final project.




This module is compulsory for all scriptwriting MA students, and is a co-requisite with Scriptwriting: Workshop 1 for full time students (part-time students must take Dramaturgy in the autumn of year 1, Workshop 1 in autumn of year 2, Scriptwriting: Process in spring of year 2). It may be taken as an option by non-Scriptwriting students, subject to a maximum enrolment of 16 students; some prior experience of dramatic writing is required. Dramaturgy is an advanced level study of dramatic theory, in four major performance media (theatre, film, television, radio). Weekly seminars build upon students' understanding of structure in dramatic narratives, character creation, temporal and spatial ordering. These are considered within the contexts of reception, cultural and industrial practice applicable to theatre, film, television and radio.




Throughout the medieval and Early-Modern periods Norwich was one of England's most important cities - probably second only to London - and East Anglia one of the country's culturally liveliest and richest areas. This module explores the literature of these periods in its material contexts (the region's prosperity and power may still be seen in its architecture and in the rich holdings of its libraries and museums) and asks whether there was a specifically East Anglian cultural tradition. The module explores East Anglia's rich dramatic traditions, its devotional literature and practices (in orthodox forms and in those that brush against the heterodox), and, insistently, the manner in which its literature participates in its broader social and cultural worlds. The module is compulsory for students on the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures MA but may also appeal to those with an interest in the cultural traditions of Norwich and East Anglia or, more generally, in the literature of place.




This module is designed to allow students to produce translations in conditions that encourage and facilitate reflection on the process and product of translation. It encourages students to think experimentally, not only about the forms a finished translation might take, but also about the ways in which process might be incorporated into that translation. The module has a workshop format and culminates in a series of presentations by students of the projects on which they have chosen to work. A series of sessions, devoted to the discussion of problems, both theoretical and practical, connected with translation and the projects ahead, precede the presentations. This module is compulsory for students on the MA in Literary Translation but may also appeal to those students with an interest in experimental writing and creative re-writing and textual intervention practices. Please note there is no foreign language requirement.




This module aims to give students an introduction to the modern publishing industry and a practical survival guide to the different functions involved in the publication of a book. As well as learning about the structure and economics of the British book industry, the opportunities and challenges of digitalization, students will engage with the process whereby books are chosen for publication, review principles of text and jacket design, practise basic copyediting and proofreading skills and learn tips for running a marketing and publicity campaign, writing 'blurbs' and press releases. The course will also touch on copyright law, finance and distribution. Students from the module are invited to join the core team producing the annual MA Creative Writing anthologies.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject UK BA (Hons) 2.1 or equivalent
  • Special Entry Requirements Sample of work - see below

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 7.0 (minimum 6.0 in each section and 7.0 in writing)
  • PTE (Pearson): 68 (minimum 55 in each section and 68 in writing)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact

Special Entry Requirements

Applicants will need to provide a sample of written work (in English). This should be an essay, 2000 words to 3000 words long. It should be relevant to the course for which you are applying. Alternatively you could send us an essay that you have written for another purpose (eg, your undergraduate degree), or you could write something especially for this purpose. Your essay should demonstrate your ability to engage analytically, your familiarity with the conventions of academic writing, and your ability at writing in English.


The School's annual intake is in September of each year.

Alternative Qualifications

If you have alternative qualifications that have not been mentioned above then please contact the Admissions Office directly for further information.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees

Tuition fees for the academic year 2017/18 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,300
  • International Students: £14,800

If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for UK/EU students).

We estimate living expenses at £820 per month.

Scholarships and Awards:

There are a variety of scholarships and studentships available to postgraduate applicants in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. For further information relevant to the School of Literature and Creative Writing, please click here.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online.

Please note that the closing date for receipt of complete applications (including all documentation and references) is 31 March 2017. All complete applications received by that date will then be considered by the Course Director. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application as soon as possible after that date.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515