The MA Applied Theatre encourages investigation into the possibilities and contradictions of drama and theatre practice as transformative and rehabilitative, and engages practically and critically with a range of theories and current practices. As a student on the programme, you will:

  • Gain knowledge of theatre in extensive applied, community and drama education settings, in the UK and globally
  • Combine theory and practice in exploring how theatre can change lives
  • Offers industry placements globally

Key features of the MA Applied Theatre are:

  • exploration of theatre work in specific settings;
  • key practices in applied theatre;
  • a theoretical engagement with new ideas in the field;
  • project-based study examining specific professional work with a varied range of client groups;
  • or specialising in working with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system.

The course develops knowledge of the ways in which drama and theatre are used to benefit a range of distinct groups that are key to today’s evolving cultural landscape.

Pathway options

It offers two specialist pathways: Drama in the Community and Drama Education or Drama and the Criminal Justice System. Each pathway is specifically designed to support current practice at work, or a particular field of interest in the developing landscape of applied theatre and drama in the UK. You will have the opportunity to develop your own practice and scholarship.

About Applied Theatre at Central

Applied theatre at Central is highly regarded internationally as a world leader with the largest number of specialist teaching staff in the field.

Who is the course aimed at?

This course is aimed at those interested in developing current practice of using theatre and drama in community and education settings, or of using theatre and drama with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system

Leverhulme Funding for Applied Theatre students

Central has the only applied theatre courses where students have access to funding from the Leverhulme Trust to support distant placements.

Study Details:

MA One year, full-time / two years, part-time.

Module Details:

MA Applied Theatre > Drama in the Community and Drama Education

This pathway is for individuals wishing to develop current, or new, practice of using theatre and drama with people in a range of settings that may include schools, theatres, outreach departments, hospitals and prisons. Concerned with advanced enquiry into theatre for change or education, it enables you to situate your own emergent/ developing practice within a wider understanding of the applied theatre field. Delivery of the pathway involves contributions and placement opportunities from prestigious key UK organisations.

MA Applied Theatre > Drama and the Criminal Justice System

If you want to develop current – or new – practice of using theatre and drama with people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system, this pathway is for you. Concerned with advanced enquiry into prison theatre, it enables you to situate your own emergent/developing practice within a wider understanding of the applied theatre field. Delivery of the pathway involves contributions and placement opportunities from prestigious key UK organisations.

Both Pathways

During Terms One and Two on both pathways, you will investigate applied theatre in a variety of contexts, communities and settings. You will explore the field’s diverse practices and engage creatively with the forms and aesthetics of applied theatre, the transformative potential of theatre and the ethics of intervention and notions of inclusive practice when working with specific groups.

The units will focus on theatre practices that promote inclusion and will address the ways in which theatre can be an agent for change, enablement and transformation, while problematising these terms. You will participate in workshops and seminars to explore practices that make a difference to people by engaging with issues, dramatising relevant stories, representing role models or possibilities for action, and involving participants in processes that they find useful, informative or exciting. This will also develop an understanding of the social and cultural contexts of applied theatre.

For both pathways, study is undertaken through traditional academic means, as well as hands-on learning in the form of industry placements. Learning will be guided by tuition from professional specialists involved in theatre in a variety of community settings, including the academic experience of Central’s renowned applied theatre and drama education tutors.

You will have the opportunity to engage with relevant research methods in your field, usually presenting your work at Central’s annual postgraduate conference.

During Term Three, you may undertake project work (or further placement/professional practice) as part of an assessed unit.

On the Drama in the Community and Drama Education pathway, you may work individually, or as part of a small group, on a practical project, such as an arts residency in a primary or special needs school, a devised play andworkshops for refugee children in the UK or abroad, creative playwriting workshops with selected client groups, or a performance and workshop on Bertolt Brecht’s theatre practice for post-16 students in schools and colleges in and around London.

On the Drama and the Criminal Justice System pathway, you may work individually, or as part of a small group, on a practical project which might include a residency in a prison or young offenders’ institution, a devised play and workshops with fathers in prison for their children, or creative playwriting workshops with prisoners or ex-prisoners

On both pathways, you will theorise this work, interrogating its relationship within current and seminal discourses in the field.

Term Three may lead to a performance with a specified community, or may be more process orientated. Recent examples of project work include:

  • a community radio project in Brazil,
  • a series of workshops with the young platform dwellers of Jaipur Station in India,
  • working with students in a hospital school in London,
  • teaching English as a second language through drama with hotel staff in Thailand,
  • working on Shakespeare in performance with a youth theatre,
  • developing a range of theatre activities within a centre for the homeless in London,
  • and introducing drama techniques to a special needs school in Ghana.

Recent examples of work within the criminal justice system have included:

  • an arts residency in HMYOI Feltham,
  • a variety of performance-related work at Thameside Prison working with Second Shot in the areas of restorative justice,
  • making theatre with the residents of a prison in Malta,
  • Theatre-in- Education (TIE) for those at risk
  • devising and performing plays for invited audiences.

You may also work alongside a professional host or in one of Central’s partner placement institutions in the third term, or use their own work-based practice. In addition, students have the option to join one of Central’s many cross-School optional courses.

At the end of the year, you will consolidate your knowledge and understanding through a Sustained Independent Project (SIP). This is a dissertation about an area of particular interest in applied theatre.

Student Destinations

Graduate employment and career pathways include:

  • Schools Engagement Officer, The Young Vic Theatre.
  • Assistant Head Teacher, Britannia Village School.
  • Educational Development Advisor, Dramatic English in Hong Kong.
  • Applied Theatre Lecturer, FLAME University, India.
  • New Works/Literary Officer, Graeae Theatre Company.
  • Drama Facilitator, Applied Theatre Consultants, New Zealand.
  • Producer, Learning and Participation, English National Opera.
  • Drama Facilitator, The United Nations.
  • Head of Education, Clean Break.
  • Adviser, Intervention Centre HMYOI Feltham.
  • Lecturer, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
  • Drama Facilitator, Doncaster Prison.
  • Director, Theatre Digital Sustain.


For fees and funding options, please visit website to find out more

Entry Requirements

Invitation to interview and admission will be based on the reasonable expectation from your application that you have the potential to complete and contribute positively to the degree and that you would benefit from master’s level study. You will normally have a degree or equivalent qualification in an arts-related subject and/or two years relevant professional experience.

Applicants will normally be able to demonstrate the following:

  • relevant qualifications (e.g. undergraduate degree or equivalent), or professional experience which has prepared you equivalently for advanced study
  • evidence of a specific commitment to the course, with an understanding of relevant issues and practices
  • evidence of appropriate level of skills/competencies
  • evidence of the ability to work in collaboration with colleagues and, where relevant, with external parties
  • evidence of a capacity to work at master’s level, for example engaging with complex matters in the field, or demonstrating originality in the application of knowledge.

All students attending placements will be required to complete a Disclosure and Barring Scheme check (DBS). This is a mandatory government safeguarding scheme for all those seeking to work in any capacity with minors or vulnerable adults.

We particularly encourage applications from groups currently under-represented in higher education, such as students with disabilities and members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Find out more information on Central’s commitment to equality and diversity.

Accreditation of Prior Learning

Applicants who have up to 60 M Level credits from a related PGCE course are welcome to apply to the Applied Theatre, MA through our Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) system. If you are a PGCE graduate from Central with 60 M Level credits (i.e. from 2007 onwards), you may apply without using the APL scheme and, subject to your application and availability of places, be accepted onto the MA.

Applicants entering the degree programme with 60 M Level credits will, therefore, usually be expected to undertake 120 further credits (i.e. two thirds) of the programme. APL is a process that can, exceptionally, allow a student to join a course at an advanced stage and be given ‘credit’ for the section(s) of the course s/he has missed. The student will be deemed to have passed in the missing elements and, if necessary, a mark will be allocated to represent the mark that it is judged that the student might have achieved had s/he taken the assessments. The first stage in making an application for APL is by making a formal application for the course.

English Language

Applicants for whom English is not their first language are required to prove their English language proficiency by gaining an overall score of 7.0 in an IELTS test. We do accept equivalent English language qualifications. Applicants are advised to gain this certification as early as possible and more information can be found through the English Language Requirements page.

Applicants will be required to submit the following prior to interview:

  • Submit a short (500 words) account of an aspect of theatre/arts education practice that you would like to explore in greater depth. Your account should state why this aspect interests you and how it relates to broader issues of diversity and social inclusion.

The interview will include:

  • A discussion of your short 500-word account
  • Discussion of your application for this particular programme, drawing on information provided by you in your application form
  • A briefing on the course structure and study at Central.

International Interviews

Each year Central hosts a number of interviews outside of the UK, with a team of tutors from Central traveling to meet applicants. The international interviews are designed to replicate the London-based interview experience in every aspect (other than a tour of our site).

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