Theatre is a radical and influential art form. Its roots lie deep in the ancient world but its relevance to contemporary life is urgent and ongoing. Theatre enables different cultures and societies to confront the most important issues of our time; it provides a crucial space to laugh, to dream, and dare to project different worlds.
Studying theatre and drama at Essex enables you to examine some of the most influential play-texts ever written, and to be ready to take part in shaping the essential performances of tomorrow. This degree is a chance to unlock and explore your creativity. You will be performing and producing work in the professional context of our state-of-the-art Lakeside Theatre, and will be developing a wide range of creative, critical and practical skills that will open the door to a future in the theatre, cultural industries or a wide range of other graduate careers.
At Essex, we offer a rich combination of practical workshops, critical seminars and lectures, and employability opportunities delivered by an experienced team of playwrights, directors, and actors, as well as leading academic theatre specialists.
Areas of exploration in our modules include, but are not limited to:
- Dramatic literature from Ancient Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, to modern plays from around the world
- Contemporary playwriting and devising techniques
- Staging political ideas, human rights and social justice issues
- Gender, identity, orientation and sexual politics on stage
- Creating Applied Theatre in educational and community contexts
- Emergent trends in interactive performance-making and audience participation
Through classroom teaching, practical experiment and professional experience, we help you craft the skillset that will be essential in your creative development. This approach reflects our core belief that engaging with both practice and theory produces a deeper understanding of how theatre works.
Our commitment to the student experience is why we are ranked third for drama in the Guardian University Guide 2021 and top 20 for dance, drama and cinematics (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021). Top 20 for overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2021. Other courses within the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, including Literature, Creative Writing, Filmmaking and Journalism, are available as options to all our students.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university
Maximise the impact of your degree, build your CV and gain invaluable real-world experience. When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year.
Undertaking a placement can allow you to gain relevant work experience within an external organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the cultural industries.
You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and the placements team.
If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
Become part of the theatre industry by studying with people in the theatre industry. All staff in the Centre for Theatre Studies are professional theatre-makers as well as leading academics in our individual fields. We share a passion for creative and engaging teaching, bringing you ideas and practices informed by our global research interests.
Our high ranking in the Guardian University Guide is made possible because we are a community of award-winning playwrights, directors, performers and practitioners, as well as pre-eminent critics and theoreticians. Alongside specialist guest tutors in acting, directing and stage-management, our core teaching staff includes:
- Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein is a playwright who has written for Radio 4 and the National Theatre. His awards include a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival and his plays have been performed internationally. He is a recognised expert in teaching playwriting and dramatic form.
- Dr Elizabeth Kuti is also a playwright, and is currently Writer-in-Residence for Hampton Court. She has won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Stewart Parker Radio Award; and has been commissioned by the National Theatre; the Abbey Theatre, Dublin; and writes regularly for BBC radio. She also researches in the field of eighteenth-century theatre.
- Liam Jarvis is Co-Director of Analogue and a playwright and theatre practitioner. He also writes and publishes widely on contemporary theatre theory and practice, with a specialism in immersive, interactive and digital theatre.
- Annecy Lax is a specialist in Applied Theatre and human rights in performance, with over a decade of experience in testimonial and verbatim theatre. She has worked in numerous community and educational settings as a facilitator and playwright, and has had work produced by the National Theatre, Soho Theatre and the Bush Theatre.
- Mary Mazzilli is a renowned specialist in World Theatre and is also a practicing playwright and Creative Director of Lumenis Theatre company. As well as touring her work internationally, Mary has published on Chinese Theatre, dramaturgy, translation and digital theatre.
We also regularly invite visiting professionals to take master classes with our students, allowing you to enter into dialogue with the leading figures in theatre. Past visitors include: Gecko Theatre, Frantic Assembly, Uninvited Guests, Clod Ensemble, Freedom Theatre, Tim Crouch, Anna Birch, David Eldridge, Jessica Swale, Melanie Wilson, Robert Holman, Clare Bayley, Lisa Goldman, David Thacker, Annie Castledine, Bobby Baker, Mike Attenborough.
- The Lakeside Theatre is a purpose-built 200-seat venue in the heart of the University campus. We stage productions by leading touring companies and new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students.
- Additionally, the Lakeside Studio is an intimate fully equipped black box theatre. Each year, we invite proposals from current and former Essex students to make work for this space as part of our Homegrown Shows programme.
- The Lakeside Theatre also makes a connection to the cultural hubs of our country as a host of the prestigious National Theatre Live and Royal Shakespeare Company Live screenings.
- We programme practical workshops by world-leading invited artists to help you develop new performance skills.
- Our weekly research seminars provide further opportunities for students to hear writers and practitioners discuss their craft.
- The Research Laboratory creates unique opportunities for our students to contribute to the testing of new ideas over the course of a full rehearsal process. Students collaborate with professional writers, actors, directors, musicians, and choreographers. As part of a creative team, new research questions are explored in practice, with opportunities to share work-in-progress with audiences.
- As well as our high-spec theatre spaces, our campus is home to a wealth of non-theatre venues, including The Hex and ArtExchange, that we use to innovate new site-based work.
- Our students have access to the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite.
- There are also opportunities to write for our student magazine Rebel or host a Red Radio show.
- Students can view classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre.
Be an actor, a writer, a director, a stage-manager, a producer – or something even more exciting! A drama degree opens many doors. Creativity, communication and versatility are highly valued skills in our rapidly changing world.
Our students have gone on to become actors, directors and playwrights, as well as producers, live artists, dramaturgs, stage-managers, and arts managers. Essex students have built rewarding careers as youth workers, community practitioners, drama therapists, and as teachers and academics.
The skillsets developed at Essex have also seen our students find success in a range of related creative industries including journalism, television production, broadcasting, radio presenting, gaming, magazine editing, copywriting, press relations and marketing, as well as in business, commerce and law.
Our graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of creative roles including:
- Writer in Residence for the National Theatre
- Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre, London
- Artistic Director of a successful touring company
- Director for the Almedia Theatre, London
- Manager at a renowned regional theatre
- Live-Artist for Art Angel
- BBC Journalist
- Youth Theatre Leader & Workshop Facilitator
- Outreach and Education Officer
- Front of House Theatre Manager
- Secondary School Teacher
We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- We’re Top 20 for overall student satisfaction for Drama in the National Student Survey 2021.
- As practitioners and industry insiders, we are committed to identifying employment opportunities for our students, and supporting the theatre-makers of the future.
- Our lecturers are all active practitioners: our teaching and research is enhanced and informed by our professional work around the world.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Teaching will take the form of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and skills-based training sessions
- We offer a unique combination of theoretical and creative approaches
- Class sizes are up to 20 students and taught in specially designated teaching rooms
- A typical timetable is a mixture of one hour lectures and three-hour seminars and/or practical workshops
- The assessment for each module is designed to carefully complement the content and teaching on that module
- Assessment might be academic essays, practical assessments, review and reflective writing, research presentations and examinations
- A mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark