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Applied Theatre: Arts, Action, Change (MA) (2021 Entry)

Applied Theatre

  • Course Code
  • P-W440
  • Course Type
  • Postgraduate Taught
  • Qualification
  • MA
  • Duration
  • Full-time: 1 year
  • Part-time: 2 years
  • Location of Study
  • University of Warwick

The MA in Applied Theatre: Arts, Action, Change addresses contemporary practice in applied theatre and socially engaged performance in national and international contexts. This MA is aimed at emerging practitioners with a background in theatre, education, politics or activism, as well as at more established practitioners who want to reflect upon, refresh and develop their skills.

The MA in Applied Theatre: Arts, Action, Change is a taught postgraduate degree that addresses contemporary practice in applied theatre and socially engaged performance. It invites students to explore, make and interrogate performance practices that are broadly concerned with contributing to social change in a variety of settings (e.g. criminal justice, theatre for development, homelessness, learning disability, schools, the elderly and healthcare). With a strong focus on professional practice and development, the degree addresses the ways in which performance modes can contribute to different applied, community and institutional settings nationally and internationally.

It investigates the claims made about performance and its potential to be transformative and rehabilitative and tests these claims through close consideration of contemporary practices in the field. It also addresses the political and ethical implications that come into play and the importance of constantly questioning what is at stake when working in specific contexts. It explores what it means to be an artist working for change and aims to develop skills of project design, facilitation and evaluation. The programme is aimed at emerging practitioners with a background in theatre, education, politics or activism, as well as at more established practitioners who want to reflect upon, refresh and develop their skills.

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Anna Harpin

Anna Harpin’s research explores the intersections between arts and health. In particular, her work intervenes in cultural politics and clinical practices in relation to madness, mental health, and psychiatry. Her recent monograph Madness, Art, and Society: Beyond Illness examined artistic practice and uncovered the clinical lessons of creative work. Harpin’s current project is investigating the politics of tenderness and questioning the meaning, nature, and practice of ‘care’. Her artistic practice with her theatre company, Idiot Child, is likewise engaged with questions around health and wellbeing. The company explore difficult feelings and experiences through performance and their current project, Never Gonna Give You Up, explores loneliness.

Saul Hewish

Saul Hewish is one of the country's leading practitioners in the use of drama and theatre with offenders. He was a founder member and former director of Geese Theatre (UK) (est. 1987) and since 1996 has worked in a freelance capacity developing drama-based responses to crime within youth offending teams, social services departments, and special educational settings. In 1999 he co-founded Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation), with Chris Johnston. Over the last twenty years this company has built a strong reputation for innovative and experimental arts-based projects within the criminal justice system in the UK and across Europe. This includes theatre and digital video projects in prisons as well as the production of cross artform projects that span the divide between prison and the wider public. He is a co-author of Challenging Experience: An Experiential Approach to the Treatment of Serious Offenders and was a recipient of a 2005 Butler Trust Certificate Award, a national award which recognises exceptional work by staff in HM Prison Service.

Nadine Holdsworth

Nadine Holdsworth’s research spans questions of representation, participation, citizenship, political change and cultural value. She has worked on the creative activism of a number of leading mid-century practitioners including Joan Littlewood and John McGrath and her current project, A Divided Nation: theatre and social abjection, explores how theatre and performance can be used to illuminate pressing social issues and marginalised groups. These concerns are also central to her involvement with the ‘Homeless Monopoly’ project, with collaborators Jackie Calderwood from Coventry University and a Coventry-based charity Cyrenians, which is exploring how gamification, arts-based methodologies and collaborative play can be used to educate and build resilience amongst young people around the topic of homelessness.

Yvette Hutchison

Yvette Hutchison is a South African academic whose work focuses on Anglophone African theatre, dance and intercultural performance. She has taught on and worked in various theatre for development and community theatre projects in Africa and the UK. Her most current research is an AHRC-funded project to create a virtual network connecting African women-identified creative practitioners with one another and other interested parties, including schools that want to widen curricula, through the African Women Playwrights Network. Her next collaborative project, with Lliane Loots of Flatfoot Dance Company, will trace the relationship between disability dance and citizenship with specific companies in various African countries.

Bobby Smith

Bobby Smith is a freelance practitioner who has worked in settings including schools, youth centres, within the criminal justice system and internationally. Previously, he also managed and coordinated applied theatre projects – for example, a drugs education and sexual health project in West London schools. He has worked as a consultant for several charities, writing resources and training staff, particularly in the area of Theatre for Development. Since 2014 he has been involved in a project with refugees and migrants which aims to build English language skills and aid participants’ sense of belonging. Having recently completed a PhD, his research currently focuses on Theatre for Development, theatre and peacebuilding, and applied theatre with refugees and migrants.

Core Modules

  • Researching Performance/Performing Research
  • Theorising and Facilitating Applied Theatre: Ethics and Reflective Practice
  • Enhancing your Professional Profile
  • Final Project (core) with a choice between Written (15,000 words) and Practical routes

Optional Modules

Modules may include:

  • Socially Engaged Performance: Interventions and Provocations
  • Adaptation (MA Writing and Dramaturgy)
  • Education for Sustainable Development (MA Drama and Theatre Education)
  • Drama and Literacy (MA Drama and Theatre Education)

You’ll work with world‐leading academics and professional practitioners who will share their expertise and challenge you to think deeply and independently. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and practical support you need to excel in analysing, developing and realising projects with ‘real world’ application.


You'll normally attend two 3-hour sessions each week during the Autumn and Spring Terms. If you are a part-time student you'll attend one 3-hour seminar a week during the Autumn and Spring Terms of Year 1 and Year 2. Teaching methods will vary and include lecture-seminars, workshops, case studies and student-led presentations/workshops. The course will provide opportunities for students to learn through study with professional practitioners and organisations in the applied theatre and socially-engaged fields to ensure that the course focuses on the practical competencies required to be an employee within an organisation or as a freelance practitioner. It may also be possible to further specialise and deepen your practice by taking modules from MAs in other related disciplines including the MA Drama and Theatre Education (Centre for Education Studies) and the Masters programmes in Global Sustainable Development and Liberal Arts which are in development for launch in 2021. Students will also benefit from having two intensive weekend teaching blocks (subject to module choices) that will facilitate a more immersive teaching/ learning experience with professional practitioners.

Groups will normally consist of fewer than 15 students in most modules.

You'll complete essential preparation (e.g. reading, desk research, studio-based practice) for each session, and we encourage you to read more widely around the topics explored.

Assessment processes, methods and outcomes are designed to enhance your personal and professional development. You will encounter ‘real world’/employer-focused assessments that may include the creation of creative projects, the delivery of a workshop, the presentation of a creative brief, the submission of a funding application and evaluative reports. You will be assessed individually and, in some instances, as part of a group.

The course also offers the scope to further develop and refine your practice through a flexible final project that can be taken as a written (15,000 words) or practical route (practice-based project and 4000-word documentation). In both cases support will include regular meetings with project supervisors, presentations of project proposals (to enable peer and tutor feedback) and work in progress demonstrations (to monitor progress and enable peer and tutor feedback).

This degree will help you to

  • Understand a range of socially-engaged forms of theatre and performance and how these vary in response to different contexts
  • Develop practical skills specific to applied theatre environments that are responsive to the needs of different types of organisations
  • Understand your own practice, while learning to design, manage and evaluate projects better, demonstrating an awareness of the possibilities and limitations of live performance and digital media in interventionist practices
  • Develop advanced research and practice skills through a supported extended written or practice-based research project in the area of applied or socially-engaged theatre
  • Confidently communicate your creative and critical thinking in well structured, logically developed and carefully prepared ways
  • Further develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback, and improve your communication skills and advanced analytic abilities in discussions

Associate Companies

The MA in Applied Theatre: Arts, Action, Change will provide opportunities to work with and learn from a number of professional companies and practitioners working in the fields of applied theatre, socially engaged performance and arts-based action projects through workshops, guest lectures, weekend intensives, project work and industry placements. Our Associate Companies include:

B Arts: a combined and participatory arts organisation that designs multidisciplinary arts projects that creatively intervene in people’s lives.

Cardboard Citizens: an organisation that has been making theatre with and for homeless people for 25 years.

C & T: a company combining applied theatre methodologies with digital technologies to explore and grow creativity with children and adults.

Creative English: a company that develops language skills by using drama, puppets and games.

Common Wealth: a socially-engaged company producing site-specific theatre events for and with communities.

Open Theatre: a company working with young people with learning disabilities through non-verbal physical theatre.

Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation): a company employing arts-based approaches when working with prisoners and staff in UK prisons.

Phosphoros: a company undertaking theatre projects with refugees and asylum-seekers.

Tender: a company using theatre-based methods to encourage healthy relationships amongst young people to help tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Warwick Arts Centre Creative Learning: generating hands-on learning opportunities for schools, audiences and members of the community as part of a large-scale arts organisation.

Minimum requirements You will have, or be expecting to obtain, a First or 2:i undergraduate degree from a UK university or an equivalent qualification from an overseas university. Your degree will normally be in an arts, humanities, media or social science-related subject. Alternative subject routes for entry are possible if you can demonstrate that you have suitable experience and aptitude in order to meet the range of demands of the course.

English Language requirements Band B
Overall IELTS (Academic) score of 7.0 and component scores

The University of Warwick operates an Equal Opportunities Policy and values Diversity; it welcomes applications from people of all backgrounds.

International Students
We welcome applications from students with other internationally recognised qualifications. For more information please visit the international entry requirements page.

For up-to-date information concerning fees, funding and scholarships for Home, EU and Overseas students please visit Warwick's Fees and Funding webpage.


In the academic year 2018/19, we awarded approximately £41 million in scholarship funding to postgraduate students. Warwick is also part of a number of prestigious government Scholarship schemes, including Chevening, Fulbright, Commonwealth and Marshall.

Additional course cost

Mandatory costs will include materials and printing for project assessment work at approximately £50 in total for the course. There may also be costs associated with travel to/from shows residencies (if these are offsite), and other engagements with professional practice up to £40. Purchase of a laptop computer, at approximately £400, is recommended.

A person who undertakes this MA programme might pursue the following career trajectories:

  • Applied theatre practitioner/facilitator
  • Community arts organiser
  • Cultural coordinator and partnership manager
  • Theatre in therapeutic contexts (health and care sectors)
  • Theatre in Education or Education Officer in a professional theatre/museums
  • Arts Officer in Local Government
  • Theatre for Development
  • Work in the charitable/NGO sectors
  • Research and Teaching in the FE/HE sectors

Our department has a dedicated professionally qualified Senior Careers Consultant offering impartial advice and guidance together with workshops and events throughout the year. Previous examples of workshops and events include:

  • Careers workshop for Theatre and Performance Studies Students
  • Discovering Careers in the Creative Industries
  • Careers in Radio Film and Television
  • Warwick careers fairs throughout the year
  • A history and DIY Guide to setting up and running a Theatre Company

There are a number of different ways to visit the University of Warwick throughout the year. We host bespoke PG visits, where you can talk directly with your chosen department and explore our campus through a personalised tour. Some departments also host their own events and open days, where you can learn more about your department or course of study. To find out more about all of these opportunities, visit our Postgraduate Visits page.