"John's course is the best anyone could hope for. It has transformational effects on the confidence and achievements of all the participants. John is passionate and knowledgeable about theatre and has great first-hand experience. The course is so artfully constructed that you slip gracefully into writing a play, through all the exercise stages, almost without realising it. The discussion of plays is precise and informed and of great practical benefit for our own writing. Best of all, the chance to have your work rehearsed and performed by excellent professional actors is gold dust."

- AW, writer, 2018-19 course

The John Retallack Play Writing Course is an Oxford-based writing course for aspirant professional playwrights run by theatre director and Olivier award-winning playwright John Retallack.

The 2020-2021 course has been postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19 guidelines. Find out more.

You might be a brand new writer, or someone who has written a great deal but is yet to break through onto the professional stage or radio; or you might have written in another field altogether and want to build up your skills as a playwright.


Wherever you are coming from, the course has something to offer you.

Actors read work at a performance day

  • Groups are limited to 8 writers; this ensures close personal attention to each individual’s work throughout the year.

  • The course comprises 30 weekly two-and-a-half hour sessions and covers every aspect of writing a play.

  • The course asks writers to write 3 pieces over the whole year: a series of scenes, a short play and a full-length play.

  • ​John teaches a new aspect or theme every week. The weekly sessions cover language, narrative, voice, character, dialogue, place, time and a range of other significant topics.

  • The writers read 20 contemporary plays together in the course of the year. John selects plays from those currently playing in Oxford or London.

  • There are 2 half-day performance workshops in which each writer will see extracts of their work performed by professional actors before an audience.

  • The course provides a wide frame of reference for each writer to find, and place, his or her own dramatic voice.

  • Admission is by interview, plus two 20-page samples of the applicant’s written work. No academic qualification is required and the course is open to anyone over 18.

  • The classes run in the early evening, so it is possible to work full-time and still do the course.

  • You will receive up-to-date professional advice as to where to send your best work, and know the audience for whom you wish to write.

Course Fees: £2950 per year

(Two subsidised bursaries offer 50% discount for unwaged and under 25s)


Location: Vincent’s Club Dining Room, 1A King Edward Street, Oxford OX1 4HS

(This is just off Oxford High Street where there is nearby parking, convenient public transport and wheelchair access)

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Photography by Stuart Allsopp and Geraint Lewis. Website by Alexandra Coke.