"If I were an aspiring playwright with an appetite to learn about the playwright’s craft, I couldn’t imagine a more skilled and supportive tutor."

Tom Morris, artistic director, Bristol Old Vic

Applications are open for the 2019-20 course (30 September 2019 - 8 June 2020)


E-mail for more information.

The John Retallack Playwriting Course is based in central Oxford. 

It is a new professional course that covers every aspect of writing a play and, over 30 weekly 2.5-hour sessions and 3 half day workshops between October and June, asks a selected group of promising writers to write three pieces, starting with a 15 minute text in the first term and moving towards a full-length script in the third.

You might be a brand new writer, or someone who has written a great deal but has yet to break through fully on to the professional stage or radio – or you might have published and want to build up your skills as a playwright.

The group will be restricted to 8 writers, ensuring close personal attention to each individual throughout the year.


John will teach a new aspect or theme every week. The weekly sessions will cover language, narrative, voice, character, dialogue, place, time and a range of other significant topics such as writing for different audiences or for radio.


The group will work together closely and listen to the weekly homework that each writer produces. Everyone will be asked to report to the group on a new play that he or she has read or seen in the preceding week.

In each term there is a final half day performance workshop in which the group will see their work read and have an opportunity to look practically at the staging opportunities that each play creates.

The course will provide an extremely wide frame of reference for each writer to find, and place, his or her own voice and to make it as distinct as possible.

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 objective is to form diverse and highly motivated groups.

The classes run either in the afternoon or the early evening, so it is possible to work full-time and still to do the course. Once the writer has chosen either the afternoon or the evening slot, he or she will stay with the same group for the entire period.


There is no formal qualification at the end of this course. Theatre directors, literary managers and script executives are only interested in what you write and its quality.

By the end of the course, you will have written three pieces and heard them read aloud and partly staged. 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.

The course takes place at Vincent's Club Dining Room, 1A King Edward St, Oxford OX1 4HS (just off Oxford High Street), which has full disabled access.


It is a convenient location for parking (allow a few minutes' walk from Merton Lane, Broad Street, St Giles or Mansfield Road) and public transport (allow approximately 10 minutes' walk from Oxford Train Station or Coach Station).






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

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