WHAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID, 2019-20
John combines intellectual rigour and clarity of thought with a warm and supportive approach that encourages everyone on the course to find their own voice. Last September, I was concerned about how I’d feel having my work critiqued. I needn’t have been. John has a rare gift for delivering honest feedback that is simultaneously encouraging. After one term, I’m already writing better.
I actually find this really hard because I have too much good stuff to say. I can't tell you how much I'm relishing everything about the course. (You can quote that too if you want.)
This playwriting course provides a perfect bridge between writing plays as a hobby and the professional world of theatre. Selection is made on strength of writing only so whatever your previous experience – and students come from a wide variety of backgrounds – you have a chance of being given this fantastic opportunity. Classes balance discussion of current productions, study of inspiring classical and contemporary scripts with development and constructive critique of own work. John creates a wonderful atmosphere that is both supportive and challenging providing clear user friendly tasks that build up to the performance of fully developed plays.
John is an insightful, supportive, and inspiring teacher, and assembles a group with a range of experience and perspectives. There is a perfect balance of group discussion and one on one feedback, while the regular deadlines and performance workshops ensure you are producing new work constantly - sharpening both creative and critical faculties. I can't recommend the course highly enough.
Taking the course has been one of the best decisions I have made. It is very well structured, with the homework exercises building up from monologues to eventually a full-length play. I have learnt an incredible amount, both from John's advice and feedback and the discussions with the other course members. In spite of the differing levels of experience within the group, each person's voice is heard. I recommend the course for anyone who wants to write plays.
I loved the theatre and I enjoyed writing. These were my credentials on joining the programme, so don’t let a lack of experience put you off applying. Reading a new play each week has opened my eyes to the different ways of telling a story. Exploring the same plays as part of a group has helped me to understand how and why each of them works. It’s the best grounding you could have to start writing your own play.
I really can't recommend John Retallack's playwriting course highly enough. From the supportive dynamic of the writers to the methodology of the teaching itself, it's been a really effective way to refresh my skills as a playwright, and learn about plays I really wish I'd known about before. I also particularly valued the phased build up of writing tasks towards an initial reading of the first few scenes, along with the one-to-one tutorial that preceded it. I think John is a master teacher, and his background as a writer /director gives him a hinterland of wisdom and skills that I'm always looking to borrow from in terms of transforming an idea into a play, rather than a novel, or any other art form. 'The play's the thing!' -and to come at it from different perspectives, models, and experiences, has been a great way of expanding my vision and overcoming some of the blockages I all too often encounter.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID, 2018-19
The course is just brilliant. Exactly what I needed to further develop as a writer. I love how we delve deep into the works of established playwrights looking at technique and theatrical devices to arm ourselves when we write. The consistency of reading each week and writing all the time is where the development truly comes from. And the deadlines make you feel like a real working writer, learning how to manage my creative time more effectively and how to write even when I don’t feel ‘inspired’ has been invaluable. I’ve written things I’m very proud of that just wouldn’t exist without the pressure of the deadlines. Overall, it’s extremely motivating, and John creates a wonderful atmosphere whereby the group engages and helps one another. Would highly recommend to any writer looking to branch out and learn more whilst creating work.
It has been an utter privilege to work with such an insightful and supportive tutor as John, and to share the experience with a group of people whose work I have come to look forward to reading each week. John’s input and encouragement have been invaluable, and he has gone the extra mile to support me and to be flexible with my work commitments to enable me to write. I cannot recommend the course highly enough.
John Retallack's playwriting class offers would-be playwrights with the right mix of ability and ambition a terrific cocktail: acutely selected, up-to-the minute plays to read and discuss, keen deadlines for delivering written work, wise counsel along the way and - the cherry on the cake - the prospect of seeing one's play acted by professionals. I can't imagine a more stimulating way to learn the craft.
Penny Boreham Saban
I am loving this course. John manages to be warm, enabling and challenging in the best way. He sees potential and uses all his creativity and experience to help us write with freedom and to be critical and curious about the form itself.
The John Retallack playwriting course is the real deal. I would highly recommend it to any developing playwright. As well as a cleverly balanced format of regular writing, reading excellent plays and valuable group discussion, you benefit from John's extensive industry experience as a playwright, director and teacher, which he uses skilfully to provoke growth in each individual writer.
John Retallack has a great capacity to bring out the individual voice of a writer and guide them through the demanding territory of developing a play. His analytical skills are extraordinary, both in terms of examining contemporary texts and addressing the complex workings of a dramatic script. At the same time, he creates a safe, supportive environment which allows the freedom to explore. This is a highly professional and well-structured course, which no aspiring playwright should miss.
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.
Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
This is, without question, the best creative writing course I have ever done. I came across it quite by chance and it has exceeded all expectations. John is an outstanding enabler of new writing for the stage. His experience as both writer and director, and his knowledge of technique, make him a wonderful person to have by one’s side during the first tottering steps towards becoming a playwright. I can’t recommend his course highly enough.
Each week, in a beautiful setting above Oxford's High St, John encourages the writer's dramatic exploration by building a technique toolkit containing his own teaching points and examples from modern texts. Across a well thought through yearly curriculum, exercises start with character and monologues before moving onto duologues and scenes. With John's help and laser-like attention to the craft of structure, the leap from scenes to acts and eventually whole plays feels dangerously possible. John's ability to create a supportive and helpful group dynamic generates a fun and exciting experience for any level of writer requiring a structured approach to the development of their playwriting skills.
John’s playwriting course is both stimulating and demanding. He leads rather than teaches, encouraging collaborative discovery in the work and discussion in the weekly sessions. Character and form are the foundation, scene writing and rehearsed readings the discipline. We have had dramatic breakthroughs, celebrated in good company. And I believe my writing has improved.
John creates a stimulating, supportive and collaborative environment in which writers can flourish. He assimilates different levels of experience within the group through his ability to focus on what is relevant and important. I have really enjoyed being challenged to write on a weekly basis, to share and critique work, and to respond to feedback. I would highly recommend this course to anybody who feels they have a story to tell.
This exciting course has made Mondays the highlight of my week. As people arrive from various parts of the country, we help ourselves to tea or coffee and chat about plays seen during that week. Between us, we bring a range of life experience but John has created a group dynamic that sparkles with a shared love of theatre and a creative urge. The collaborative nature of the group encourages us to pitch and develop our ideas, however zany they might seem! John’s perceptive feedback gets to the heart of any issues and the group’s suggestions are always helpful. The plays studied focus on aspects of style that encourage our own experiments in writing, starting with monologues and building up to plays of increasing length. The performance workshops, during which professional actors present extracts from our work to an audience who give feedback, spur us on further. John gives us all personal attention, discussing our assignments informally every week and also arranging individual tutorials. I feel both challenged and supported in the development of my writing.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID, 2017-18
I’ve enjoyed John’s writing workshop immensely. The term has been carefully structured examining a variety of contemporary playwrights whilst also writing our own pieces. The performance workshop at the end of term with actors performing our work to an invited audience was invaluable. Seeing the work in performance was illuminating and allows the writers the space to rework their scripts as a result. Some writers were surprised by unexpected comedy or discovered who was the true protagonist of the piece. The group sessions are always lively and intelligent and John manages to steer analysis of individual work to include everyone. Hugely recommend to anyone who is looking for a steady hand to guide their developing voice.
John Retallack is an inspirational guide and teacher. Week by week he encourages us to explore script writing from new perspectives. His seminars and tutorials are a constant stimulus for each individual to dig deep and find their own theatrical voice. I also appreciate the excellent organisation and handouts!
"John knows how to create a very harmonious and stimulating group where a fierce intellectual and kindness prevail. Inspired as well as provoked with weekly deadlines and homework based on brilliant dramaturgic analysis of plays, I enjoy very much making the most of the course. Thanks very much John.
This playwriting course is hugely enjoyable. Within a carefully structured framework, where concepts such as scoping, structure and characterisation are explored, we are supported to write a full-length play, although we can use the course to do whatever we want to work towards. There are only 8 students in the class, so there is time for discussion and feedback within the group, as well as individual tutorials. A great ‘next step’ course.
I love this course, it's exceptional in that while you're forced out of your comfort zone, experimenting, sharing, opening up to criticism, it's always, always constructive, supportive and fun. I can already see a tangible improvement in my writing which inspires me to go further. Really good value for money.
I have been writing for a while but I have still found John Retallack's course challenging. I have been encouraged to embrace an entirely different style of playwriting which I am relishing. John is a great teacher and I have no hesitation in recommending his course to playwrights new to the game and those more established, both young and old.
P de Richemont
What is there not to like?
For a whole academic year, you get :
- your own brilliant and fun tutor, director, actor, mentor and dramaturg;
- a carefully assembled group of supportive and knowledgeable critics (your fellow-writers);
- an inspiring audience (ditto),
- challenging weekly exercises,
- diverse reading list,
- stimulating discussions,
- an insight into contemporary theatre
- and the tools to place yourself within (or without) it,
- new friends
and all this is served with :
- a smile,
- and in an unbeatably snazzy venue in central Oxford, whose windows look out onto St Mary’s and the dreamy spires!
- did I forget the leather-studded private members’ bar we congregate in afterwards …?
I honestly suggest you scrub up and get your application in before it’s too late."
I'd wholeheartedly recommend the John Retallack playwriting course no matter what stage you're at with your writing as it offers helpful structures, useful reflection and a sustained level of risk, challenge and inspiration to tap into what you what to say and how you want to express it.
John is one of the most dedicated and passionate tutors I've ever worked with and right from my first conversation he made me feel like I have something important to say and I've seen him nurture that in all group members throughout the course. He brings his vast experience as a director and teacher to the room which brings out the best of the group and means we can support and challenge each other in constructive ways. This experience also brings in his understanding of how something can jump from page to stage and as a theatre maker and practitioner first and foremost this really resonated with me.
The opportunity to analyse and reflect in depth on different texts each week with the group has furthered my understanding of what structures and tools are available to frame what I want to say and form how I want to express it. He taps into you -it's not about 'teaching' what he wants to write but digging deep to find your own unique voice. He is perceptive and knows when you're having a bit of a secret meltdown and takes the time to ask questions and support you to move forward.
Throughout this course Mondays have been my favourite day of the week due to the group dynamic John has nurtured, the material we're reading, questioning and responding to and the opportunity to read work aloud and hear the work of others. The opportunity of 3 staged readings a year by professional actors is a fantastically motivating force and somewhere to channel your writing energy.
I suppose the question is why this course and not any other? For me it was meeting John for the first time and having such a sparky, dynamic and juicy discussion on work we have seen and work I could write. This course is an important part of his life and you will feel like he has the time to give you throughout the year to nurture, encourage and inspire. He is extremely generous with his time and energy towards all of the students and has consistently supported me to find my voice as a writer and the form through which I can experiment with expressing that. I started thinking 'I might want to write' and am leaving believing I'm a playwright, a writer, and a poet.
John is very dedicated to the course he is running, to his pupils and works very hard to get the best out of them. The course is fast paced, with lots of information. To get maximum benefit from it, you will need to be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time to write your own scripts, read and watch plays and be prepared to contribute in group discussions. Great fun too.
John takes the greatest care to ensure that every person in the group can maintain their own creative path whilst being able to make the most of what everyone else can offer.
He truly values originality and individuality.
His patience, experience and knowledge are a real gift for someone trying to develop their writing.
One of the appeals of joining John Retallack’s course is his individual coaching style. He really listens to the story you would like to tell and coaxes it out of you, helping to refine your voice and style. This is coupled with in-depth analyses of modern play texts, and support on structure. I am just a couple of months into the course and am already scoping a new play. I look forward to Monday evenings immensely, and have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from each session.