"His vast experience as a playwright, director and artistic director has made him a fount of knowledge about what makes a play successful, both in terms of its writing and its realisation in production."

Adam Peck, writer



John’s course addresses the whole collaborative nature of theatre.

As well as paying rigorous attention to language and text, he looks at the physical nature of performance, the place of movement and gesture, the question of music and its impact on story-telling and the site-specific opportunities that contemporary theatre affords.

He also considers the wider application of drama in the field of education and other areas of social change.


You will explore how to translate your idea into character, into actions and into dramatic narrative.  


The course covers all the structural essentials of writing a good play:

  • writing a dramatic page

  • writing a dramatic scene

  • juxtaposing scenes to build a narrative act

  • story-events and sequencing

  • the creation of character

  • the finding of a distinct voice for each character

  • dialogue and subtext

  • the creation of place

  • the challenge and manipulation of time

  • working with a theme

  • genre and the world of your play

  • plotting and story-telling

  • the uses of different dramatic forms

  • the presentation and lay out of your script


The course asks you to look at your play from a practical theatre perspective:

  • to consider the nature of different stagings and settings

  • to investigate how your text can use silence, physical movement, music and décor

  • to reflect on the casting of characters

  • to choose which director you would most like to direct your play and why



In the first 6 weeks you will focus on creating character and will write a series of monologues and dialogues.

In the second 6 weeks you will focus on writing a short play (30 minutes) and have the opportunity to watch actors explore your work during the course of a Performance Workshop.

In January you will begin work on your full-length play and finish a first draft by May.

In March you will see scenes from your play discussed by professional actors as they would be in rehearsal - that is, interpreted in more than one way, played with, argued over, questioned.

At the end of May, when you have completed the first draft of your play, scenes will be presented to an invited audience.

During this period you will look in depth at the work of current playwrights such as Mike Bartlett, Jim Cartwright, Caryl Churchill, David Greig, David Hare, Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Bryony Lavery, Suzan Lori-Parks, Anders Lustgarten, Nina Raine, Mark Ravenhill, Jack Thorne and Roy Williams, as well as plays by European writers who bring an entirely different perspective to contemporary drama.

Reference will also be made to classic twentieth-century playwrights such as Friedrich Durrenmatt, Lorraine Hansberry, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

At the end of the course, John will advise you on the potential your play has to be produced professionally and be sure that you have considered:

  • exactly who are you writing for and why are you writing for them

  • who you might send your play to

  • what kind of collaborators you seek


Each group has a maximum of eight participants and this will help greatly to ensure that the individual writer receives sufficient personal attention over the course of the year.

Your weekly reading and theatre-going play an important part to yourself and to the other writers in the group – you will listen and report each week.

It is important that you have the time to read and write each week – the work load will increase as the course unfolds.

All participants must be willing to share their work with the group.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to John at

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

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