Writers and actors after a workshop with Kenneth Lonergan (centre) 9.3.2020
WHAT PARTICIPANTS SAY IN 2022
John’s course is fantastic. His encouragement and experience will inspire, transform and enrich your writing, from his structural insight to his expert selection of exercises and plays. The weekly sessions comprise a perfect balance of group discussion and individual feedback. The opportunity to see your own work performed by professional actors will blow you away. If you’re thinking of applying or enrolling, do it now.
Michelle Ewing, Foundation Course, 2021-22
The Oxford Playwriting Course is a joy. John brings to it a lifetime of knowledge and experience as a writer, director and theatre maker whose combination of inspiration, encouragement and rigour is unmatched. Having wanted, but failed to write for many years, I have been amazed at how swiftly John’s prompts have enabled me to create something. Hearing your first play read by John’s team of professional actors is a thrilling and richly informative experience.
Jeremy Taylor, Foundation Course, 2021-22
I am currently in the foundation year with John. The course is brilliant and I am really learning a lot.
My favourite part is reading new plays and critiquing them each week.
I wanted to learn about structure as I am new to playwriting and John has shown me a variety of models.
I would absolutely recommend this course, it’s a fun way of learning and developing your plays, and having the actors perform your play is a wonderful experience.
Andrea Roskell-Orton, Foundation Course, 2021-22
John has an amazing gift for inspiring your best writing. Whenever I've stumbled or got stuck, he has had a writing exercise or a profound but simple question to set me back on track. As a bonus to learning how to write plays, John has a lot to give on how to enjoy and get the most out of seeing or reading plays.
Angus Fraser, Foundation Course, 2021-2022
Deciding to take this course was a tentative first step towards playwriting, and I am so very glad I took the plunge. John is kind and supportive and gives his students the space to discover their own voices, with the necessary guidance. Having the small cohort of fellow students is an essential part of the journey, and you become a close-knit group very quickly. I can already feel the strides my playwriting is taking, and I look forward to continuing with my journey.
Mari Gabol, Foundation Course, 2021-2022
John’s extensive experience as a playwright and a director is invaluable. A new writer will benefit greatly from both the in-depth study of western drama, as well as the hands-on performance workshops of their material with professional actors. Playwright is spelt ‘wright’ as in something that is wrought or made instead of written and this course nurtures the practical ‘making’ of a play. I would highly recommend this course to anyone exploring the option of becoming a professional playwright.
Rory O’Sullivan, Foundation Course, 2021-22
This is my fourth year as a participant in John's exceptional course and I have reached the 'advanced' stage.
Whilst 'advanced' is a description which sits uneasily with all of us, particularly around the perilous activity of writing, I honestly feel that, thanks entirely to John's course, my confidence in my own abilities has grown immeasurably.
This is down to the meticulous care John gives to all of us and the boundless enthusiasm coupled with deep wisdom he brings to anything to do with theatre. We have grown very close as a group, always learning from each other. I leave every session refreshed and re-energised to get back to work.
Four years on from when I picked up a leaflet in a South London bookshop and dared to take the plunge, I now have a play I want to share with the outside world. I also have a far deeper understanding of the challenges and joys of writing for the stage. This is all down to the very special qualities of John's course.
Nick Marston, Advanced Course, 2018-22
Working with John Retallack over the last four years has been both an adventure and a joy. With his wide knowledge and experience as writer and director, he has equipped us with the tools and craft of playwriting, from structure and dramatic dialogue to the analysis – and revelations – of the contemporary play. And whether looking at a scene, genre or protagonist, whether exploring a script or exchanging ideas, his sensitive guidance ensures the most happy and supportive of work-groups.
Miranda Welby, Advanced Course, 2018-22
Year Four and we’re still breaking new ground and covering new material. The reading list continues to be diverse and up-to-the-minute, and John’s feedback on individuals’ writing within the group is as fresh and inspiring now as it was on day one of Year One – to the point where I feel I can now legitimately call myself a playwright.
Jo Watt, Advanced Course, 2018-22
John has an unparalleled, deep knowledge of theatre and playwriting and this runs through everything we do like words through a stick of rock. The groups are no more than six people and together we study new plays and then plays we are writing ourselves. John goes above and beyond to ensure we all get the individual feedback we need to progress our writing, and the group feedback is also invaluable. This is the second year I have studied with him, and the experience is thrilling.
Janet Bolam, Advanced Course, 2020-2022
I have been writing plays under John’s eye for nearly four years, and my appreciation of his sensitive, finely-tuned advice continues to grow. As a theatre professional equally at ease writing, directing and running a theatre, he keenly understands how to get each student to fulfil their potential.
Peter Popham, Advanced Course, 2018-22
I joined John Retallack’s playwriting group by happy accident in 2018 and four years later, I’m still here. It’s the been the best creative experience of my life. John has an exceptional gift for enabling writers from a range of backgrounds to do their best work. He raised this to genius level during the pandemic by developing a hybrid method of teaching which sustained our creativity even when we couldn’t all be in the room. I shall always be grateful to him for waking up my playwriting brain.
Amanda Mackenzie-Stuart, Advanced Course, 2018-22
WHAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID, 2019-20
John has a rare gift for delivering honest feedback that is simultaneously encouraging. After one term, I’m already writing better. I have too much good stuff to say. I can't tell you how much I'm relishing everything about the course.
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.
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. I cannot recommend the course highly enough.
The course is just brilliant. 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.
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 and the prospect of seeing one's play acted by professionals. I can't imagine a more stimulating way to learn the craft.
John's course is the best anyone could hope for. It has transformational effects on the confidence and achievements of all the participants. The course is so artfully constructed that you slip gracefully into writing a play, through all the exercise stages, almost without realising it.
Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
This is, without question, the best creative writing course I have ever done. John’s 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.
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. I can't recommend the course highly enough.
John’s 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.
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. 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 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 highly recommend this course to anybody who feels they have a story to tell.
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.
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.
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.
This course is the real deal. I would highly recommend it to any developing playwright. Above all, 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.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID, 2017-19
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.
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.
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.
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 kindness prevails. 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.
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.