The dates, all on Mondays, are as follows, 6pm - 8.30pm:

October 4, 11,18, 25

November 1, 8, 29

December 6, 13, 20

January 10, 17, 24, 31

February 7,14, 28

March 7, 14, 21, 28

April 18, 25,

May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30,

June 6, 13


Performance Workshops

The dates, all on Saturdays, are as follows:

December 11

May 28


32 x 2.5 hour sessions taking place on Mondays from 6 to 8.30pm, plus
two half-day workshops.

(80 hours in total) 

Course Fee: £2950

Each course is self-contained. It is not necessary to do all three years.




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.


  • The professional course covers every aspect of writing a play. Over 30 weekly sessions and 2 half-day performance workshops, 8 WRITERS will produce short, medium and full length scripts.

  • Classes run from 6 to 8.30pm on Monday evenings.

  • John teaches a different aspect or theme each week to a group of 8 writers who each receive close personal attention. The course provides a wide framework of reference for each writer to find, and place, his or her own voice and make it as distinct as possible.

  • Two of the three terms have a half-day performance workshop in which the group will see their work performed and look at the practical staging opportunities that each play creates.

  • Personal study consists of weekly written work, shared with the group, and a verbal report on the play studied for that week.

  • You will receive up-to-date professional advice as to where to send your best work.


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


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. 

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


At the end of the course, writers will be advised on the potential of their plays to be produced professionally; to consider who the play is written for and why; and who the play might be sent to and what kind of collaborators to seek.


During the course there will be in-depth study of contemporary playwrights. 




A RAISIN IN THE SUN Lorraine Hansberry 

THIS CHILD Joel Pommerat 


TOP GIRLS Caryl Churchill 

THE WRITER Ella Hickson 

LAMPEDUSA Anders Lustgarten

TWO Jim Cartwright

SNOWFLAKE Mike Bartlett


VALUED FRIENDS Stephen Jeffreys

ALBION Mike Bartlett 

UNCLE VANYA Anton Chekhov

GUT Frances Poet


THE WEIR Conor Macpherson

THE TRUTH Florian Zeller

HOW THE WORLD BEGAN Catherine Trieschman

THE VILLAGE BIKE Penelope Skinner

THE FERRYMAN Jez Butterworth

"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."

Ed Rowett, participant 2019/21

"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."

Katrina Rimmer, participant 2019/21



Visiting workshop leaders and guest speakers



2021 TIM CROUCH (Don’t Ask The Driver, An Oak Tree, England, The Author)


June 2018 CHRIS CAMPBELL then Literary Manager at The Royal Court


June 2019 MIKE BARTLETT (Dr Foster, Press, King Charles 3rd, Albion, Earthquakes in London)

March 2020 KENNETH LONERGAN (Manchester by the Sea, You Can Count On Me, Starry Messenger, This is Our Youth)

FREE Taster Days

John Retallack offers FREE taster days that will take you through key elements of his Oxford Playwriting Course. The taster day will engage you in writing a dramatic scene and invite you to hear it read aloud by professional actors.