Undergraduate Course

BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre

BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre


The details
Acting and Contemporary Theatre
October 2021
3 years
East15 (Loughton) Campus

East 15 Acting School’s BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre course is renowned not only for its pioneering, highly influential training program, but also as a creative hub that produces original, bold theatrical work.

This unique and highly challenging pathway is dedicated to training multi-talented actors. We combine developing your skills as a performer with experimentation in European physical theatre, devising, creative writing, composition and cross-media art, allowing you to expand into roles such as actor/musician, actor/writer and actor/choreographer. The training is inspired by leading contemporary international companies such as Complicite, the Schaubühe and the Wooster Group.

Our philosophy sees the actor as an independent, inventive and entrepreneurial ‘artist’, and gives you the confidence and the competencies necessary to realise your artistic inclinations.

This course is taught at our picturesque Loughton Campus which is located on the edge of East London and is just a short 30 minutes by underground train from the heart of the capital’s West End theatre district.

View more undergraduate courses from East 15 Acting School, including further Actor training programs as well as behind the scenes courses in Creative Producing and Stage & Production Management.

Why we're great.
  • Intensive acting training.
  • Industry showcase.
  • Creation of independent Alumni theatre and production companies.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

Our training is by professionals and for professionals, allowing our graduates to work successfully across the globe.

Our international, outstanding teaching faculty is made up of professionals from all areas of live and recorded performance.

Learn more about our staff here.

Specialist facilities

Our Loughton Campus is perfectly located, providing access to both the rich, cultural diversity of London and an attractive and peaceful setting in which to study.

We are just a five-minute walk from London Underground station, Debden, where you can travel in only thirty minutes to Central London, West End theatres and mainline train stations including the Eurostar.

We have three sites at our Loughton Campus – Hatfields, Roding House and Unit Four. Hatfields is a beautiful Georgian dower house, set in five acres of lawns with orchards, flowerbeds and a small lake, providing an idyllic atmosphere for study, relaxation and performance.

Just a short walk from Hatfields is Roding House, a £1.3 million facility containing 10 rehearsal rooms, a green room/café, a sound recording studio and a video editing suite, and our costume department.

Next to Roding House, Unit Four is a £1.5 million facility which is home to the Stage & Production Management department. The Unit contains a large workshop, paint shop, prop shop, prop storage facilities and teaching spaces.

Our on-site Corbett Theatre is named in honour of Harry H Corbett, a key member of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and early benefactor of East 15. It is used extensively for student productions and is a practical training hub for our BA Stage and Production Management students.

The building is a medieval tithe barn that was dismantled and transported to Hatfields in the 1960s. These unusual origins create a unique performance space with a special atmosphere. Renovated to include full technical facilities, tiered seating for 130 people and fitted dressing rooms, the theatre provides an excellent resource for public productions, while the adjacent Bar and Café provides a social meeting point for students and staff.

Your future

Alumni of the BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre course are participating in the industry not only as actors in theatre, film and TV, but also by staging their own work to audiences worldwide. Recent graduates have gone on to work with major companies such as the National Theatre, Complicite, Cirque Du Soleil, The Globe, Frantic Assembly, BBC and ITV.

A highlight of the graduate year is the acclaimed ‘Debut Festival’, a unique platform dedicated to staging new work written, directed, produced and performed by students. Many works have transferred to professional production in Britain and abroad, winning awards such as the Edinburgh Comedy Award, The Stage Best Ensemble, Scotsman Fringe First, Best New Musical and BFI Best Short Film. Transfer venues include the Soho Theatre, Bush Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange as well as tours to Belgium, Denmark, Iceland and New Zealand.

Festivals to which BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre students work has transferred includes;

  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • Brighton Festival
  • Latitude Festival, Southwold, Suffolk
  • Pulse Festival, Ipswich
  • RADAR Festival at the Bush Theatre, London
  • Greenwich and Docklands Festival, London
  • Vaults Festival, London
  • Camden Fringe
  • HighTide Festival, Halesworth
  • Incoming Festival, London Diorama
  • Festival 45 at the Kings Head Theatre, London

In its short history, the course has shaped a number of exciting new practitioners including film and TV actors Lily Newmark and Adam El-Hagar, writers Charlotte Josephine and Somalia Seaton, directors Bryony Shanahan and Jesse Briton, as well as major theatre companies such as Fat Rascal and Police Cops.

“This course nurtures creativity and playfulness in its actors whilst instilling in them a practical and extensive understanding of theatre craft and its artistry. It allowed me to develop both as an actor and an artist. By the time I graduated I had already signed to a leading agent and established a production company with two of my peers. We went on to win national awards at the Edinburgh Festival, leading to an international tour.”

Nathan Parkinson, BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

Successful audition, plus
A-levels: CDD, or the equivalent in UCAS tariff points, to include 2 full A Levels


IB: 25 points or three Higher Level certificates with 433.
We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If you do not require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK then we will assess your English language proficiency/ability at your interview or audition.

If your first language is not English and you are an international student that requires a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK then you will need IELTS 6.0 overall, with 5.5 in each component.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

Please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English course that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.


Example structure

We offer dynamic and unique courses for actors, directors, producers, technical theatre specialists and students of theatre practice. Training at East 15 draws upon 50 years of tradition combined with a keen sense of the world of stage and screen today.

Our carefully selected modules will give you the chance to explore and develop your specialist training.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

Introduction to Acting Theory, Methods and Practice, and Development From Self to Character

This core first year acting module provides an initial training in acting theory, method and practice based on the uniqueness of the individual and the ability to change, adapt, extend, perceive, accept and reject. Students move through self-study to look outside themselves, approaching firstly improvised situations and then scripted text in imaginative and collaborative ways. By the end of the course you will know how to start work on a play and will have begun collaborative text work. You are able to begin to create a character from a text and to start the process of creating the world of the play.

View Introduction to Acting Theory, Methods and Practice, and Development From Self to Character on our Module Directory

Verbatim Theatre and Contemporary Scene Study

For this core first year acting module students work in small groups to study scenes from a contemporary play, learning how to divide a scene into units of action, how to discover objectives for a character and use the text to discover information – about the play, its themes and characters. You workshop scenes in your groups, practising your learning from the early part of the course. By the end of this block of work you will be able to find a character’s through line and recreate work achieved during the rehearsal process.

View Verbatim Theatre and Contemporary Scene Study on our Module Directory

Actor and Text

This core first year acting module provides opportunities for students to apply the introductory learning of Introduction to Acting Theory, Method and Practice to more demanding textual and acting challenges. You continue to advance your actor training through a focussed approach to the theatre of a particular period. Work on this course will be informed by your learning on Contextual Studies. The work of this module progresses into second year when it informs and supports the acting/voice project in Acting Techniques and Styles.

View Actor and Text on our Module Directory

Voice I

This core full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules. The work begins in Term One with an introduction to the anatomy of voice production. You will begin the work of acquiring good vocal habits through the use of basic vocal exercises. Techniques for direct communication with voice will be introduced. In Term Two you will develop the structures used by voice. You will work on improving articulation and explore accents and the voices of others. The work of the final term is on the vocal demands of acting, on developing clarity and power. By the end of the module you will have the ability to assess critically your own vocal capabilities and will have in place vocal exercises and a regime for future use.

View Voice I on our Module Directory

Movement I

This core full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules. The work begins in Term One with an introduction to basic anatomy. You begin the work of developing suppleness and stamina. Techniques for the release of emotion in movement will be introduced. In Term Two you develop balance, co-ordinations and rhythm, linking movement and dance with acting. You learn a range of styles and carriage. The work of the final term covers preparation for physical demands and the extension of physical and dance vocabulary.

View Movement I on our Module Directory

Music and Singing I

This core full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules.

View Music and Singing I on our Module Directory

Contextual Studies I

This core full year module is one of the programme’s four skills modules.

View Contextual Studies I on our Module Directory

Comedia Dell' Arte and Improvised Theatre

This first year BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre module is a unique and defining element of the East 15 Acting and Contemporary Theatre training. It provides students with opportunities to work and experiment in an environment that demands spontaneity and immediate response to events. It also provides an in-depth familiarity with improvised theatre both in its historical context and its contemporary practices. Students will develop the performance mental, intellectual and physical skills necessary to engage their audiences. You will learn how to work in a way that considers the total outcome and look of a theatrical piece of work. The module will prepare you for the work carried out in Year Two

View Comedia Dell' Arte and Improvised Theatre on our Module Directory

Expressionism in Visual Theatre, Physical Theatre and in Text

This module constitutes Part I of the two-part actor training in the second year in which the emphasis progresses from the foundation training of first year to examine a range of contemporary theatre styles and forms. You continue to develop your performance skills through the practice of acting, devising, writing and script analysis. Opportunities are provided to experiment with expressionism in text, music and visual art, European contemporary physical theatre, commedia dell’arte, the theatrical clown, post-modern and non-traditional text structure, tragedy, objects and puppetry. You are assessed on your contribution and participation during the rehearsal process and performance of projects. Projects in the first part of the module are shown in studio-based performance to audiences drawn mainly to invited audiences of staff and students, progressing to a theatre-based music and theatre showing at the end of the module. Self-created work, rather than scripted or directed work, is introduced as the module progresses.

View Expressionism in Visual Theatre, Physical Theatre and in Text on our Module Directory

Voice II

In this module you will develop and apply the rigorous foundation work of first year and apply it to the more demanding dramatic texts being worked on in the second year Acting course. You will connect movement, voice and acting. You will begin exploring accents and dialects in more detail with a view to both acquiring accents and developing the skills and tools with which to work on accents throughout your career as an actor. You will begin to examine the vocal demands of different performance spaces, including outdoor performances, and develop your ability to give life to complex texts. The vocal demands of a range of performance styles, for example, Commedia dell’Arte, will be explored and students will be given opportunities to apply their vocal techniques to devised and text work of increasing complexity. The course is designed to prepare students for independence, to ensure that they enter their third year with voices of professional standard and the vocal training necessary to maintain them.

View Voice II on our Module Directory

Movement II

The module consists of two units: Movement and Dance. The second year of Movement training is about deepening movement vocabulary and physical potential. You will learn to expand your range of physical choices in a variety of theatrical styles. Psycho-physical movement training becomes more specific and precise and this work continues alongside spontaneous body exploration. Alignment work is re-emphasised and applied to both acting challenges and movement improvisations. The movement unit of this module is intended to develop appropriate levels of physical, emotional and imaginative agility and stamina in students. It is designed to encourage students to develop good movement practices, empowering them to look after their bodies and to sustain body alignment. By the end of the module students will have developed a working technique for physical characterisation. The Dance unit is an investigation into dance historically and socially. You will look at the physical relationship between the economic and sociological climate of the day and its effects on dance style with the objective of integrating the investigation into an actor’s process. Your practical work will be supported by written documentation evidencing research into the place of dance in the relevant historical period.

View Movement II on our Module Directory

Music and Singing II

Students will expand their ability to interact musically and dramatically in small ensemble pieces usually sourced from musicals and popular styles. In the second term you will progress to the interpretation of more complex and demanding material and performance situations, including public performance and in the third term you will work on expanding your singing range and vocal agility. By the end of the module you will have a substantial knowledge of vocal technique and will have acquired an automatically present technique both to support the singing and safeguard the voice. You will have at your disposal a repertoire of songs of different tempi and styles that fall within your acting and singing range in preparation for your work in final year. Students are encouraged to continue to develop personal warm-up exercise routines.

View Music and Singing II on our Module Directory

Contextual Studies II

This module aims to encourage students to develop the ability to present, discuss and defend ideas in seminar and written contexts, consider how theatres reflect their own era, and gain an understanding of the relevance of commedia and other theatres to contemporary practice.

View Contextual Studies II on our Module Directory

Physical Comedy

This module constitutes a range of influences that have evolved from European physical theatre. Students will continue to develop performance skills through the practice of acting, devising, writing, movement, voice and singing. Student will have the opportunity to experiment with the theatrical clown, non-traditional text structure, mask and puppetry. The concept of 'actor-led work' is developed further. Students are assessed on their contribution and participation during the rehearsal process and performance of the project. A full length staging of a devised physical comedy will be presented to an audience of students and staff.

View Physical Comedy on our Module Directory

Site Specific Classics

The work of this module is extremely challenging. Students will learn to cope with heightened text in unconventional performance spaces and the technical demands of non-purpose built theatrical environments. Students will explore and experiment with the creative opportunities and demands of a range of potential performance venues. Students will work with practitioners from within the School and with a visiting director and will be encouraged to put their performance skills into practice under a variety of different styles and approaches.

View Site Specific Classics on our Module Directory


This module focuses on acting for camera. It also looks at writing and creating film and explores the creative opportunities film offers as a form.

View Film on our Module Directory

Theatre Meets Film

This module is Part II of the two-part actor training in the second year. In it you begin the application of advanced devising and improvising techniques to explore and experiment with a range of increasingly complex performance forms and styles. The work of this module challenges your learning in early part of your course. You learn to cope with unconventional performance spaces and the technical demands of productions in non-purpose built environments. You explore and experiment with responses to the needs of audiences and learn to assess the creative opportunities and limitations of a range of potential performance venues. You work with a range of practitioners, both from within the School and with visiting directors, to encourage you to put your performance skills into practice under a variety of different styles of direction and, increasingly as the module progresses, in self-devised work. Students begin to progress from the single performance showings of the early part of the degree programme to sustaining a run of performances in a variety of venues. You are assessed on their contribution and participation during the rehearsal process and performance of projects. As the module progresses assessment begins to focus less on processes and preparation and more on students’ creative achievement in performance.

View Theatre Meets Film on our Module Directory

New Plays

This final year BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre module, builds on the creative writing work students have undertaken in their second year. New plays will be selected by the module tutors and the Head of Course from students' own self-authored work, to be performed in a production for public audience, as festival of new work which is titled the Debut Festival. Through the process of creating the New Plays you will be given opportunities to take on a range of roles and responsibilities, which could include writer, actor and/or director, experiencing and learning the versatility that characterises the professional contemporary theatre arena. This festival has given birth to several award-winning plays.

View New Plays on our Module Directory

Issue-Led Theatre

In this module you research, devise, write and stage a project based on a contemporary issue. You learn to use theatre to express their ideas and emotional engagement with the chosen issue and further develop the skills of communicating with your audience. By the end of the module you will have produced a piece of theatre that expresses and articulates your own original views and ideas. The style and form of the work produced will express your own individual creative inclination. Some of the work will have tested the boundaries of existing contemporary theatre practice.

View Issue-Led Theatre on our Module Directory

Actor-Led Final Projects

In this module you prepare your final self-created Showcase projects. Working in groups that have emerged naturally within the year group over the three years of your training together, you and your fellow students decide the form you want your final Showcase projects to take. All projects are supervised either by the Head of Course or by a visiting professional director but their input is intended to be mainly advisory – you are expected to take control of your own original work. You write, devise, produce, direct, act in, manage and market your own work to a professional standard, putting all their learning and skills into the realisation of self-created projects, some of which will test the boundaries of existing contemporary theatre practice. The Showcase performance is given to an invited audience of industry professionals, e.g. directors, casting directors, agents, normally in a professional London theatre venue. The Showcase is intended to provide you with opportunities to make professional connections that will enhance your career as an artist and performer. In this module technical skills work is fully integrated with the work of preparing the self-created projects for performance. Voice, movement and singing tutors work in rehearsals and workshops with groups as necessary, depending on the form and content of the work they are creating. By the end of the module you will have produced a piece of professional standard original work. Several former groups of students have gone on to show the work they created in this module at professional theatre venues, for example at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

View Actor-Led Final Projects on our Module Directory

Voice, Movement, Music and Singing

By the final year of the course you are considered to be a performer and an actor. The work of skills classes in Terms One and Two of the final year in this core module focuses on your professional development. Classes involve the preparation of your shows, audition pieces, preparation for the final Showcase performance and weekly classes to deal with any on-going problems and issues arising. You continue to develop and practice warm-ups and preparation for rehearsal and performance. The final year work allows you to establish patterns and pathways for creative well-being to follow throughout your working life.

View Voice, Movement, Music and Singing on our Module Directory

Contextual Studies III

The module concentrates on contemporary theatre. You are encouraged to reflect on your course experiences and training and to prepare yourself for further professional and cultural challenges after graduation. You use the research and writing skills you have learned in years one and two to consider new ideas in greater depth and to develop the ability to express arguments through a process supported by relevant research and source materials. This process culminates in the third term when you present your Personal Development Journal. You are encouraged to widen your reading to research and discuss new ideas. You are guided towards theatre issues and practices in which you have a personal interest and encouraged to pursue them in depth. The module explores contemporary theatre theories and practices as well as post-modern performance and performance art. You use research to develop your understanding of contemporary theatre and are given opportunities to present your ideas in a coherent manner, using documentary evidence to support your views and standard academic conventions of presentation, for example referencing, quotations and bibliography.

View Contextual Studies III on our Module Directory

Employability, Professional Preparation and Auditioning Technique

In this module you will be presented with a programme of workshops and master classes led by directors, actors and casting professionals as well as the Head of Course. You will learn a variety of audition methods and styles such as the traditional two-minute monologue, screen test, reading to camera, workshops and ensemble selection processes.

View Employability, Professional Preparation and Auditioning Technique on our Module Directory


Year 1

Your first year focuses on introductory acting, voice, articulation, singing and movement. You explore your own individual creativity and responsiveness to other actors. During the first year you will:

  • Develop skills in observation and self-assessment
  • Work alongside peers on the parallel BA Acting courses, following the traditional East 15 training and focus on the development of methodical characterisation work
  • Realise your neutral starting point as part of rehearsal process and preparation
  • Create individual character studies
  • Learn to re-create through reflection, research and improvisation
  • Understand how to act and react to emotional upheaval through a wide variety of texts
Year 2

Your second year focuses on familiarisation with form and style, allowing you to explore and experiment with a range of areas, including:

  • Physical expressionism, contemporary and classical text, Commedia Dell’Arte, the theatrical clown, script writing, devising, music and parody
  • Exploration of form and style
  • Scriptwriting

You will also explore the relationship between film and theatre as well as theatre as a tool for social change. In addition, you will construct original works including an expressionist piece, physical comedy show and short film.

The year ends with a site-specific production of a classical text.

Year 3

Your final year focuses primarily on staging new work. Led by visiting practitioners from the industry, students develop ideas and produce a range of different projects including new plays, burlesque and short films.

You will also receive guidance to prepare you for your post-training career with professional development classes in forming companies as well as casting exercises.

You also have opportunities to stage work in public, including a showcase event for an invited audience of influential agents, casting directors, film, voiceover, TV and theatre directors. East 15 continually liaises with industry professionals to ensure the format for the event accords with the changing landscape of the industry.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


Additional costs for materials and field trips of up to approximately £650 per academic year. Equipment lists are reviewed annually.

International fee


Additional costs for materials and field trips of up to approximately £650 per academic year. Equipment lists are reviewed annually. EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home/UK fee information

International fee information

What's next


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for the University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

You will also need to complete and send us an East 15 application form, including a copy of your audition payment receipt so that we can schedule your audition.

For full details, please see the East 15 website.

Apply now


Applicants to this course will need to book an audition. If you apply to us through UCAS we will send you information on how to do this. Alternatively, you can apply to East 15 directly. If you’re resident in the UK you’ll visit our campus to take part in the audition, where you’ll meet some of our staff and sample our teaching. Please see our website for more information about preparing for auditions.

Our staff travel the world auditioning applicants so if you’re not resident in the UK, it’s likely that we’ll be in a location near you at some point. This will be a one-to-one audition. If you still can’t make a physical audition, we are sometimes able to accept video auditions.

Offers for these courses will only be made after a successful audition.

For full details, please see the East 15 website.

Loughton Campus

Visit Loughton Campus

You’ll be in intensive training at one of the most prestigious and internationally respected conservatoires in the country, gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue a career in the performing arts. But fear not! It’s not all work and no play at East 15 Acting School in Loughton.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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