Undergraduate Course

BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre

BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre


The details
Acting and Contemporary Theatre
October 2020
3 years
East15 (Loughton) Campus

Our BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre is a dynamic and challenging course that trains multi-talented actors with the capacity to create bold and original theatrical works. Our philosophy sees the actor as independent, inventive and entrepreneurial ‘artist’, and gives you the confidence and competencies to realise your own artistic vision.

We combine developing your skills as an actor 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. Our teaching is inspired by Lecoq, Grotowski, Boal and their followers, and incorporates methodologies of leading contemporary international companies such as Complicite, the Schaubühe and the Wooster Group.

Why we're great.
  • Intensive acting training.
  • West End industry showcase.
  • Creation of spin-off professional theatre companies.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Your future

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

A highlight of the graduate year is the staging of the Debut Festival, dedicated to staging new work written, directed, devised and performed by students. Many past works have transferred to professional production in Britain and abroad.

Award-winning companies that were formed on the course include ‘Bear Trap Theatre’, ‘Late Night Gimp Fight’, ‘Snuff Box Theatre’, ‘Antler’ and ‘Lost Watch’. Major awards received by recent individual graduates include ‘Spotlight Best Actor’, ‘Olivier Bursary’, ‘Soho Theatre Young Writer of the Year’ and an Off West End “Offie”.

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

  • 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

Student’s shows have also transferred to The Soho Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange. Tours included Belgium, Denmark, Iceland and New Zealand.

“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


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.

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English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

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

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK 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 pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.


Example structure

We offer dynamic and unique course for actors, directors, 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.

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

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

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

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


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
  • 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:

  • Visual and physical expression
  • Contemporary and Classic text
  • Physical comedy, the theatrical clown and parody
  • Scriptwriting
  • Film and cross-media art

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

Final year

Your final year focuses primarily on staging new work. Visiting industry practitioners help you develop ideas and a range of different projects, including:

  • New plays
  • Casting and approaching employers
  • Starting and marketing a company
  • Short films

As well as receiving guidance to prepare you for your post-training career in areas such as forming your own companies and casting exercises, you have opportunities to stage work in public, including a showcase event for agents, producers and casting directors.

Fees and funding

Home/EU 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.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

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

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

Open Days

We don’t currently offer Open Days for this course but if you would like more information, then please email us at east15@essex.ac.uk.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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