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Acting - MFA

 From January 2022, the School of Acting will be moving to a new location, and will no longer be based in Millennium Point. Although not part of the University’s City Centre Campus, the new location will be in Birmingham city centre. Further information will be made available on the website in autumn 2021....

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.


Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Full Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

 From January 2022, the School of Acting will be moving to a new location, and will no longer be based in Millennium Point. Although not part of the University’s City Centre Campus, the new location will be in Birmingham city centre. Further information will be made available on the website in autumn 2021.

This two-year Master of Fine Arts in Acting is rooted in practice and designed with international graduates in mind. Studying here will help you develop a deeper understanding of the processes of acting through an exploration of play texts from the British and European traditions, providing you with a progression route to an acting career or to further study at MPhil or PhD level.

This conservatoire-level actor training has a research focus which enables graduates to develop high-level, innovative approaches to practice. The programme cultivates originality of thinking and self-direction in order to tackle technical, interpretive and scholarly problems within the field of acting and performance.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

Studying a postgraduate acting degree at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will advance your knowledge of the non-naturalistic forms of theatre that form the bedrock of the British Tradition. The British tradition of acting is long-admired and internationally renowned. With great historical context, the British performing arts continue to spark inspiration and discussion both in terms of research and practice.

Throughout this course you will explore style in relation to theatre performance, drawing your focus towards understanding the world of the play. You will gain significant experience in acting in classical forms of theatre and other forms that make specific stylistic demands.

The course is delivered through various modes of study, such as research through practice, practice-based learning, workshops, performances, lectures and seminars as well as private study. This provides you with the unique experience of working in a range of styles and genres.

In 2020 we were ranked as a top ten university in the UK for Drama and Dance by the Guardian, with outstanding facilities and a team of staff who engage directly with industry. Based at our City Centre Campus you have access to multiple resources across the University.

We have relationships with the Shakespeare's Globe (London), Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Birmingham Royal Ballet as well as being centrally located a short walk away from numerous arts organisations.

Download our MFA information booklet

Why Choose Us?

  • Our industry connections stem from internal and external sources. Birmingham School of Acting staff have vast, and notable experience, both home and internationally. Staff have worked with well-known individuals, projects and companies such as the BBC, the NHS, X Factor finalists, West End stars, British repertory and festival theatres and much more.
  • The University is the largest producer of creative professionals outside the South East and the UK's most successful recruiter for art and design in China and Malaysia. We also run courses in Hong Kong and Thailand.
  • As a course designed specially with international students in mind, there is no place better to study your MFA in Acting (The British Tradition) than in Birmingham, at the heart of Britain.

Entry Requirements

UK students
Essential

Previous performance training is essential for this course. A first degree in drama, acting or performing arts, or performance experience will be required in addition to an audition and interview.

The normal entry requirement is a first degree in a related subject area (e.g. Acting, Drama, Musical Theatre, Performing Arts, English and Drama) but potential students with a degree in another discipline or with experience in a related professional area would also be considered.

You should normally possess a first degree, performance diploma or equivalent qualification.

You will also be considered if you do not meet the above entry requirements, but possess an appropriate level of performance skills and professional experience.

For full details and advice about auditions and interviews, please visit the Acting Auditions and Interviews section of the Conservatoire website.

 

To maximise your learning experience, we only select a limited number of students each year for this course. Admission to this course is via audition. Please see our 'Audition Preparation Guidance' for more information.

English language requirements

  • IELTS overall score 7.0 (6.5 in all components) or equivalent is required.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MFA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 2 years
  • £11,000 per year

Award: MFA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 2 years
  • £17,100 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Free Adobe Creative Cloud licence

Students studying on this course can request a free licence to install the entire suite of applications on up to two personal devices.

Essential copies of playscripts

Students studying on this course will receive copies of any playscripts studied on the course.

Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, at an estimated cost of £100 for black studio clothing, shoes, rehearsal skirt and dance belt.

Media consumable items (mandatory)

This course requires the use of consumables, including actors' headshots that are likely to be in the region of £100 - £500.

Specialist equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of specialist equipment, including a ring light and tipod (£25 - £45) and a yoga mat (£20).

Smartphone (mandatory)

During this course you will need a smartphone with the ability to film - prices vary.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Books (optional)

All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. You may choose to purchase a copy. We suggest you budget £50 for this although you may wish to purchase additional books and playscripts.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Subscriptions (optional)

You may wish to purchase subscriptions to additional journals and websites.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Please read the guidance for applications if you wish to apply for the MFA Acting (The British Tradition).

The majority of applicants for this course register for and attend an audition in the USA in conjunction with the University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA). Alternatively, online auditions and in-person auditions in the UK are available. All details regarding the audition process are included within the guidance for applicants.

Please note: if you are auditioning in the USA and are an American applicant, this course is eligible for US Federal Loan applications for tuition fee and living cost funding. If you are successful in gaining a place on the course, you are responsible for applying for your tuition fee and maintenance loans if this is how you wish to fund your studies. We will provide guidance and information at the point of offer regarding the US Federal Loan system and how to apply.

Audition preparation guidance

Completing your application

Further information on writing your personal statement can be found on the UCAS Conservatoires website.

Course in Depth

MFA

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 300 credits): 

You will need a firm understanding of the basic core principles that support a successful performance and to practice those essential core technical skills of acting, voice and movement within a rehearsal and performance experience. Practicing the craft of acting within the rehearsal environment allows for an understanding and practice of the theoretical elements of creating and communicating a character, as used by contemporary practitioners, whilst developing your imaginative powers, narrative and improvisational skills. You will be encouraged to take responsibility for your learning and required to begin to develop a personal working system and code of practice that will foster a professional attitude both in rehearsal and performance, with further time spent in evaluation and appraisal of their own system.

This module delivers practical class sessions in Movement, Voice, Singing and Acting in order that the student develops and embodies the highly specialized skills that form the basis of the actor’s ability to manifest interpretive and creative performance choices at an advanced level.

The work undertaken in these classes supports the intellectual, imaginative, creative and physical work taking place simultaneously in the modules Acting: Foundation; Workshop 1 and 2; and Production.

This module further develops the work undertaken in the module Acting Exercises.

To enter the profession, students need access to the relevant employment ‘gatekeepers’, such as agents, casting directors, artistic directors etc. It also allows students to develop appropriate interview/audition techniques and to prepare a portfolio of material for future auditions. The module gives students initial support in the transition into work.

For PgDip and MA students, this module enables students to prepare audition material and present it to a professional audience, normally both in Birmingham and London.

Workshop 3 is designed to provide an opportunity for the actor to explore the creative processes of acting in greater depth in relation to playing Shakespeare.

Actors work in a laboratory environment and rehearsal conditions to explore the acting demands of the classical genre. This module builds on their experience of the Acting Exercise in Term 2 which also focused on Shakespeare, providing an opportunity to rehearse and perform an edited version of a play for an invited audience.

This module spans the First Year of the course and leads to the completion of the Major Project, delivered in Term 4. Along with the Production modules, the Major Project represents the culmination of your journey on the course. 

You are encouraged to undertake research-through-practice and create a performance-based Major Project. You may choose to include a written component by way of evaluating your practice or you may choose to perform and be examined through a viva voce examination. There are a range of options for submission, laid out in the Major Project module brief.

This module spans the programme and the Major Project, delivered in Term 4, represents the culmination of your journey on the course.  It is the point in the course when you have the opportunity to reflect on all you have learnt thus far in order to initiate lines of enquiry and personal strategies through which to develop your own ideas as a foundation for future work in the field.

Much of the work of the Major Project is self-directed. You are encouraged to undertake research-through-practice and create a performance-based major project. You may choose to include a written component by way of evaluating their practice or you may choose to perform and be examined through a viva voce examination. There are a range of options for submission, laid out below and in the module brief.

This module will provide MA students with the opportunity to rehearse and perform to the public in a complex professional- level environment. Students will further develop high standards in synthesizing technical, research, interpretative and specialist communication skills, informed by knowledge and understanding of contemporary acting theory.

This module delivers practical class sessions in Movement, Voice, Acting and Singing in order that the student develops the highly specialized skills that form the basis of the actor’s ability to manifest interpretive and creative performance choices at an advanced level.

Class content is entirely focused on the needs of the group and the individual within the group. The emphasis in the second year is on demanding contemporary practice and on exploring the relationship between the demands of classical and contemporary texts.

This module brings together all of the elements of the programme in two fully-staged performances. Students work to a fully professional model, as a member of an ensemble, playing as cast, in roles selected to provide them with opportunities to develop all of the requisite professional, imaginative and creative skills.

As an intense programme, the course is delivered through practice-based learning, challenging your intellectual, imaginative and physical skills.

This course is aimed at international students with previous performance training and offers those with a passion for live performance the opportunity to explore just what it is that makes British acting unique.

From Shakespeare to the pantomime, Restoration comedy to contemporary situation comedy, the British tradition of acting focuses on the importance of narrative, depth, dimension and consistency of character, technical precision, and the actor’s relationship with the audience.

Students opting for the MFA would not take the Research Project Module in Year 1, but only complete this in Year 2.

Students would opt to take EITHER Singing OR Voice and Text in Year 2 – they would not take both.

 For the Practical Voice module students would retake the module offered in Year 1 but have an assistant teaching role (with supervision from the module tutor).

Voice and Text would operate in a similar way.

This means that the only additional modules, in terms of timetabled teaching and delivery, are Pedagogy and Placement 2 and 3 and Professional Portfolio.

Year one

Your first year of study follows an integrated learning mode, with modules designed to teach problem solving, evaluative and interpretative methods. You shall investigate through practice the key developmental stages of British theatre performance. With particular focus on Renaissance theatre, Restoration theatre, and the Well-Made Play, as well as contemporary playwrights.

You will be taught through a series of workshops, which explore the demands of a specific dramatic forms. These workshops will delve into particular aspects of the British tradition, allowing you to broaden your in-depth knowledge of key periods and specific eras in performance history. You will also focus on developing your performance skills, engage with contextual studies and are required to keep a workbook throughout your studies.

Through keeping a workbook you establish and develop your ability to critically reflect upon your own work.

Our visiting tutors' and guest directors' inspiring, and continuous interactions of British performing arts means you will truly learn from the experts. In your first year of study you will form an acting company alongside your fellow students; this will widen your understanding of the practice and acting traditions within the UK.

The MFA students will be studying alongside with the MA Acting students for the first two terms from year 1 of study and will be split from the MA Acting students in the third term where they will be doing a workshop instead of the production and showcase which the MA Acting students will be doing.

Year two

In the second year, your studies will allow you to form a deeper understanding of the demands of non-naturalistic dramatic texts and forms of theatre of the British tradition.

With a particular focus on two key elements of the British tradition, you will explore the narrative aspect of the drama and its implications for actors, and the actor's relationship with the audience. You will also develop your understanding of the demands of performance spaces, working in a range of theatre spaces in the city. We aim to challenge your perspective, allowing you to see these elements as creative factors in theatre performance.

We will work to assist your professional and personal development. You will explore, in-depth, your own practice and research interests in order to produce an original, informed and innovative research project.

The research project is a key component of your second year, it is an opportunity to showcase and apply the knowledge you have learnt throughout your course. You will be able to produce either a dissertation or a research through practice performance piece. This particular module will allow you to develop your knowledge and produce work of a professional standard. You will create work that has the possibility of laying out a potential pathway for yourself within the field.

Professional Development

The course offers significant opportunities to develop your acting skills and your understanding of the nature of the theatre event.

We encourage you to take responsibility for your own development within the course, as well as offering laboratory experience through a series of acting workshops.

A full-scale production in term three of the course offers the opportunity to draw together all of the knowledge and skills you’ve learned so far through performance practice.

The final research project provides the means to investigate in depth an aspect of non-naturalistic theatre within the British tradition.

Employability

Enhancing your employability skills

As a graduate of this course you will be able to return to careers in the performance industry or in education with additional skills and a clearer understanding of British actor training and style. This will inevitably increase your employment opportunities, giving you a competitive edge in a highly competitive field.

You will have the right tools to teach, or mentor specialising in the British Tradition. You will be knowledgeable in a range of traditional British theatre forms, being able to reflect this through practice. Your knowledge of style and genre will enhance your employability, certainly if you are an international student as you will learn unique skill and knowledge unlike any taught internationally.

The various modes of teaching, such as studio-based workshops, presentations and productions will transform your confidence. These methods of study provide you with the ability and skill to translate your knowledge to others, whether that is through production or teaching. Through your understanding of style you will adapt and become versatile, knowing how to respond to the demands of the audience, space and the text itself.

Throughout the duration of the course you will be encouraged to critically reflect upon yourself and your peers. This will allow you to develop the ability to critically feedback and develop your work, allowing you to progress further. We aim to install confidence within your professional development, making you aware of the skills that you hold and teaching you how to apply them in a professional context.

Placements

While there are no compulsory placements within this programme we do not discourage you to be proactive, formulating your own relationships with local theatre venues and companies.

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Our OpportUNIty students

In the past we have employed students to work in the School of Acting's reception, presenting our students as the first point of contact for visitors. We have confidence in our students who do a fantastic job representing their school and its student body.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Our international students

Our MFA Acting (The British Tradition) course has been specially designed to cater for an international cohort; using research and practice to establish and develop a Master's level of knowledge concerning the British Tradition. International students will notice a difference between conservatoire-level training in the UK compared with that in other countries.

As a postgraduate student you will benefit by immersing yourself within an acting school with a variety of courses. The School is rich in diversity, with a combination of home and international students. You have a unique opportunity to learn from others, sharing and discovering new cultures and experience.

In the past we have had a high level of American applicants studying our MFA in Acting (The British Tradition). As an international student, studying the British tradition in an energetic and creative city offers a unique and fulfilling experience.

There is no other School more suited to host your studies. Located within the West Midlands, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, you will be at the heart of British arts and culture. Experience first-hand the culture of Britain, indulge yourself in context and allow your studies to be shaped by historical, authentic British settings.

Facilities and Staff

Our Facilities

Location

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is based at the University’s City Centre Campus. A part of the Arts, Design and Media faculty, the School of Acting is currently based within Millennium Point but will be moving to a new city centre location from January 2022.

We also have access to facilities at the Parkside Building, which boasts state-of-the-art radio and television studios, edit suites, photography studios, and much more.

Performances

Students regularly perform at professional theatres across the West Midlands, including The Birmingham Central Library Theatre; Crescent Theatre; Hippodrome Studio (Patrick Centre); The Old Rep Theatre and The Drum.

Our staff

Alex Taylor

Course Director MFA in Acting the British Tradition, MA in Professional Voice Practice

Alex Taylor has worked extensively in the UK, USA and South East Asia as a director, an actor and as a voice specialist. From 1984-1990 he was the Director of the School of Theatre, Manchester Metropolitan University and, at thirty, was the youngest drama school principal in the UK. He created one of the first honours degree courses for intending actors in Britain. Subsequently, he became one of the Master Teachers at the Juilliard School, New York.

In 1993 he joined the School of Drama at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. While in Hong Kong, Alex starred as Sweeney Todd in Stephen Sondheim’s 'Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' and as Albin in Jerry Herman’s 'La Cage Aux Folles' at City Hall.

He also directed productions for the Academy, the National Theatre of Korea and led masterclasses in Acting and Voice at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and the University of Korea. Now living and working in the UK at Birmingham School of Acting, he has directed over thirty productions.

He has recently worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company as a voice coach on a range of productions and directed productions of 'Once On This Island' and Martin Sherman’s 'Bent' for professional theatre companies in Hong Kong.

More about Alex

Stephen Simms

Vice Principal - Acting, Professor of Actor Education

Stephen is the Vice Principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire - Acting, one of the UK's leading conservatoires of acting, where he is also the Head of Acting. He is also Professor of Actor Education, the only person to hold this position in the country. He directs and teaches on the acting courses at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Recent full-scale productions include Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale' and 'Two Noble Kinsmen', Beaumont and Fletchers' 'Philaster', Buchner's 'Woyzeck' and Wedekind's 'Lulu'. Most recently he has directed the award-winning musical 'Spring Awakening', 'The Revenger's Tragedy', 'Total Eclipse' and 'A Clockwork Orange'.

More about Stephen