Applied and Contemporary Theatre at University of Surrey

Why study Applied and Contemporary Theatre over more traditional Drama School courses like Acting? I’m here to tell you how Applied and Contemporary Theatre differs from other courses at The Guildford School of Acting (GSA) and why you should apply!

What is Applied and Contemporary Theatre?

From Shakespeare to Children’s Theatre, Applied and Contemporary Theatre covers a plethora of theatrical topics. If you’re interested in theatre making and using theatre within the community to influence change then this is the course for you!

Applied and Contemporary Theatre is a unique course within GSA because the career aspirations of each member of the course are so different. To name a few, we have future writers, songwriters, directors, facilitators and performers.

Due to our aspirations being so varied, our projects have been curated to allow us to choose which skill we wish to nurture or explore in each project.


Applied and Contemporary Theatre is a practical and collaborative course, with small course sizes to maximise learning potential.

Performance skills

In each year of training, we have a module dedicated to the core fundamentals of performing: acting, voice, movement, singing and music.


Alongside performance skills, in years 1 and 2, we undertake a project with 8-12 hours per week dedicated to the project. Projects I’ve undertaken so far are: Storytelling, Greeks, Shakespeare, Site Specific Theatre, Children’s Theatre and Theatre as Change-Making. Within the project module is where we can explore individual skills such as directing.

Theatre Studies

Understanding the history of theatre is important for any theatrical course, In year 1 we explore a rapid timeline of theatre and learn key movements within theatre. In year 2 this focuses on contemporary theatre companies as well as learning and applying the different elements of theatre. This module is still delivered in a practical way utilising the amazing studio spaces.


The final term of our second year is dedicated to a placement to gain industry experience, the choice of placement venue is up to us – ranging from within the University, to with a theatre company or charity or even abroad, allowing us to focus on our individual area of interest and gain industry experience.

Additionally, we have the option of taking a placement year (PTY) in between years 2 and 3 of study to further develop either the same area of interest or an entirely different option.


Applied and Contemporary Theatre’s timetabled hours are slightly less than other courses at GSA at around 20-24 hours per week. This is to allow us the time to work on individual skills and projects. For example, individuals on my course have set up events such as GSA Labs, groups such as GSA Writers and we are currently rehearsing a play (written by myself).

Top Tips

Read lots of plays

The more you read the more you’ll learn, particularly if you’re interested in writing. We have access to Drama Online through the University which gives instant access to thousands of plays for free. 

Watch plays

Many theatres have ticket schemes for under 25-year-olds, so seeing theatre doesn’t have to break the bank. Utilise DigitalTheatre+, which is provided by the University, to watch shows for free on your laptop!

Be socially engaged

Our course has a focus on social change. We ask questions such as ‘How can theatre be used for means other than entertainment?’and ‘How can we make theatre more inclusive?’

Be open to everything

Being on a course with such varied skill sets, you are bound to come across a module or skill that you’ve not done before. But you might surprise yourself and end up discovering a hidden love for Shakespeare. Or if not a hidden love, at least a mutual understanding.

Do research

This course is not an “easier version of the Acting course”; we are a different course with different modules. If you only want to be a performer, maybe look towards a more traditional acting course, but if you want to be a performer PLUS something else – for example, a theatre maker, then this is the course for you!

Life at Guildford School of Acting – YouTube

Author: Chloe Coombes, Applied and Contemporary Theatre student at The University of Surrey