Full Time Professional Training Courses

MA Performance Design

Key Information
  • Award

    Master of Arts, MA

  • Admissions process

    Interviews and portfolio

  • Duration

    One year (full-time)

  • Academic Year

    30 September 2024 – 18 July 2025

  • Application deadline

    31 March 2024 at 4 PM (GMT)

    Applications for 2024 entry to the MA Performance Design course are now closed

Term Dates

Course Overview

This specialist course provides vocational training to prepare you for a career in designing for performance. Over the year, you’ll develop a broad range of practical, creative and technical skills by engaging in skills-based classes as well as a combination of project and production work. You’ll also have opportunities to foster creative collaborations with students from your course, as well as other undergraduate and postgraduate creatives across the School. We aim to support you in creating a portfolio of project and realised design work, in preparation for launching your professional career.

ⓘ You may also be interested in our short course, Design a Play in 5 Days, running between 29 July and 2 August 2024. Find out more.

A short taster video

Course highlights

  • Learn your craft through specialist masterclasses led by core staff and visiting industry practitioners.
  • Explore a specialist area of interest to you, to support your intended career pathway.
  • See your design work realised in the School’s professional-standard productions.
  • Exhibit your work in an exhibition attended by industry professionals and the public.
  • Meet industry professionals for one-to-one interviews, networking and feedback.
Figures holding umbrellas walking under bright lights and rain in The Laramie Project

Course structure

The course curriculum is structured across four modules, aimed at progressively enhancing your skills and experience. The course shifts from theoretical projects and skills sessions to specialised self-directed projects and realised design practice.

You’ll begin your first term by working on a design project, aimed at developing your approach to the design process as well as your collaborative skills. Alongside this, you’ll also attend skill-development classes in model-making, computer-aided design (CAD), costume history, and theatrical context and style. The second part of the term allows you to bring together what you have learnt to design set or costume for one of the School’s spring term public productions.

In the second term, you’ll delve into your design specialisation in greater depth by exploring one of two pathways:

• Either a large-scale, notional design project for a musical or opera alongside a professional director;

• or a site-specific notional project to create a proposal and design in collaboration with an MA Drama Writing student.

Your chosen pathway gives you the opportunity to develop skills and expertise in your desired area of specialisation – whether it is set, costume, lighting, projection or prop design.

Your third and final term will focus largely on realising your work at a practical level. You’ll design for a second live production, taking on the role of set and costume designer for a full professional-standard production as part of the BOVTS Summer Festival. Concurrently, you’ll also prepare for career launch activities including meeting with industry professionals at the end-of-year graduate exhibition. The course’s collaborative approach and structured progression ensure your readiness for professional performance design standards.

Launching your career

This programme will equip you with an advanced level of specialist and transferable skills essential for a successful career in designing for stage, screen, events or other performance-based industries. In the final term, a significant portion of your time will be dedicated to preparing for your career launch.

The highlight of career launch activities is the graduate exhibition where you will showcase your design portfolio at a public venue in Bristol, accessible to a wide audience. Additionally, you’ll engage in a series of interviews with professionals from the design industry at the exhibition, making it the ideal launch-pad for your career.

Our graduates have an excellent track record of consistent employment as freelance design professionals and leading creative collaborations. Graduates are regularly successful in attaining trainee design positions at the RSC and as finalists and winners of the Linbury Prize for design. Recent graduates have designed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Shakespeare’s Globe, as well as for BOVTS productions.

As a student, the most important aspect of a course is putting into practice what you've been learning, and we do that constantly. I cannot recommend BOVTS enough - my showreel has never looked better! April Storm Perry, MA Screen Acting Student