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Interview: Drama, Theatre and Performance - Niamh Dowling on Rose Bruford College's new and exciting postgraduate programme

Rosemary Waugh: Rose Bruford has just extended its postgraduate programme. What are the new courses and what’s special about them?

Niamh Dowling: Post-graduate provision is relatively new to Rose Bruford and we’ve partnered up with international training schools and organisations. So in London, for example, we have a programme with theatre company Told by an Idiot. And in Berlin with have two MA programmes with LISPA, a training school that came out of the Lecoq school in Paris.

The newest course [International Theatre and Performance] is something we’re starting this year. It’s one year in London, one year at the National Theatre Institute in Connecticut, six months at the Moscow Arts Theatre, and six months back in London.

It’s also worth saying the postgrad programme moves out from the Sidcup campus where we offer undergraduate programmes. This is so the post-graduate training is happening at a professional level.

Rosemary: Who would you say is the ideal student for one of these postgrad courses?

Niamh: The ideal student will be someone who’s curious, intelligent, creative, ambitious, and reflective. The kind of student who would be interested in looking at the creative world in a much broader context than just: ‘I’m an actor and I’m going to act in this’. A student who sees themselves much more as an artist and as a creative leader.

Rosemary: What stage in their career would someone benefit most from doing a postgrad course at?

Niamh: We often get people who come in as an actor or designer and they’re looking to think of themselves in a more globalised way. We have those international contacts, including places in 7 or 8 different countries where students go and work with companies.

It’s always about students who have possession of themselves as artists, but want to move into a bigger, international network.

Rosemary: The Collaborative Theatre Making MA/MFA runs in collaboration with Told By An Idiot and has already been going for a year. Why did you decide to work with this particular company and how’s it been going so far?

Niamh: As the programme has developed it’s become really clear that the students are not becoming mini Idiots! They’re gathering a set of skills in performance and theatre-making, and they’re developing their own identities.

It’s been very interesting for us, because sometimes students think they're being asked to produce work to go into that company, but they’re not. It’s about producing a set of skills that are improvisational, light, comic, tragic, and through that expressing their own individuality as theatre-makers.

Rosemary: A lot of the postgrad courses have practical and theoretical elements. How do these different parts combine?

Niamh: In reality we don’t think of it as theory and practice, we think of it as practical work with an academic underpinning. Basically, they’re practice-based courses and the research practice is about looking at a performer’s practice contextually, reflectively, and academically.

I think it’s really important they’re practical courses where the written work isn’t writing dissertations and essays. It’s about different ways of performative writing, whether that’s creative writing, reflective writing, or academic writing.

Rosemary: Many students studying theatre and performance are nervous about making a financially stable career in the industry. How would studying for one of these courses help them to get jobs in the future?

Niamh: Once you start owning your work and finding a way to write about and practice it, opportunities do open up, particularly in terms of funding and collaborations. It’s having the confidence and experience that allows you to go out, make and perform.

Rosemary: Returning to university after a break can seem pretty scary. Why is Rose Bruford a good environment for professionals returning to studying?

Niamh: It’s about valuing what professionals already have. We have people approaching us who are really experienced teachers, directors and writers who say ‘I want to get a qualification, can I do a BA?’ And I think: ‘Absolutely not!’ because the experience they have is beyond the experience of many people at undergraduate level.

We’re not saying you have to do lots of essays, because it’s not about academic confidence it’s about what their experience brings.

Rosemary: If I was interested in applying for one of these courses, where could I find out more information and how do I apply?

Niamh: We have workshops for those who are interested in applying, and our final one this year is on Saturday 8 September. You can also visit our website www.bruford.ac.uk, or they can email me at niamh.dowling@bruford.ac.uk.