Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

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Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Gower Street entrance
The main entrance to RADA on Gower Street
Established 1904
Type Drama school
Director Edward Kemp
Location London, England
Affiliations Conservatoire for Dance and Drama
King's College London
National Council for Drama Training
Rada logo.jpg

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is a drama school in London, England. It is one of the oldest drama schools in the United Kingdom, founded in 1904.

RADA is an affiliate school of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. Its higher education awards are validated by King's College London (KCL) [1] and its students graduate alongside members of the departments which form the KCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities.[2] It is based in the Bloomsbury area of Central London, close to the Senate House complex of the University of London.[3]

The current director of the academy is Edward Kemp.[4] The president is Sir Kenneth Branagh, the chairman is Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and the vice-chairman is Alan Rickman.[5][6]



Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who founded the Academy of Dramatic Art in 1904.
George Bernard Shaw, who donated the royalties from his play Pygmalion to RADA in 1912.

In 1904 Herbert Beerbohm Tree established an Academy of Dramatic Art at His Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket (London).[7] In 1905 the Academy moved to 62 Gower Street. Fees of six guineas a term were doubled in 1906, except for the children of actors, who paid only half[clarification needed]. A managing council was established on which Tree was joined, among others, by Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and Sir James Barrie. Within a few years they were augmented by others, including W. S. Gilbert, Irene Vanbrugh and George Bernard Shaw. In 1909 Kenneth Barnes, brother of the Vanbrugh sisters, was appointed principal. In 1912 George Bernard Shaw donated the royalties from Pygmalion to the Academy; it ultimately benefitted substantially from the success of My Fair Lady. Pre-First World War graduates of the Academy included Athene Seyler, who became president in 1950, Robert Atkins and Cedric Hardwicke. During this period Beerbohm Tree took some forty academy graduates into his company at His Majesty's.

In 1920 the Academy was granted its Royal Charter. In 1921 a new theatre for the academy was built in Malet Street, adjacent to the Gower Street premises. In 1923 John Gielgud, who would later become President and first Honorary Fellow of RADA, studied at the Academy for a year. In 1924 the Academy received its first government subsidy in the form of a Treasury grant of £500. In 1927 the two Georgian houses which comprised the Gower Street site were replaced with a single new building, with George Bernard Shaw donating £5,000 towards the cost. In 1931 the Duchess of York opened the new building. In 1941 Richard Attenborough joined the Academy as a Leverhulme scholar. At the height of World War II, the Academy's theatre was demolished by bombs during an air-raid and public performances moved to the City Literary Institute. Academy students toured shows to the troops. The sculptor Alan Durst was responsible for the sculptural work over the Malet Street entrance.[citation needed]


In 1950 George Bernard Shaw died and bequeathed one third of all his royalties to RADA. In 1954 the new Vanbrugh Theatre, named after Irene Vanbrugh, was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. In 1955 Sir Kenneth Barnes retired and John Fernald was appointed principal. The number of students was reduced and entry became more difficult. During the late 1950s and 1960s the growth of the local education authority grant systems ushered in a 'new wave' of actors including Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Glenda Jackson, John Hurt, Michael Williams and Anthony Hopkins. In 1962 a stage management course was introduced. In 1964 the Vanbrugh Theatre Club was established. In 1967, following debate concerning RADA receiving funds from the Shaw bequest, the Government withdrew its annual grant. In 1970 specialist technical courses were established. In 1977 the 'Tree ' evenings, named in honour of RADA's founder, were introduced with leading agents and casting directors invited to presentations by final year students in the Vanbrugh. During this period another 'new wave' of actors emerges at the Academy, including Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Kenneth Branagh, Bruce Payne and Fiona Shaw.

In 1986 the acting diploma course was extended from seven to nine terms. In 1989 HRH, The Princess of Wales, visited the Academy as President of Council to install her predecessor, Sir John Gielgud, as RADA's first Honorary Fellow. In 1990 the Academy invested the capital accrued from the Shaw bequest in the freehold of 18 Chenies Street, with the help of donations from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and British Telecommunications. King's College London offered an MA in text and performance study in conjunction with the Academy. In 1993 the 'Friends of RADA' was inaugurated and the academy established its first courses for Japanese professional actors in Tokyo. In 1996 RADA received a £22.7m grant from the Arts Council National Lottery Board towards redeveloping the academy's headquarters, including a complete re-build of the Vanbrugh Theatre and Malet Street premises designed by London-based architect Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects. The council established a committee to raise the necessary matching funds of £8m over four years. Discretionary local authority grants were phased out over the next two years. In 1997 the rebuilding of the Gower/Malet Street premises began. In 1995/8 the Academy extended its portfolio of short courses for British actors and special courses for American and Japanese students in London. In 1998 the Vanbrugh Theatre Club was dissolved.


In 2000 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II re-opened the academy's refurbished Gower Street/Malet Street building. In 2001 the second stage of the Centenary Project, to create new spaces for the Academy's work at 20 and 22 Chenies Street, began. In 2001 RADA became one of the two founding affiliates of Britain's first higher education Conservatoire for Dance and Drama and RADA courses began being validated by King's College London. In 2002, King's College London awarded the first BA in acting to an academy student and the RADA Youth Group was launched. In 2004 RADA celebrated its centenary. In 2006 the academy replaced the Friends of RADA with a new scheme for supporters, the RADA Stars. In 2007 the Academy introduced its one-year drama foundation course, accepting 32 pupils per year. In 2007 the role of principal was abolished and new roles of 'managing director' and 'artistic director' were established.


The RADA building at 18 Chenies Street

RADA is based in the Bloomsbury area of Central London. The main RADA building is on Gower Street (with a second entrance on Malet Street), with a second premises nearby in Chenies Street. The Goodge Street and Euston Square underground stations are both within walking distance.[8]


RADA has five theatres (and a cinema). At the Malet Street building, the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre is the largest performance space with a capacity of 183, the George Bernard Shaw Theatre is a black box theatre with a capacity of 100, and the John Gielgud Theatre is a black box theatre with a capacity of 70. There is also a 150-seat cinema.[9] In January 2012, RADA acquired the lease to the adjacent Drill Hall venue in Chenies Street and renamed it RADA Studios. This venue has a 200-seat space, the Studio Theatre, and a 50-seat space, the Club Theatre.[9]


The RADA library contains around 30,000 items. Works include around 10,000 plays; works of or about biography, costume, criticism, film, fine art, poetry, social history, stage design, technical theatre, and theatre history; screenplays; and theatre periodicals.[10]

Other facilities

Other facilities at RADA include acting studios, an art workshop, a costume workroom, dance and fight studios, design studios, wood and metal workshops, a sound studio, rehearsal studios, and the RADA Foyer Bar, which includes a fully licensed bar and a box office.[11]


The RADA Theatre on Malet Street.

RADA accepts 26 new students each year into its three-year BA in acting course. Admission is based on suitability and successful audition. RADA also teaches Technical Theatre & Stage Management (TTSM) - a two-year Foundation Degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management, with admissions of up to 28 students a year. There are also specialist technical subjects through 4 term graduate certificate courses (in Theatre Design, Theatre Costume, Scenic Art (this course runs in partnership with the apprenticeship schemes of the Royal Opera House and The Royal National Theatre), Scenic Construction, Property Making and Stage Electrics and Lighting Design) and offers a Master (MA) in Text and Performance Studies taught jointly between RADA and Birkbeck College, University of London. Approximately 35 students are chosen each year for these courses.

Associate members

RADA has a number of notable associate members including Jane Asher, Sir Michael Gambon, Robert Bourne, Kenneth Branagh, Jon Cryer, Richard Digby Day, Trevor Eve, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Fox, Iain Glen, Gerald Harper, Sir Ian Holm, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Derek Jacobi, Patricia Kneale, Paul McGann, Dame Helen Mirren, Alex Kingston, Sir Trevor Nunn, Dame Diana Rigg, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Lord Snowdon, Shelley Thompson, Alan Rickman, Timothy Dalton, Sir Roger Moore, Steve McFadden and Dame Joan Collins who serves as the Honorary President of the RADA Associates.

Notable alumni

John Gielgud, who studied at RADA in 1923 and would later become President and first Honorary Fellow.

Notable RADA alumni include:


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  2. See RADA section under King's College London. Accessed 10 June 2015
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  7. RADA Conservatoire for Dance and Drama.
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  9. 9.0 9.1 "About RADA | Venue Hire | Theatres", RADA. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
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External links

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