The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is the most prestigious drama school in Britain. Every year this world centre of excellence auditions thousands of potential actors, designers and technicians, and for those talented enough to win a place, there’s no better training.

As Juliet Stevenson CBE comments: ‘I can’t even imagine having had a career without RADA. It is inseparable from who I am as an actress.’ RADA was established in 1904 by renowned actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. One of its key strengths is that it has always maintained strong connections with the theatre and film industries, working with industry professionals to train the next generation. Many of the academy’s most celebrated graduates today still play an active part in their alma mater, from President Sir Kenneth Branagh to RADA ambassadors Ralph Fiennes, Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE and Dame Diana Rigg.

But RADA alumni don’t just sit on committees: in 2017, for example, the academy collaborated with the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company on a production of Hamlet. Directed by Branagh, it starred RADA graduate Tom Hiddleston in the title role, with a cast that included Nicholas Farrell, Lolita Chakrabarti and Ansu Kabia, as well as two 2017 graduates Eleanor de Rohan and Irfan Shamji.

RADA alumni Paul Pyant and James Cotterill were lighting designer and set and costume designer, respectively, while current Technical Theatre Arts students took on many backstage roles, giving them the fantastic opportunity of working alongside some of Britain’s top talent.

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What has always counted at RADA above all else is talent: more than 70 per cent of students on the core programmes receive financial support from the academy and, as a registered charity, RADA raises a minimum of £2m every year to sustain and ensure access to training. It also prides itself on its inclusivity: between 2015 and 2016, 27 per cent of students on the BA Acting course were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds; 39 per cent had a household income of below £25k and 54 per cent had a household income of below £43k.

While the academy’s core programmes accept fewer than 200 students a year, RADA works with thousands of people across the world, introducing them to acting and Shakespeare through a programme of short courses.

Twenty years ago it introduced RADA in Business, a training arm that helps people outside the theatre world to develop core communication skills. The programme, which has been a huge success, works with a wide range of business clients, from CEOs to retail assistants, lawyers to lecturers, all over the world. The academy is also a pioneer in training women to hold their space and have their voice heard through its women’s programmes designed for a range of levels. Even those with no theatrical pretensions or need to develop their communication skills can benefit from RADA: most of the academy’s productions are open to the public, covering everything from classic drama to rediscovered and new works. And, who knows? You could be applauding the next Kenneth Branagh or Anthony Hopkins.



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