I'm an actress and freelance writer living in North London
Published April 10th 2011
With the rich culture of theatre and film, as well as the fact that it is home to some of the UKs biggest stars it is no wonder that people are drawn to acting and performance whilst in London. It was my love of acting that drew me to London and to drama school.
There are thousands of courses in acting, and acting related mediums but hopefully this little guide will help you along the way.
Most full-time courses in London are designed for those who are looking at a career as an actor. Some of these courses have made some of todays biggest TV, film and stage stars.
The majority of these courses fall into two categories, straight Acting or Musical Theatre, with additional courses focusing on dance, classical acting or another type of performance. For those looking for a full-time course, a good starting point is the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT). This is a body of people who accredit performance courses, to ensure that students get the greatest type of drama training. Accredited schools include RADA, LAMDA, East 15 and The Central School of Speech and Drama, to name a few.
Some courses are degree courses, others are one-year specialist courses, and they have various different ways of applying, but most require an audition element before acceptance. Competition for places is fierce and the fees are extremely expensive. However, like many other university places, some funding can be found via either sponsorship, government awards or other schemes. The Dance and Drama Awards, offer specific funding for exceptional students, and each school works in a different way. Visit the website for full details. Lower age limit is usually 18, but there is no upper age limit, and life experience is considered a major plus point at most schools.
Due to the financial burden, courses such as this are often unaccessible to many people. So there are similar schools who offer training at a lower price, and are becoming more respected within the industry despite not being accredited by the NCDT.
The Bridge Theatre Training Company, based in North West London, is designed to give similar actor training to accredited schools but at a much lower price.This is often an excellent option for those who simply cannot afford expensive training. Similar schools also include, The Poor School.
There are many other full-time options, including university courses, and other schools, some focusing on music or screen acting. It is worth taking a look at the NCDT website for more information.
Part-Time courses tend to fall into 3 categories. Training to become an Actor, additional training for Professional actors or amateur classes for those who just want to flex their creative muscles. There are so many through out London, that it is impossible to list them all, but here is a few pointers to help you along the way. A lot of drama schools, offer individual short-courses, focusing on specific types of acting and performing, so it is worth checking out their individual websites. Places such as City Lit, a part-time adult education centre, have various short courses with weekly sessions, brilliant if you are after an introduction to acting at a reasonable price.
The Actors Studio is designed for professionals, and you can only become a member if you can prove to be so, but they offer introduction to acting classes, which usually last for either a few full days, or are spread out over a few weeks. So it easy to work around them.
For more classes both amateur and professional, it is worth checking out The Stage, a performance Newspaper that has been around since the 1920's! Produced weekly, it is always up to date with new companies and classes looking for members. You can also get access to their advertisements via their website.
Courses For Children
Two of the most famous schools in London, that prepare children for a career in the arts are Silvia Young Theatre School and Italia Conti. If you are serious about getting your child professional training these could be a good place to start. Although more on the expensive side, these schools provide full professional training, both full-time and part-time. Course require audition and there are some scholarship places. They do need considerable thought though, as it is a big step for a young performer. If you child is lucky enough to gain a full-time place, they will attend the school, like a regular school, with performance lessons in addition to a regular curriculum.
Stagecoach, run acting, singing and dancing classes around the country, with many in London. It is also worth checking local press as classes tend to be advertised locally unless they are part of a national company. Also check out my article on East London Performers Academy here.
When looking for more local classes,make sure the teachers are professionally trained, either in teaching or as a professional performer, look out for schools mentioned earlier.
Again, the stage newspaper advertise children's classes regularly. Classes for children usually start from around £10-20 be aware of extortionate prices for short sessions, with untrained teachers. Also don't be afraid to ask if they are CRB checked.
Hopefully some of that information will get you on your way. If you have any problems or worries, Equity, the actors union can offer some advice to non-members, in terms of professional training, however they cannot recommend courses.