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
TypeDrama school
Established1904; 115 years ago (1904)
PresidentSir Kenneth Branagh
DirectorEdward Kemp
AffiliationsKing's College London
Birkbeck, University of London
Conservatoire for Dance and Drama

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is a drama school in London, England that provides training for film, television and theatre. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious drama schools in the United Kingdom, founded in 1904 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

RADA is an affiliate school of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. Its higher education awards are validated by King's College London (King's)[1] and its students graduate alongside members of the departments which form the King's 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]

Undergraduate students are eligible for government student loan through the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. RADA also has a significant scholarships and bursaries scheme, offering financial assistance to many students at the Academy.[4]

The current director of the academy is Edward Kemp.[5] The president is Sir Kenneth Branagh, the chairman is Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and its vice-chairman was Alan Rickman until his death in 2016.[6][7]


RADA was founded in 1904 by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, an actor manager, at His Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket. In 1905, RADA moved to 52 Gower Street, and a managing council was set up to oversee the school. Its members included George Bernard Shaw, who later donated his royalties from his play Pygmalion to RADA, and gave lectures to students at the school.[8]

In 1920, RADA was granted a Royal Charter, and in 1921, a new theatre was built on Malet Street, behind the Gower Street buildings. The Prince of Wales opened the theatre. The Gower Street buildings were torn down in 1927, and replaced with a new building, financed by George Bernard Shaw, who also left one third of his royalties to the academy on his death in 1950.

In 1923, John Gielgud studied at RADA for a year. He later became President of the academy, and its first honorary fellow. A number of famous actors took on leading roles at RADA, such as Richard Attenborough, Oliver Neville, Nicholas Barter, and Alan Rickman.

1924 saw RADA's first government subsidy, a grant of £500. The academy received other government funding over the years, including a £22.7m grant from the Arts Council National Lottery Board, which was used to renovate its premises, and rebuild the Varnbrugh Theatre.

In 2001, RADA joined forces with the London Contemporary dance School to create the UK's first Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. The Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance joined this Conservatoire in 2005.

RADA expanded its course offering over the years, adding Short Courses for actors and courses for American and Japanese students in London in 1995-98; a one-year drama Foundation Course in 2007; an MA in Text & Performance, affiliated with Birkbeck College in 2010; and an MA Theatre Lab course and a Sound Design in Theatre course in 2011.

RADA in Business[edit]

In 2000 the Academy founded RADA Enterprises Ltd, which includes RADA in Business, providing training in communications and teambuilding that uses drama training techniques in a business context. The profits are fed back into the Academy to fund students' training.[9]


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.[10]

The Gower and Malet Street building was re-developed in the late 1990s to designs by Bryan Avery,[11] and incorporated the new theatres and linking the entrances on both streets.


RADA has five theatres and a cinema. In the Malet Street building, the Jerwood Vanburgh 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.[12] In January 2012, RADA acquired the lease to the adjacent Drill Hall venue in Chenies Street and renamed it RADA Studios. The Drill Hall is a Grade II listed building with a long performing arts history, and was where Nijinsky rehearsed with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1911.[13] This venue has a 200-seat space, the Studio Theatre, and a 50-seat space, the Club Theatre.[14]

In April 2016, planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Chenies Street premises, to comprise the new Richard Attenborough Theatre (named after former President, Lord Attenborough), new library, archive and office spaces, a refectory with public access and the Academy’s first ever on-site student accommodation.[15]


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.[16] The collection was started in 1904 with donations from actors and writers of the time such as Sir Squire Bancroft, William Archer, Arthur Wing Pinero and George Bernard Shaw.

Other facilities[edit]

Other facilities at RADA include acting studios, a scenic art workshop with paint frame, costume workrooms and extensive costume store, dance and fight studios, design studios, wood and metal workshops, sound studios, rehearsal studios, and the RADA Foyer Bar, which includes a fully licensed bar, a café and a box office.[17]


The RADA Theatre on Malet Street.

RADA accepts up to 28 new students each year into its three-year BA in Acting course, with a 50-50 split of male and female students.[18] Admission is based on suitability and successful audition, via the four-stage audition process. Auditions are held in London as well as in New York, Dublin, Manchester and Leicester. RADA also teaches Technical Theatre & Stage Management (TTSM) - a two-year Foundation Degree and with a further 'completion' year to BA level which has to be separately applied for and which allows for specialisation in all theatre craft areas. The TTSM course admits up to 36 students a year. There is also specialist technical training in Theatre Costume Making at Post Graduate level.[19]

RADA’s postgraduate training currently comprises a MA Theatre Lab programme and a Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume (both validated by King's College London). RADA also jointly teaches an MA in Text and Performance with Birkbeck College, University of London, where students on this course are enrolled at RADA as well as registered at Birkbeck. Both MA courses frequently collaborate according to their specialisms (i.e., directors on the Text & Performance programme using actors from the Theatre Lab course). Rehearsals and performances for the programmes are done mostly in the Chenies Street and Malet Street buildings.[20]

In addition, RADA offers a series of short courses, masterclasses and summer courses for a range of standards and ages. The Academy’s education and outreach work includes an Elders Company, Youth Company, schools’ workshops and the RADA Shakespeare Awards.[20]

Associate members[edit]

RADA has a number of notable associate members[clarification needed] including Jane Asher, Sir Michael Gambon, Robert Bourne, Sir 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[edit]

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


  1. ^ "RADA: An introduction". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "King's College London Dates and Locations". King's College London. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Visiting us". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  4. ^ (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Fees & Funding". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  5. ^ "RADA staff". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  6. ^ Furness, Hannah (3 October 2015). "Sir Kenneth Branagh made president of RADA to upstage the posh brigade". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Governance and advisers". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  8. ^ "About us — RADA".
  9. ^ (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA in Business - What We Do". Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Visiting Us". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  11. ^ "Bryan Avery obituary". The Guardian. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  12. ^ "About RADA | Venue Hire | Theatres"[permanent dead link], RADA. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  13. ^ "History of Ballets Russes". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  14. ^ (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Theatres & The Screen @ RADA". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  15. ^ Peatman, Laura. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - 'Attenborough Project' redevelopment plans approved unanimously". Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  16. ^ (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Library". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  17. ^ "Prospectus 2012" (PDF). Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  18. ^ Johnson, Remi. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - RADA is accessible to everyone". Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  19. ^ Swann, Flo. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Welcome". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  20. ^ a b (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Courses at". Retrieved 6 June 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′18″N 0°07′54″W / 51.521746°N 0.131538°W / 51.521746; -0.131538