dramatic art

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), in Bloomsbury, London, is generally regarded as one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world, and one of the oldest drama schools in England .


RADA accepts 33 new students each year onto its BA in Acting course. However, no educational requirements need to be met and admission is based purely on suitability and successful audition. RADA also teaches technical theatre arts through a 2 year graduate diploma course and specialist technical subjects through 4 term graduate certificate courses. Approximately 35 students are chosen each year for these courses.

RADA is administered through King's College London, which is part of the University of London.

Current leadership

As of 2007, Lord Attenborough is President of RADA, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen is Chairman, and Alan Rickman and Michael Attenborough are the school's Vice-Chairmen. The Managing Director is Jeremy Newton and the Artistic Director is Edward Kemp.

Associate members

RADA has a number of notable associate members, including Jane Asher, Sir Michael Gambon, Robert Bourne, Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Richard Digby Day, Trevor Eve, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Fox, Gerald Harper, Sir Ian Holm, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Derek Jacobi, Patricia Kneale, Paul McGann, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Trevor Nunn, Peter O’Toole, Dame Diana Rigg, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, and Lord Snowdon


  • 1904 -Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree , the leading actor manager of the day, famous for his spectacular Shakespeare productions, establishes an Academy of 'Dramatic Art' at Her Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket.
  • 1905 -The Academy moves to 62 Gower Street. Fees of six guineas a term are doubled the following year, except for the children of actors, who only pay half. A managing Council is established on which Tree is joined, among others, by Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and Sir James Barrie. Within a few years they are augmented by other major figures, including W.S. Gilbert, Irene Vanbrugh and, perhaps most significantly, George Bernard Shaw.
  • 1909 -Kenneth Barnes, brother of the Vanbrugh sisters, is appointed Principal.
  • 1912 -George Bernard Shaw donates the royalties from Pygmalion to RADA, allowing the Academy eventually to benefit substantially from the success of My Fair Lady. Shaw gives occasional lectures to the students, including one called ‘Elementary Economics for Actors’. Pre-First World War graduates include Athene Seyler who later became President in 1950, Robert Atkins and Cedric Hardwicke. During this period Beerbohm Tree takes some forty Academy graduates into his company at His Majesty's.
  • 1920 -The Academy is granted its Royal Charter.
  • 1921 -A new theatre is built in Malet Street, backing on to the Gower Street premises. This is opened by the Prince of Wales.
  • 1923 -John Gielgud, who will eventually become President and first Honorary Fellow of RADA, studies for a year at the Academy, playing 17 parts, including two Hamlets.
  • 1924 -The Academy receives its first government subsidy in the form of a Treasury Grant of £500.
  • 1927 -The two Georgian houses which make up the Gower Street site are replaced with a single new building. GBS donates £5,000 towards the cost.
  • 1931 -The Duchess of York opens new building.
  • 1941 -Richard Attenborough joins the Academy as a Leverhulme scholar. At the height of World War Two, the Academy's theatre is demolished during an air-raid. Public performances shift to the City Literary Institute and students also tour shows to the troops.
  • 1950 -George Bernard Shaw dies and leaves one third of all his royalties to RADA.
  • 1954 -The new Vanbrugh Theatre named after Irene Vanbrugh, is opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
  • 1955 -Sir Kenneth Barnes, knighted in 1938, retires and John Fernald is appointed Principal. The number of students is reduced and entry becomes more difficult. During the late 50s and 60s the growth of the LEA grant systems ushers in the ‘new wave’ of actors including Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Glenda Jackson, John Hurt, Michael Williams and Anthony Hopkins.
  • 1962 -The Stage Management course is introduced.
  • 1964 -The Vanbrugh Theatre Club is established.
  • 1966 -John Fernald resigns and Hugh Crutwell becomes Principal.
  • 1967 -Following debate concerning RADA receiving funds from the Shaw bequest, the Government withdraws its annual grant.
  • 1970 -Specialist Technical Courses are established.
  • 1972 - Richard Attenborough becomes Chairman.
  • 1977 -The ‘Tree ’ evenings, named in honour of RADA's founder, are 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. These include Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Kenneth Branagh and Fiona Shaw.
  • 1984 -Oliver Neville becomes Principal.
  • 1986 -The Acting Diploma Course is extended from seven to nine terms.
  • 1989 -HRH, The Princess of Wales, visits the Academy as President of Council to install her predecessor, Sir John Gielgud, as RADA's first Honorary Fellow.
  • 1990 -The Academy invests 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 University, offers an MA in Text and Performance Study in conjunction with the Academy.
  • 1993 -Nicholas Barter becomes Principal. The ‘Friends of RADA’ is inaugurated and the Academy establishes its first courses for Japanese professional actors in Tokyo.
  • 1996 -RADA receives 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. Council establishes a committee to raise the necessary ‘matching’ partnership funding of £8m over four years. Discretionary local authority grants are phased out within the next two years.
  • 1997 -The rebuilding of the Gower/Malet Street premises commences.
  • 1995/8 -The Academy extends its portfolio of Short Courses for British actors and special courses for American and Japanese students in London.
  • 1998 -The Vanbrugh Theatre Club is dissolved.
  • 2000 -Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II re-opens the Academy's new and refurbished Gower Street/Malet Street building
  • 2001 -The second stage of the Centenary Project that of creating new spaces for the Academy's work at no's 20 & 22 Chenies St, gets underway.
  • 2001 -RADA becomes (with the London Contemporary Dance School) one of the two Founding Affiliates of Britain's first higher education Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. RADA courses are validated by King's College London.
  • 2002 -University of London awards the 1st BA in Acting. RADA appoints a Dean of Studies. RADA library introduces a computerized circulation and security system. RADA Youth Group is launch in autumn 2002.
  • 2003 -Lord Attenborough becomes President of RADA and John Whitney appointed as Chairman. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance join the Conservatoire.
  • 2004 -RADA celebrates its Centenary. LAMDA, The Circus Space and Central School of Ballet join the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama.
  • 2005 - Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, (joined 2005) joins the Conservatoire.
  • 2006 -The Academy aims to complete the refurbishment of the 20/22 Chenies Street premises by the end of the academic year.
  • 2006 -The Academy replaces the Friends of RADA with a new scheme for supporters, the RADA Stars.
  • 2007 -The Academy introduces its one-year drama Foundation Course, accepting 32 pupils per year.
  • 2007 - Nicholas Barter retires as Principal. The role of principal is removed and the new roles of 'Managing Director' filled by Jeremy Newton and 'Artistic Director' filled by Edward Kemp are created instead.


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