Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

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 drama schools in the United Kingdom, founded in 1904 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
The main entrance to RADA on Gower Street
TypeDrama school
Established1904 (1904)
PresidentSir Kenneth Branagh
DirectorEdward Kemp
AffiliationsFederation of Drama Schools, The Lir Academy

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] It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.[4]

Undergraduate students are eligible for government student loans. RADA also has a significant scholarships and bursaries scheme, offering financial assistance to many students at the Academy.[5]

The current director of the academy is Edward Kemp.[6] The president is Sir Kenneth Branagh, who took over after the death of his predecessor Lord Richard Attenborough in 2014, the chairman is Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen and its vice-chairman was Alan Rickman until his death in 2016. The patron is Queen Elizabeth II.[7][8]


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.[9]

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.

Principals of RADA

Presidents of RADA

Honorary Fellows

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 Vanbrugh Theatre.

In 2001, RADA joined forces with the London Contemporary dance School to create the UK's first Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (CDD). The other member schools are:[10]

RADA has been registered with the Office for Students as a higher education institution since July 2018. RADA left the CDD in August 2019 to become an independent higher education provider.[11] RADA is also a member of the Federation of Drama Schools, established in 2017.[12]

RADA has expanded its course offering over the years. The first stage management course was introduced in 1962, and today students on the Technical Theatre and Stage Management degree learn a variety of theatre production skills including lighting, sound, props, costume and make-up, stage management, production management and video design.[13]

In the 1990s it launched a programme of Short Courses which caters for actors and theatre technicians from across the world, including a special course for students at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.[14]

Other courses include a one-year acting Foundation Course introduced in 2007; an MA in Text & Performance, affiliated with Birkbeck College introduced in 2010; and an MA Theatre Lab course introduced in 2011.

In 2011, The Lir Academy was established in association with RADA at Trinity College Dublin, with the partnership of the Cathal Ryan Trust. Following RADA’s conservatoire-style, practical theatre training, The Lir Academy modelled it’s courses after the London based school.[15]

RADA Business

In 2000 the Academy founded RADA Enterprises Ltd, now known as RADA 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.[16]


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.[17]

The Gower and Malet Street building was re-developed in the late 1990s to designs by Bryan Avery,[18] 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 194; the George Bernard Shaw Theatre is a black box theatre with a capacity of up to 70; and the Gielgud Theatre is an intimate studio theatre with a capacity of up to 50.[19] 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.[20] This venue has a 200-seat space, the Studio Theatre, and a 50-seat space, the Club Theatre.[21]

In April 2016, planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Chenies Street premises as part of the Richard Attenborough Campaign.


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.[22] 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

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.[23]


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.[24] 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, and across the UK – in recent years this has included Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle and Plymouth. Free auditions are offered to any applicants with a household income of under £25,000.[25] 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 with a 50-50 gender balance, with the option to interview in Manchester and Plymouth.[26]

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.[27]

In addition, RADA offers a series of short courses, masterclasses and summer courses for a range of standards and ages. These attract students from around the world, from beginners to professionals; previous attendees have included Allison Janney, Liev Schreiber, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson. The Academy’s education and outreach work includes two Youth Companies,[28] schools’ workshops, Access to Acting workshops for young disabled people,[29] Shakespeare tours to secondary schools[30] and the RADA Shakespeare Awards.[31]

Associate members

Over the years RADA has had a number of notable Associate Members. The RADA Associates were disbanded in December 2010.

Notable alumni


  1. "RADA: An introduction". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. King's College London Dates and Locations
  3. "Visiting us". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  4. Granger, Rachel. "Rapid Scoping Study on Leicester Drama School" (PDF). De Montfort University Leicester. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  5. (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Fees & Funding". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  6. "RADA staff". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  7. Furness, Hannah (3 October 2015). "Sir Kenneth Branagh made president of RADA to upstage the posh brigade". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  8. "Governance and advisers". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  9. Hidden London: RADA
  10. Conservatoire for Dance and Drama schools
  11. RADA and LAMDA leave CDD
  12. Federation of Drama Schools: Partner Schools
  13. RADA: Theatre Production
  14. Shakespeare in Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  15. Fabrique. "Who we work with — RADA". Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  16. RADA Business: About Us
  17. "Visiting Us". Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  18. "Bryan Avery obituary". The Guardian. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  19. RADA: Venue Hire
  20. "History of Ballets Russes". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  21. (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Theatres & The Screen @ RADA". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  22. (admin), Jed Staton. "RADA: The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - Library". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  23. RADA: About Us
  24. RADA: BA (Hons) in Acting
  25. RADA: BA (Hons) in Acting
  26. RADA: Applications now Open
  27. RADA: Acting
  28. RADA: For schools, outreach and access
  29. RADA: Access to Acting
  30. Shakespeare for young audiences
  31. RADA: Short Courses - Shakespeare Awards

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