The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Nicholas Barter
Nicholas Barter
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, established in 1904, is one of the most distinguished drama schools in Britain. Select students receive a broad range of training for three years in areas such as classical theatre, radio, television and advertisement. RADA has produced outstanding actors like Sir John Gielgud and Juliet Stephenson. Since Nicholas Barter became the principal, RADA has been regularly associated with Japan, conducting workshops in Japan and producing modern plays such as Fuyuhiko by Nozomi Makino and so on. Mr. Barter has also helped in the setting up of Performing Arts Japan and is planning to put up another modern play soon. He also hopes to start running workshops for Japanese actors at RADA again from 2007.
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Presenter Interview
This interview explores the actor education system at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, an institution with a 100-year history 
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which is located on Gower Street in the academic Bloomsbury area of London, was established at His Majesty’s Theatre in the West End in 1904 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the actor manager who became known for productions of Shakespeare’s plays. The following year, the school moved to its current address and for over 100 years since it has helped to produce famous classically trained actors, such as Sir John Gielgud and Kenneth Branagh, as well as technical staff for the theatre. When Nicholas Barter became principal in 1993, RADA started a unique collaboration by accepting Japanese students with, running workshops in Japan and asking Japanese directors to direct modern Japanese plays with their students. We talked with Mr. Barter about today’s theater education in Great Britain and more.
(Interviewer: Shinko Suga)

First of all, can you tell us how actors are trained in Britain? As you know, in many countries actors are trained by different theatre companies and not by a drama school. Where do the British actors get training and develop their career?
In Great Britain, there are numbers of drama schools, which are specialized places for training actors, also for stage technicians, for directors and for designers. There are 22 schools that belong to an organisation called the Conference of Drama Schools and every school sets high standards for all its members. Of course, there are a lot more small schools outside this conference, but these 22 schools are generally recognised nationally as being good places to train. Most of them have a three-year course. Over the last ten years, many of them have moved from further education to higher education, so they have some link with universities, but basically the training remains vocational. It’s not an academic course.
In 2001, we created the very first Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, which has never existed before. There have been such programs for art and design, and for music, but never for dance and drama. There are three drama schools, four dance schools and one circus training school in this Conservatoire. The students receive funding from the Higher Education Funding Council.
Now in Britain, most actors who train in a drama school are able to work with other actors who trained in other drama schools, because they receive the same kind of training.

Can you tell us about the courses at RADA?
We have a three-year degree in acting, a two-year diploma in so-called technical theatre arts, which is basic stage management. Then we have five shorter courses, one year and one term, in prop making, in wardrobe and costume, in set construction which is wood and metal work, in scene painting and also in lighting design and stage electrics. We also have a one-year course in directing and a two-year course in theatre design. These are quite small courses, only two or three people on each course.

RADA does not have a script-writing course. In Britain where do they train a scriptwriter?
There is no standard way, but some playwrights come out of university drama departments. It is interesting to tell you that we also have an MA course, which we teach with Kings College London, London University, where we have been teaching for thirteen years. This MA course also has a script-writing element in it. Also, in our contemporary text class we encourage students to write. We are actually developing some new plays in the school, although we do not actually have a script-writing course.

Roughly, how many students do you take for RADA every year?
We take about 160 new students every year. Last year we auditioned 2,300 people for 32 places and took 16 women and 16 men for the acting course. It’s a four-stage process which takes us from November until June every year to choose the students. They are a very wide mixture, anywhere from eighteen to thirty years old and we choose them through a system of two stages of audition. In the first stage they do a Shakespeare and modern speech and receive a short interview. They are seen by two people, an actor and a director or actor and teacher. The second stage is a recall where they do again a Shakespeare and a modern speech and sing a short song unaccompanied, and they have a longer interview. They are seen by four people, one of whom is either myself as principal or our dean of studies. In the third stage they come as a group of eighteen and they break into three groups of six. They spend one hour doing Shakespeare, one hour doing Chekhov and one hour working on an audition speech. So they are seen in a workshop situation, in a small group of six people. In the fourth stage, that is the last stage, they come in groups of sixteen, they spend a whole day at RADA. They do a movement class, voice class, scene-study class, improvisation class, they work again on a different audition speech and at the end of the day we are all together, both students and staff. We watch the speeches and then we make our selection from that.

How do you train actors at RADA?
In the first year they do mainly class work. And each student has their own voice teacher they stay with for the three years of training. They do speech, dialect accents, they learn to speak Standard English as well as their own regional speech, they do Alexander technique, stage movement, stage fighting, and both unarmed and armed combat. They do singing, with their individual teacher, one to one singing lessons for three years. They do choral singing as well and then these individual courses are supplemented by acting classes, in the Stanislavski system.
As the course develops they begin to do a project. They do a realist project at the end of term two. In term three, they do a dance project and Shakespeare project. In term four they do two text projects, usually a poetic text, presented internally. In term five, they do a Jacobean project, and they also do stage fighting and practice for working for television and radio. In term six they continue the radio training and do a Restoration period play for an internal project. At the end of term six, the end of the second year, they do their first presentation for a public audience, quite often a young people’s play to a young audience.
Then in the third year they move into a different regime, whereby they do two productions each term directed by a fully professional director from outside the school and designed by a professional designer from outside the school. So, they will do two plays in the autumn term, two plays in the spring term, and in the summer term they do first of all an agents presentation where they do a two-minute speech or four-minutes scene to an invited audience of theatrical agents, casting directors, regional theatre directors, anybody who can give them employment or help to get them employed, and then, they do a final production on stage before graduation. This is the basic curriculum.

Are the students mostly British?
In the acting course, we do have foreign students but most are British. Normally, we have two students each year from abroad. They are usually from an English-speaking country like America, Canada, or Australia. On the technical course we can be a little bit more generous, because it’s not so important for them to have perfect English. So, we have trained Japanese stage managers, a Japanese prop maker, we have had students from Norway, Holland, Switzerland, France, Germany, and South Korea. The stage management course is a much more international course.

How often do the students get a job immediately after the graduation?
Eighty-five percent of our students will be in work within three months of graduation. We would expect them to be working soon professionally but it’s not like the Japanese system where you join a company. It’s a freelance world, so they might be doing one television, one radio, one stage play, and one film.... That’s why an agent is so helpful, because they are moving from job to job. According to the recent survey we have done, 75 percent of our actors are still working regularly after five years. So, we hope most will be continuing as professionals.
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