Drama Centre London Performance
Image: Mark Duffield

Here are some frequently asked questions about Drama Centre London.

Drama Centre London is part of a University - is it still a professional preparation for a career in acting or directing?

Definitely yes! BA Acting at the Drama Centre London is undoubtedly one of the top six vocational acting courses in the UK. It is accredited by Drama UK – this means that a body representing the profession has approved it as a course with strictly vocational aims and the means to deliver these. All courses at the Drama Centre London share the same vocational aims – to prepare you for direct entry into the profession. Equally, all courses are rigorous, intensive and led by professional actors, directors and writers.

Most vocational drama courses in the UK now offer degrees; this is a recognition of the rigour and effort needed to progress on the courses and is not to be taken to mean that their vocational aims have been diluted. At the same time, being part of the University of the Arts London means that students get the best of both worlds - a rigorous professional training and education, supported by the facilities of the University such as accommodation, welfare support, IT, libraries, Student Union activities and much more.

I have heard that University acting courses take many students and do not offer them a lot of tuition.

Some may do, but Drama Centre London is exactly the opposite as the intake on the BA Acting is restricted to 16 students per year, Foundation and MA courses admit only around 20 students each and the BA Directing intake is five. 

On all courses the teaching week is both intensive and extensive, as you would expect in a leading conservatoire. Our undergraduate students spend Monday-Friday 9.30am to 8.30pm in timetabled classes and, as productions approach, often rehearse on Saturdays as well. 

Several Foundation and MA courses usually finish around 6pm in recognition of the different lifestyles of younger or more mature students, often with family or work commitments. You need not worry about being challenged by the course you are on – it will stretch you physically, emotionally and intellectually!

Although part of a much larger organisation, Drama Centre London itself remains small, there are altogether only 160 students spread across all courses and all years and the school retains the family atmosphere of a tightly-knit conservatoire.

What do you look for in a successful candidate?

We are looking for students who are ready to take on an extremely demanding profession, who are mature and self-confident, willing to take criticism and turn it to their advantage while preserving a sense of humour. Above all, we are looking for students who can express themselves freely and with confidence.

We are looking for potential student actors, directors and writers who are committed, sensitive, imaginative, curious and resilient, with a passion for drama and a serious approach to the art of theatre and film in the classical tradition. In addition, we are looking for students who are not afraid to risk, to respond to stimuli and who are fired up by the idea of being in an ensemble, working generously and openly.

Student selection criteria

Drama Centre London seeks to audition/interview all qualified applicants. 

In general, panels look for:

  • Stage presence
  • Ability to work as part of a group
  • Ability to respond to direction or give direction, as appropriate to the course
  • Useful balance between emotional and intellectual engagement
  • Spirit of enquiry
  • Storytelling ability, both verbally and through visual means
  • Knowledge of the demands and the realities of the profession

Your general interview can focus on:

  • An examination of your knowledge of theatre and film, professional aspirations and understanding of the realities of the profession
  • Why you are interested in Drama Centre London and its particular approaches to training
  • Your choice of texts and understanding of the plays or films you have seen or worked on

Each course has specific entry requirements – please look at course descriptions for details. 

I intend to visit several schools before deciding where to apply. How will I be able to tell whether they suit my needs?

First, going to see as many schools as you can is an excellent idea. Most schools have Open Days specifically designed for this purpose (see our open days listings). You should also try and see public performances and film screenings produced by outgoing students. Meeting current students for a chat in the theatre bar after a show can give you a ground-level insight into what a particular school has to offer.

When visiting a school, you might find it useful to ask some specific questions such as:

  • Is there a school ‘philosophy’ or particular approach? 
  • Does the school/course have certain emphases? Classical vs. contemporary repertoire, stage vs. screen, straight drama vs. musical theatre vs. dance?
  • How many hours of tuition are given each week for your course, in particular in the “skills acquisition phase” (say, the first two years of a three-year course or equivalent period for shorter courses)?
  • Is your course really a ‘pathway’ within a larger academic unit? If yes, what will your relationship be with the other parts of the course?
  • How many public performances will your course put on?
  • What proportion of graduates are active in the profession after five years?
  • What proportion of graduates obtained agent representation within six months of graduation?

How is the Drama Centre London different from other drama schools? Why are your days so long?

As a leading conservatoire, Drama Centre London covers most of the disciplines you would expect; acting, voice, movement, music and singing, stage combat, screen and radio work, directing, screenwriting, editing etc. 

In addition, all HE courses offer a programme in Character Analysis, the approach to acting around which the school was formed almost 50 years ago and which is still at the heart of its training. This is an original synthesis of Stanislavskian acting methodology, the principles of movement developed by Rudolf Laban and insights into psychological types reached by the psychologist Carl Jung.

Drama Centre London training is also characterised by the fact that acting classes are taught throughout the courses as a separate subject, and therefore additionally to working on plays or films, students have the opportunity to expand their range and ‘go further’ in their development as artists.

Finally, our repertoire is mainly classical, but we place a great deal of stress on acting for the camera and for radio offering two unique, integrated courses entirely dedicated to screen work - MA Screen: Acting and MA Screen: Directing, Writing.

The need to cover all these bases explains why our courses have somewhat longer hours and are more comprehensive than others of the same type.

Are you a ‘Method’ school?

We do not teach “The Method” in the American sense, which is the approach developed by Lee Strasberg. Our acting teaching is, however, fundamentally based on the principles and training exercises defined by Konstantin Stanislavsky. We teach modern versions of these basic acting exercises, in both their Russian and the more practical American developments.

The courses first encourage you to find your own, intuitive and imaginative key into a character or stage relationship and at the same time they give you a variety of tools to use if and when intuition does not prove enough. The courses are therefore “methodological” in the sense that they teach acting in a systematic, creative, step-by-step way. They do not insist on a “method” imposed on your intuition, imagination and personality, which remain your most important material.

Do you do camera work as well as stage work?

Yes. Camera (and microphone) work are part and parcel of all our courses. On the BA Acting and Directing courses camera work starts from the end of the first year and occupies an increasingly important role until the third year, when acting and directing students collaborate in the making of a number of short drama videos. 

Directing students are offered the opportunity to direct a short video, a radio play or a one-act stage play for their final projects. Foundation students experience the techniques of screen acting and directing and can opt to create a short video as one of their final projects. The MA Acting course focuses mainly on stage work, but also includes acting for camera elements in the final unit. And the MA Screen is 90% dedicated to film and microphone work, including a showcase of student films presented to invited professionals at our campus in King's Cross.

Do you have an agents' showcase?

All HE acting courses have showcases designed to facilitate future employment. The BA Acting Showcase is usually January/February, enabling agents and Casting Directors to see students again in the spring and summer seasons of plays.

The MA Acting course holds a Showcase in September, in the final weeks of the course. The MA show films (featuring the work of directing and screenwriting students as well as actors) that are screened in a Central London cinema to an audience of agents, casting directors, film producers and other professionals.

In advance of these important events, a series of ‘mock’ auditions and interviews run by leading directors and casting directors prepare you in a practical way for the reality of competing for work. A core member of staff and a leading casting director, who act as career advisers, guide you in choosing and preparing audition pieces, as well as presenting both yourself and your work through an informed choice of publicity photographs, audition techniques and other specialist advertising.

Drama Centre London also aims to enable all its students to acquire the skills needed to ‘market’ themselves - electronically disseminating their photographs, CVs and recorded material by means of their personal websites, by email and other web-based means.

What is your recent record of graduate employment?

Figures prepared for the 2009 National Council for Drama Training (NCDT) reaccreditation of the BA Acting, show that in October 2008 of the 122 UK-based students who had graduated between July 2004 and July 2008, 112 (92%) were still active in the profession and featured in Spotlight, the professional casting directory. 

Equally, of the three groups graduating between July 2005 and July 2007, 88% had agents - not a bad record when one thinks that every year a few people may take time off to travel, have a family, deal with health problems and so on.

What are your professional links?

Drama Centre London places the greatest importance upon providing you with the opportunity to meet practitioners from all aspects of the profession: agents, casting directors, union representatives, directors of national companies and fringe theatres, independent producers, filmmakers and established television and film directors.

Throughout your course you will be guided by Anne Henderson, our Casting Adviser. In a career spanning over 30 years, Anne Henderson has cast over 100 film and television productions including Highlander,Santa Claus: The MovieTaggart and Silent Witness. She is currently the Casting Director of the National Theatre of Scotland. 

In the latter stages of your course, Anne gives concrete individualised advice on the preparation of suitable audition material, on how to present yourself for interviews and auditions, securing agent representation and other key aspects related to the early stages of your career.

Drama Centre London also operates a ‘mentoring’ scheme through which students approaching graduation can be assisted in finding graduates from earlier years and other professionals who explain the realities of the industry; introduce them to agents, casting directors and other professional contacts, offer advice on audition material and presentation techniques and form a useful support network in the (often difficult) early years after graduation.

Do you have international links?

Drama Centre London has a number of international links, including student and staff exchanges. As a student at the Drama Centre London, you may be offered the opportunity to spend time at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in the USA.

How will I be assessed? Is there much written work?

All assessment is practical, based on your work in class and on your performances. There are no written exams, although on some courses you will be required to complete a reflective journal and analysis of your artistic development. In addition, self and peer assessment are being increasingly introduced on all courses.

Research, on the other hand, is a key feature of all courses and you will therefore be expected to read a lot as well as go to performances of all sorts and listen to a wide variety of musical styles.

I am a keen musician – will I be able to develop my music while on the course?

Unlike most drama schools, Drama Centre London teaches not only singing, but also has a dedicated, separate programme of music making. With the help of our Head of Music, a distinguished composer and instrumentalist, you should be able to maintain and enhance your instrument playing as well as your general musicianship.

I heard fees for Drama Schools are very high. Do you give Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs)?

As a student on nationally and internationally-accepted BA degree courses, you will be treated exactly like any other student studying for undergraduate degrees at a college or university in England. This means that, if you are classified as a UK or EU resident, you are only liable for the standard university fees and you are eligible for financial support. There is therefore no need to get a DaDA. 

There is a small additional charge, which covers costs specific to actor training, mainly related to activities designed to market you to the profession.

Drama Centre London does not receive any government support for its Foundation and its MA courses and therefore needs to charge the true cost of delivering the intensive, high-quality teaching students seek. Fees on these courses are high, but Drama Centre offers a number of bursaries to Foundation students, while MA students have sometimes been able to secure external sponsorship via University of the Arts London and other bursaries. 

Drama Centre London also distributes a number of Leverhulme scholarships. One of these is for an incoming student who already holds a BA degree (Equal and Lower Qualification [ELQ]), the others are for students in the advanced stages of their courses (see Financial Information below).

Will I be able to work to earn money during the course?

Yes, but with some difficulty and you will have limited opportunities. BA classes finish at 8.30pm every night, so any work you may do will most likely be at the weekend, even then you will have to have a flexible enough work arrangement to enable you to rehearse on some Saturdays.

Foundation and MA courses finish at 6pm, so some evening and weekend work may be possible. In general, however, you must be prepared not only for the long hours of study, but also for additional private rehearsals and research you will be required to undertake.

What about professional work in my chosen drama field?

In the advanced stages of their courses, students are encouraged to undertake professional work whenever this is equivalent to coursework. Drama Centre London responds positively to enquiries from casting directors, theatres and film companies and often organises on its premises auditions for specific projects. As a result, in the past few years, students undertook a substantial number of professional engagements as actors and assistant directors while still on the course. 

These include:

  • “The Rotters’ Club” – BBC1
  • “What the Butler Saw” – Criterion Theatre (West End)
  • “Cymbeline” – Cheek by Jowl
  • “Under Milk Wood” – Tricycle Theatre
  • “Waterloo Road” – BBC1
  • “3.3” – Mexican feature film
  • “Black Watch” – National Theatre of Scotland and Barbican

What are the course resources?

  • Use of a professional proscenium arch off West End theatre (The Cochrane Theatre) for ten weeks of the year
  • Studio and rehearsal facilities, including use of a TV and a Radio studio
  • A good supply of video cameras and editing suites
  • Wardrobe
  • An extensive library situated within seven minutes’ walk, with support from a specialist librarian
  • IT facilities (including Wi-Fi access) on site
  • 'Human resources' - practicing artists as tutors and technical support
  • London(!)

Financial Information

The Drama Centre London is not a rich school. Nevertheless, the alumni network, The Friends of the Drama Centre, established two decades ago with substantial donations from Pierce Brosnan and Sir Anthony Hopkins, endeavours to support students in need. 

In addition to their own funds, The Friends also administer each year a number of scholarships awarded by the Leverhulme Foundation to Drama Centre students in the advanced stages of their courses.

Drama Centre London students also have a very strong record of winning competitive awards open to drama school students from across the UK, such as the Laurence Olivier Bursary (Drama Centre London students were successful in this award in each of the past five years), the Lilian Baylis Award, The Sir John Gielgud Bursary, and the Reeve Foundation Awards. So between 2007 and 2008 Drama Centre London students were in receipt of some £86,000 in the form of competitive bursaries and scholarships.

As University of the Arts London students, Drama Centre London students may also be eligible for scholarships and bursaries provided by the University. For more information, visit the University's Fees and Funding section.

Are there any additional costs?

On the Foundation and BA courses there are annual fees covering costs specific to drama training, including marketing/professional support and, where appropriate, visits to theatres and cinemas etc. You will also need to be prepared to fund your studies over and above basic provisions. Other costs include entry to theatres, museums, travel and research-related activities.