A Brief History
Over the Academy's history it has undergone many changes. From moving to its current location in 1905 to the introduction of the first stage management course, the re-opening of the re-furbished Gower/Malet Street site and the appointment, for the first time, of a Director of the Academy the history of RADA has been rich and varied.
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the leading actor manager of the day, famous for his spectacular Shakespeare productions, establishes an Academy of Dramatic Art at His 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
GBS 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, 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
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 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.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.
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.
Nicholas Barter becomes Principal.
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.2000
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II re-opens the Academy's new and refurbished Gower Street/Malet Street building.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.
University of London awards the 1st BA in Acting. RADA Youth Group is launched in autumn 2002.2003
Lord Attenborough becomes President of RADA and John Whitney appointed as Chairman. 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
RambertSchool 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
December. RADA hosts UK premiere of “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” starring RADA graduate Ben Whishaw at Curzon Mayfair.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 role of 'Director' filled by Edward Kemp is created instead. In September Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen is elected Chairman of RADA Council and then in November Nicholas Cooper House is opened by HRH Princess Alexandra.2009
June. The Academy creates two new posts: Education and Outreach Manager and Head of Film, TV and Radio thanks to the support of RADA Principal Partner Warner Bros. Entertainment.2009
July. RADA hosts preview screening of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” starring RADA graduates Alan data-scaytid="72">Rickman and Timothy Spall at the Mayfair.2009
September. Sebastian Harcombe is appointed Director of the BA Acting Course.2010
The Academy re-affiliates its MA in Text & Performance with Birkbeck College.2011
September.The Screen @ RADA, the Academy's first cinema screen officially opens. The Screen is based in the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre and presents recent releases, re-mastered classics, Q&A events, live broadcasts and more.2011
September. MA Theatre Lab course starts.2011
September. Sound Design in Theatre course starts.2012
RADA aquires the lease of the Drill Hall building and renames it RADA Studios.2013 RADA Registrar, Patricia Myers was awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education.