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.
If you would like to find out more about RADA and it's history, why not book on one of our tours?
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.
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.
Kenneth Barnes, brother of the Vanbrugh sisters, is appointed Principal.
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.
The Academy is granted its Royal Charter.
A new theatre is built in Malet Street, backing on to the Gower Street premises. This is opened by the Prince of Wales.
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.
The Academy receives its first government subsidy in the form of a Treasury Grant of £500.
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.
Duchess of York opens new building.
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.
George Bernard Shaw dies and leaves one third of all his royalties to RADA.
The new Vanbrugh Theatre is opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
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.
The Stage Management course is introduced.
The Vanbrugh Theatre Club is established.
John Fernald resigns and Hugh Crutwell becomes Principal.
Specialist Technical Courses are established.
Richard Attenborough becomes Chairman.
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.
Oliver Neville becomes Principal.
The Acting Diploma Course is extended from seven to nine terms.
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.
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.
Nicholas Barter becomes Principal.
The 'Friends of RADA' is inaugurated and the Academy establishes its first courses for Japanese professional actors in Tokyo.
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.
The rebuilding of the Gower/Malet Street premises commences.
The Academy extends its portfolio of Short Courses for British actors and special courses for American and Japanese students in London.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II re-opens the Academy's new and refurbished Gower Street/Malet Street building.
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.
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.
University of London awards the 1st BA in Acting. RADA Youth Group is launched in autumn 2002.
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.
RADA celebrates its Centenary. LAMDA, National Centre for Circus Arts and Central School of Ballet join the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama.
Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance (joined 2005) joins the Conservatoire.
The Academy aims to complete the refurbishment of the 20/22 Chenies Street premises by the end of the academic year.
December. RADA hosts UK premiere of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer starring RADA graduate Ben Whishaw at Curzon Mayfair.
The Academy introduces its one-year drama Foundation Course, accepting 32 pupils per year.
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.
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.
July. RADA hosts preview screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince starring RADA graduates Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall at the Mayfair.
The Academy re-affiliates its MA in Text & Performance with Birkbeck College.
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.
September. MA Theatre Lab course starts.
September. Sound Design in Theatre course starts.
RADA aquires the lease of the Drill Hall building and renames it RADA Studios.
RADA Registrar, Patricia Myers is awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education.
August. RADA President, Lord Attenborough dies aged 90.
January. Alan Rickman RADA graduate, Ambassador and former Vice-Chairman of the Council dies aged 69 after a short battle with cancer.