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.

Its higher education awards are validated by King's College London (KCL) and its students graduate alongside members of the KCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities. It is based in the Bloomsbury area of Central London, close to the Senate House complex of the University of London. It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.

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.

The current director of the academy is Edward Kemp. The president is Sir Kenneth Branagh, who succeeded Richard, Lord Attenborough following his death 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.


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.

In 1920, RADA was granted a Royal Charter, and in 1921, a new theatre was built on Malet Street, behind the Gower Street buildings. Edward, 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

  • Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (founder)
  • Sir Kenneth Barnes (1909-1955)
  • John Fernald (1955-1966)
  • Hugh Cruttwell (1966-1985)
  • Oliver Neville (1984-1993)
  • Nicholas Barter (1993-2007)
  • Edward Kemp (Director) (2007–present)

    Presidents of RADA

  • Sir Squire Bancroft (1906)
  • Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1927-1928)
  • Sir Gerald du Maurier (1929-1930)
  • Henry Ainley (1931-1933)
  • Lady Tree (1934-1935)
  • Cyril Maude (1945)
  • Dame Irene Vanbrugh (1946-1947)
  • Dame Sybil Thorndike (1948-1949)
  • Athene Seyler (1950-1951)
  • Sir Felix Aylmer (1954)
  • Dame Flora Robson (1955-1963)
  • Dame Edith Evans (1964-1976)
  • Sir John Gielgud (1977-1989)
  • Diana, Princess of Wales (1989-1997)
  • Lord Attenborough (2002-2014)

    Honorary Fellows

  • Cicely Berry
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • Mona Hammond
  • Thelma Holt
  • Sir Anthony Hopkins
  • Glenda Jackson
  • Stephen Sondheim
  • Francine Watson Coleman

    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:

  • Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
  • Central School of Ballet
  • London Contemporary Dance School
  • National Centre for Circus Arts
  • Northern School of Contemporary Dance
  • Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance
  • London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) (former member)

    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. RADA is also a member of the Federation of Drama Schools, established in 2017.

    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.

    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.

    Other courses include a one-year acting Foundation Course introduced in 2007; an MA in Text & Performance, affiliated with Birkbeck, University of London 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 its courses after the London-based school.

    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.


    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.

    The Gower and Malet Street building was re-developed in the late 1990s to designs by Bryan Avery, 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. 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. This venue has a 200-seat space, the Studio Theatre, and a 50-seat space, the Club Theatre.

    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. 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.


    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. 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. 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.

    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, 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.

    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, schools’ workshops, Access to Acting workshops for young disabled people, Shakespeare tours to secondary schools and the RADA Shakespeare Awards.

    Associate members

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

    Notable alumni

  • Mark Addy – (Game of Thrones, The Full Monty)
  • Jonas Armstrong – (Robin Hood, Edge of Tomorrow)
  • Gemma Arterton – (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans)
  • Richard Attenborough – (The Great Escape, Miracle on 34th Street, Jurassic Park)
  • David Bamber – (Pride and Prejudice, Valkyrie)
  • Sean Bean – (The Lord of the Rings, GoldenEye, Game of Thrones, Broken)
  • Stephen Beresford – (The Last of the Haussmans, Pride)
  • Eve Best – (The Honourable Woman, The King's Speech)
  • Michael Blakemore – (Privates on Parade)
  • Peter Bowles – (To The Manor Born, I, Claudius)
  • David Bradley – (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who)
  • Kenneth Branagh – (Henry V, My Week with Marilyn, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Murder on the Orient Express).
  • Barbara Bryne - (Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Amadeus)
  • Jessie Buckley – (War and Peace, Wild Rose, Judy)
  • Tom Burke - (War and Peace, The Musketeers, Strike)
  • Bertie Carvel – (Matilda the Musical, Doctor Foster)
  • Lolita Chakrabarti – (Red Velvet, Jekyll & Hyde)
  • Chipo Chung – (Fortitude, A.D. The Bible Continues)
  • Sian Clifford – (Fleabag)
  • Joan Collins – (Dynasty, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing)
  • Roland Culver – (Thunderball)
  • Arthur Darvill – (Doctor Who, Broadchurch)
  • Frank Dillane – (Fear The Walking Dead, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince)
  • Adetomiwa Edun – (Merlin, FIFA video games)
  • Taron Egerton – (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Sing, Eddie the Eagle, Rocketman "Testament of Youth")
  • Denholm Elliott – (Alfie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Trading Places)
  • Robert Englund – (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
  • Cynthia Erivo – (I Can’t Sing, The Color Purple, Harriet)
  • Trevor Eve – (Shoestring, Waking the Dead)
  • Patsy Ferran – (Jamestown, Summer and Smoke)
  • Ralph Fiennes – (Schindler's List, Skyfall, Harry Potter)
  • Albert Finney – (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Erin Brockovich)
  • Edward Fox – (The Day of the Jackal, Edward & Mrs. Simpson)
  • Laurence Fox – (Lewis, Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
  • Michael Gambon – (Harry Potter, The King's Speech)
  • John Gielgud – (Arthur, Gandhi)
  • Iain Glen – (Game of Thrones, Resident Evil)
  • Julian Glover – (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
  • Eva Gray – (The Trudy Lite Show, The Trudy Lite Chat Show, Marilyn Monroe, Sooty Heights)
  • Hugh Griffith – (Ben-Hur, Oliver!)
  • Ioan Gruffudd – (Titanic, Fantastic Four)
  • Sheila Hancock – (Cabaret, Sweeney Todd)
  • Terry Hands – (founder of Liverpool Everyman Theatre, artistic director of Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • Bryony Hannah – (Call the Midwife)
  • Cedric Hardwicke – (The Ten Commandments)
  • David Harewood – (Homeland, The Night Manager)
  • Rosemary Harris – (Tom & Viv, Holocaust)
  • Nyasha Hatendi – (Casual)
  • Sally Hawkins – (Blue Jasmine, Godzilla, The Shape of Water)
  • James Hayter – (The Pickwick Papers, Trio, The Onedin Line)
  • Tom Hiddleston – (Thor, The Avengers, War Horse, The Night Manager, Avengers: Infinity War)
  • Ciarán Hinds – (Munich, Frozen)
  • Ian Holm – (Alien, The Lord of the Rings)
  • Anthony Hopkins – (The Silence of the Lambs, The Lion in Winter, Westworld)
  • Jane Horrocks – (Little Voice, Absolutely Fabulous)
  • Trevor Howard – (Brief Encounter, The Third Man)
  • John Hurt – (Alien, The Elephant Man)
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White – (My Fair Lady)
  • Glenda Jackson – (Women in Love, Sunday Bloody Sunday)
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste – (Secrets & Lies, Broadchurch)
  • Lionel Jeffries – (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
  • Mervyn Johns – (Jamaica Inn, Scrooge)
  • Celia Johnson – (Brief Encounter, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
  • Gemma Jones – (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones's Diary)
  • Alex Kingston – (ER, Doctor Who)
  • Charles Laughton – (Mutiny on the Bounty, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  • Tamara Lawrance – (King Charles III, The Long Song)
  • Vivien Leigh – (Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Mike Leigh, director – (Abigail’s Party, Secrets & Lies)
  • Anton Lesser – (Wolf Hall, Endeavour)
  • Adrian Lester – (Hustle, Henry V)
  • Robert Lindsay (My Family, Me and My Girl)
  • Andrew Lincoln – (The Walking Dead, Love Actually)
  • Joan Littlewood – director (A Taste of Honey, Oh, What a Lovely War!)
  • Margaret Lockwood – (The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich)
  • Ida Lupino – (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
  • Emma Lowndes – (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  • Matthew Macfadyen – (Pride & Prejudice, The Three Musketeers)
  • Antonio Magro - (Kingsman: The Golden Circle)
  • Stephen Mangan – (Episodes, Postman Pat: The Movie)
  • Nathaniel Martello-White – (Collateral)
  • Stefanie Martini – (Prime Suspect 1973, Crooked House)
  • Daniel Mays – (Ashes to Ashes, Line of Duty)
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw – (Belle, Jupiter Ascending)
  • Steve McFadden – (EastEnders)
  • Lauren Crace – (EastEnders)
  • Paul McGann – (Withnail and I, Alien 3, Doctor Who)
  • Ian McShane – (Lovejoy, Shrek the Third)
  • Janet McTeer – (Wuthering Heights, Tumbleweeds)
  • Tobias Menzies – (Rome, Game of Thrones, Outlander)
  • Roger Moore – (James Bond)
  • Robert Morley – (The African Queen)
  • Alan Napier – (Batman)
  • John Neville – (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen)
  • Vincenzo Nicoli - (Alien³, The Dark Knight)
  • Dean Norris – (Breaking Bad, Under the Dome)
  • Rufus Norris – (artistic director, National Theatre)
  • Sophie Okonedo – (Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things)
  • Joe Orton – playwright – (Loot, What the Butler Saw)
  • Peter O'Toole – (Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter)
  • Clive Owen – (Children of Men, Sin City)
  • Bruce Payne – (Passenger 57, Highlander: Endgame)
  • Maxine Peake – (Silk, The Village)
  • Jon Pertwee – (Doctor Who)
  • Siân Phillips – (I, Claudius, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
  • Jonathan Pryce – (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • Paul Pyant – (lighting designer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • Basil Radford – (Jamaica Inn, Night Train to Munich)
  • Jessica Raine – (Call the Midwife, Jericho)
  • Anne Reid – (Dinnerladies, Last Tango in Halifax)
  • Matthew Rhys – (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans)
  • Paul Rhys – (The Assets, Chaplin)
  • John Rhys-Davies – (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones)
  • Alan Rickman – (Harry Potter, Die Hard)
  • Diana Rigg – (The Avengers, Game of Thrones)
  • Andrea Riseborough – (Birdman, Oblivion)
  • Mark Rylance – (Wolf Hall, Bridge of Spies)
  • Peter Sallis – (Last of the Summer Wine, Wallace and Gromit)
  • Fiona Shaw – (Harry Potter, My Left Foot, Richard II)
  • Robert Shaw – (Jaws, A Man for All Seasons)
  • Michael Sheen – (Good Omens, Masters of Sex, Tron: Legacy)
  • Kyle Soller – (Poldark)
  • Tom Hughes — (Victoria ), Cemetery Junction )
  • Timothy Spall – (Harry Potter, The King's Speech)
  • Imelda Staunton – (Vera Drake, Another Year)
  • Juliet Stevenson – (Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bend It Like Beckham)
  • Michelle Terry – (artistic director, Shakespeare’s Globe)
  • John Thaw – (Inspector Morse, Kavanagh QC)
  • John Vernon – (The Outlaw Josey Wales)
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge - (Fleabag, Killing Eve, Solo: A Star Wars Story)
  • Chris Walley – (The Young Offenders, The Lieutenant of Inishmore)
  • Jason Watkins – (Being Human, Lark Rise to Candleford)
  • David Warner – (Star Trek, Titanic)
  • Ben Whishaw – (Skyfall, Paddington)
  • June Whitfield – (Terry and June, Absolutely Fabulous)
  • Tom Wilkinson – (Michael Clayton, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
  • Michael Williams – (Elizabeth R, Educating Rita)
  • Richard Wilson – (One Foot in the Grave, Merlin)
  • Susan Wokoma – (Chewing Gum, Year of the Rabbit)
  • Aimee Lou Wood – (Sex Education)
  • Edward Woodward – (The Wicker Man, The Equalizer)
  • Owain Yeoman – (The Mentalist, Troy)
  • Susannah York – (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Superman)