The best London drama schools

Written for Anna Fiorentini Theatre & Film School

Many actors who work in theatre and film today have a drama school education, and attending drama school is still considered to be one of the best ways aspiring actors can increase their chances of making it in this competitive industry. Fortunately, London is home to some of the best schools in the country. But how do you pick one?

Let’s start with the big one: the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, commonly known as RADA. Founded in 1904, it’s probably the best-known and certainly one of the most prestigious drama schools in the UK. While getting into most drama schools will take some hard work, RADA is known for being the hardest to get into. They accept no more than 28 new students into their Acting BA each year, split equally between men and women. Getting a place will look very good on your CV, though: the training at the school is rigorous and its alumni are popular with agents and casting directors alike. The core programme is straight drama, so those who are hoping to go into musical theatre will be better off looking elsewhere. RADA also offers a technical BA and a couple of post-graduate drama courses, so it’s a small school with a strong focus on acting.

LAMDA stands for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Established in 1861, it’s the oldest drama school in the UK and like at RADA, the focus is on straight acting. LAMDA also offers exams to external students, including to our own students, so the name might ring a bell! Although it reaches many people through these external exams, the school itself is quite small. Focused heavily on drama, it offers a BA, a foundation course and a Master’s in Acting, alongside an MA in directing and a technical course. LAMDA is affiliated to RADA and seven other top-notch schools through the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, so despite it being a small school, students do have access to some great facilities.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, usually known as Guildhall, is another oldie but goodie: it’s been around since 1880. This school is a lot more varied and a lot bigger than some of its rivals, mainly because it’s both a music conservatoire and a drama school. Acting students will be rubbing shoulders with talented musicians – it’s one of the best music schools in Europe – and with a wide range of technical theatre students. With its great variety of programmes on offer, students at Guildhall benefit from first-rate facilities and the opportunity to collaborate with their peers in other courses, getting a taste of what life as a professional actor, stage manager or lighting designer will be like.

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, or Central, was founded in 1906, and has been part of the University of London since 2005. Being part of a big university comes with its advantages, although the school itself is still pretty intimate. The student community at Central is incredibly varied, since the school offers a wide range of theatre-related MA programmes inclding Drama and Movement Therapy, Puppetry and Producing. Central also has a PhD programme, which is very rare for a drama school. In terms of acting there's a lot of variety as well: undergrads can choose from classical acting, musical theatre and a programme called 'Collaborative and Devised Theatre', which is unique to Central. They can also go on to further specialise in post-graduate courses that focus on voice-work or movement.

The Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, commonly known as Mountview, is another good option to consider if you’re keen on becoming a musical theatre performer. Next to their ‘normal’ drama training, Mountview also offers a specialised BA course called Actor Musician, which combines a thorough acting programme with individual tuition in the student’s lead instrument. Only 16 people are accepted onto this course each year, so you’re required to have a good skill level in both disciplines to be considered for a place. The school also offers technical training, so acting students have a chance to work with aspiring stage managers, set designers and other disciplines. Not bad for a drama school that originated as an amateur theatre company!