Most actors do not require years of drama school to learn their craft, according to National Youth Theatre artistic director Paul Roseby.
He told cultural and educational leaders at an event last week that performers “can either act or [they] can’t” and training in how to sell themselves was more important.
Roseby added: “Drama schools are incredibly expensive and the majority of actors don’t need three years’ training. They need various modular courses every so often to go to. But they don’t need three years. You don’t need to learn how to act, you need to learn how to sell yourself. You can either act or you can’t.”
His comments came at an event on cultural education organised by Westminster Forum Projects, where he said most people could not afford to go to drama school. He also urged arts leaders and others to stop using the phrase “soft skills” to describe the work of his and other cultural organisations.
Roseby said: “I think there is a dogma – and we as cultural and educational leaders are to blame for this – around soft skills and soft learning. Because it allows people to say, ‘If it’s soft, it doesn’t matter’. With some of the work we do at the NYT, it is very clear that there is nothing soft about it – so stop using the phrase ‘soft skills’. It’s hard.”
Speaking about the NYT’s current West End season, which provides free training to 15 young performers for eight months, resulting in three shows at the Ambassadors Theatre, Roseby said it was “hard work” trying to sell tickets to young audiences.
“We are phone-bashing on a daily basis,” he added. “We are selling around 8,000 tickets so far – a huge amount for a youth organisation in the West End – but it should be 18,000.”
He added that cultural education has become “too much of a political football” and called for more cross-party agreement about the value of education and culture.