Three-year drama training not needed by ‘majority of actors’

NYT artistic director Paul Roseby (right) with NYT patron Matt Smith. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
NYT artistic director Paul Roseby (right) with NYT patron Matt Smith. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
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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.


  1. These comments are naive and can only come from someone who has not been to drama school and witnesses what it iss they do. We have to be able to act even to get in, then those skills are honed and we attempt selling ourselves on third year. Nyt is not a training ground, it is a step in the right direction but for technical skills such ad voice and movement muscle memory mist be developed, this will not be gained by little occasional short term courses.

  2. Actors many years ago did an apprenticeship (John Gielgud for example). Celia Imrie, one of our greatest actresses received no formal training. There are however, many many actors and actresses who have had formal training and are absolutely awful. Too many to list!
    I think Mr Roseby has a very valid point and I admire him for putting his view across.

  3. The underlying questions are firstly what is the purpose of drama schools and when we are clear on that, find out if they fit to carry it out. Who can do that for us impartially and authoritatively? Could we set up an Enquiry composed of people from the Industry and the academies to find out? The assertion from the Principal of RADA is not in itself sufficient evidence.

  4. Came across this via the Stratford Theatre Royal….the Director of the Theatre lives in this building with me! I have wanted to do something in acting for so long…and mangaged only to dip my toes at best. Everytime I look into I am told I have to spend six months (or more) studying this or that before anyone takes me seriously….

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