Too many ‘Oxbridge tossers’ in theatre industry, says Bradwell

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Director Mike Bradwell has criticised the “predominance of Oxbridge tossers” running venues in the theatre industry, claiming the sector has been “annexed entirely by the middle class”.

Bradwell, who founded Hull Truck in 1972, claimed theatre is dominated by “half a dozen floppy haired men” who have no real understanding of acting.

Speaking to The Stage, Bradwell said: “I do think there is a predominance of Oxbridge tossers – although I know some very good directors and actors who went to Oxbridge. But there is always going to be half a dozen floppy haired men, who come out in their early 20s, and end up going for the RSC and the National, and sometimes the Royal Court. They are very ambitious and want to do Titus Andronicus before they are 28, but they don’t really know what acting is about.”

He added: “They know what theatre is, as they have read about it. But they have not been in a play or been in a theatre or seen a panto, or been in a working men’s club, or a variety club, and got their hands dirty. They don’t know what actors do.”

Bradwell also bemoaned the number of people working in administrative roles in theatre today, claiming “you get paid more these days for putting up a poster about a play than you do for writing it. The problem with Oxbridge tossers is they see nothing wrong in that.”

For the full interview with Bradwell, see this week's print edition of The Stage


  1. I wouldn’t go so far as calling people ‘tossers’ but as a hard working touring director in the trenches I see on a regular basis how difficult it is to break into the more main stream venues…getting a traditional venue to even reply to an email let alone come and see a show is very difficult without some of the right connections. I donts believe its a closed shop but its bloody hard to get a foot in when you are competing against an onogopaly.

  2. Well I dont know what onogopaly is but I would use a word beginning with w to describe the crop of directors now in

  3. Ironically I am 30. Directing Titus Andronicus for the RSC. Have been in a play (trained as an actor) – have directed Pantomime for the last ten years – have frequented working mens clubs (father a builder – and grandfather worked in a glassworks) am from a low income upbringing and did not attend Oxford or Cambridge (Bretton Hall). I paid my dues directing on ships, in small theatres – on tours – even professional wrestling to learn my craft. So these statements expose extraordinary generalisations about where the industry is currently at. I also – for one – don’t begrudge any of the Oxford or Cambridge set for their successes. It is a bloody tough business – and the posh and poor have to slog to get anywhere in it. That said… now its clear that I am common and I have paid my dues… I would love to invite Mike to my TItus Andronicus at the RSC.

  4. I think what Mike Bradley was saying is that there are more young actors from privileged backgrounds in the industry. Drama schools are becoming mere ‘finishing’ schools as those with money are the only ones who can afford to go, I know this as many of my students are applying and come against this. And not matter what M Fentiman says its far harder for those from a lower background to get on in the industry and that’s always been the case but years ago we had the ‘Finney’s’ and the ‘Courtney’s’ we now have the Eton brigiade who haven’t slogged for ten years on tour or in rep! Theatre has, and always will be, a middle class profession but that mixture of backrounds always made it exciting and fresh but I go to the theatre and see ‘floppy hair’ everywhere! Am looking forward to the RSC Titus though!

  5. Although it seems a bit harsh, I do understand what Mike is saying. As an actor things like pay is a huge annoyance – I can’t afford to wait for 6 months to be paid for a £300 job. A rich actor can. And, you cannot deny the fact that a lot of people running theatres or who have run theatres recently have been white, male & from Oxbridge. It is definitely changing but it does feel like an old boys club – friends of mine who have decided (for whatever reason) to become directors and happen to have gone to Cambridge within 2 years are assisting fellow Oxbridge grads or have cushy AD jobs with family members/friends. And there does appear to be lots of admin jobs within theatre when Bradwell as the artistic director at The Bush was able to work with a very small number in his team. It’s feels wasteful money wise. Things are changing but this Oxbridge boys getting ahead is nothing new and not limited to just our profession. Two words – Bullingdon Club.

  6. Come on, this lazy journalism and cheap headline grabbing style is becoming tedious. If Mike Bradwell can’t be bothered to articulate an actual argument, then it’s up to you to challenge that instead of indulging him. The sad thing is that whilst Oxbridge is one example of privileged entry to the profession, not all Oxbridge graduates come from a privileged background,and when it comes to the all-pervasive low/no pay culture in the industry there are plenty of opportunities for all kinds of people from a wealthy background to effectively buy their way in, Oxbridge graduate or not.

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  8. I agree with Mike Bradwell – just look around the Artistic Directors of the London theatres:
    Nicholas Hytner, NT – Cambridge; Josie Rourke, Donmar – Cambridge; Rupert Goold, Almeida – Cambridge; Dominic Dromgoole, Globe – Cambridge. Etc etc. Every Artistic Director of the National went to Cambridge and Josie Rourke admits in an interview in the Observer today that she got her first job because Sam Mendes (Cambridge!) gave it to her. So it goes. Mike Bradwell did brilliant job at the Bush (his predecessor and succesor both being Cambridge graduates) after which he was kicked into obscurity and has had difficulty getting work. He’s right to be angry. He isn’t mentioned anywhere as a potential Artistic Director for the National. Because he didn’t go to Cambridge perhaps?

  9. Well done Bradders- I was asked ( 20 yrs in business and before an audition) by an Oxbridge tosser
    ‘have you done a lot of acting’ of course I said – between shopping and Chelsea and my trust fund- I slot in a theatre job for fun’ NOT
    Go Mike!

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