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Dear West End Producer: ‘Should drama schools abolish audition fees?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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That people have to pay to audition for drama schools has angered me for many years. Yes, auditions fees obviously help with the cash-flow situation at these institutions, but they set the seed of elitism in the business at the very beginning. Many young people from low-income families find it simply impossible to start their careers because they cannot afford the sometimes ridiculous fee of £70 – plus travel – to attend.

I’m aware some schools offer financial help for auditions and audition not only in London. But these are few and far between. What seems unforgivable is the difference in price and value for money that is offered. While some schools offer a workshop-style audition lasting a whole day, others call you into a room and look uninterested for 10 minutes. The latter means the applicant takes nothing away from the audition, just the feeling they’ve thrown a lot of money down the drain of doomed drama dreams, dear.

There’s also the issue of feedback. If someone is paying to audition, I don’t think it too much to ask for constructive feedback. It wouldn’t take too long – even if it consisted of a brief chat after the audition itself – so that nothing had to be emailed or sent. At least the auditionee would feel more prepared and take away something to work on for next time. They really aren’t given much chance to improve if they’re just told “it’s a no”.

So what is the answer? Well, firstly, there should be a standard fee for every drama school – and it should be a lot cheaper – say £20. Of course it would be ideal if drama school audition fees were scrapped, but the loss of that income would need to be generated somewhere else. Some drama schools already offer a way of helping those from lower-income families, but this needs to be commonplace (covering both the travel and audition fee). Skype auditions are becoming more frequent in the professional business. Surely these could be offered – for free – for first-round auditions at drama schools?

A beginner’s guide to applying for drama school

The audition itself should somehow be vetted – allowing the potential student to take something away from the day. If one school can offer a whole-day workshop, why can’t others? I may audition for some drama schools myself (wearing a youthful-looking mask, dear) and compare them. Is a RADA audition the same as one at Guildford School of Acting? Does a LAMDA audition offer as much as one at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts?

Drama schools must also try not to call people back repeatedly for follow-up auditions. Try to do it all on the same day. Because it simply gets more expensive.

The cost of auditions is getting silly. And that’s before we’ve started on the topic of drama school fees (often leaving students with debts of more than £30,000). It won’t be long before potential drama school students have to get a loan to audition, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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