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Where can I pursue drama training outside London?

Students at SLP College in Garforth, West Yorkshire. Photo: Jay Cain Students at SLP College in Garforth, West Yorkshire. Photo: Jay Cain
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With standards to match London drama schools and lower living costs, there’s a lot to love about not training in the capital. Samantha Marsden picks a selection of the best courses from top schools across the UK

Manchester School of Theatre

Location: Manchester

Part of Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester School of Theatre offers a long-established and well-regarded BA in acting. The school has an ensemble-based training ethos that is both intensive and demanding, and the course covers theatre, TV, film and radio work. An annual showcase event aimed at agents and casting directors takes place both in Manchester and in London’s West End.

From September 2019, a new BA in drama and contemporary performance will be available. The school is also developing two new postgraduate courses: an MA in music theatre and an MA in directing, which are both launching in September 2020. theatre.mmu.ac.uk

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Location: Glasgow

RCS runs Europe’s only performance BA degree taught in British Sign Language, designed around the learning needs of deaf performers. Other undergraduate courses include BAs in acting, contemporary performance practice and musical theatre.

Postgraduate courses on offer include an MA in classical and contemporary text (in acting or directing) and an MA in musical theatre, focusing on performance, musical directing or choreography.

The school stages more than 500 performances every year, selling 52,000 tickets annually. It has strong relationships with theatres and concert halls across Scotland including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Citizens Theatre (Glasgow), Royal Lyceum (Edinburgh) and Eden Court (Inverness). rcs.ac.uk

Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre

Location: Birmingham

MAMT offers a highly intensive, industry-based drama school training. The two-year course, which is producer-led by industry professionals James Williams and CiCi Howells, has been working with guest tutors such as Jacqueline Hughes (Elphaba in Wicked; Mary Poppins), Sam Lupton (Little Shop of Horrors; Avenue Q), Aimee Gray (Royal Shakespeare Company) and many others to create a course that fully equips students with the skills, mindset and contacts to forge a successful career.

There are public performances every term, real-world experiences (students are currently on tour with Kerry Ellis) and training culminates with a showcase in London’s West End.

The school is recognised by Spotlight and Equity and all students graduate as members of both. mamt.org.uk

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Location: Cardiff

Courses include acting, musical theatre, stage management and technical theatre, design for performance and arts management. All courses are offered as both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, except the MAs in musical theatre and arts management.

In their final year, students join the college’s Richard Burton Repertory Company, working with professional directors.

RWCMD welcomes more than 1,200 industry visitors a year to shows in Cardiff and London, with annual actor showcases in Cardiff, London and New York, as well as a design exhibition in London. rwcmd.ac.uk

Liverpool institute for performing arts


Location: Liverpool

LIPA is a specialist performing arts institution co-founded by Paul McCartney that offers both degree and foundation courses. Collaboration between different disciplines is essential to the curriculum, with students working together on projects and productions. Emphasis is also placed on business and entrepreneurial skills.

BA (hons) courses include: acting; applied theatre and community drama; dance; music; music (songwriting and performance); music (songwriting and production); management of music, entertainment, theatre and events; sound technology; theatre and performance design; theatre and performance technology. lipa.ac.uk

SLP College

Location: Garforth, West Yorkshire

SLP College offers a three-year, full-time training programme in dance and musical theatre, after which students are awarded a Trinity level 6 diploma. Alongside regular training, SLP offers regular masterclasses from industry specialists in dance, singing and acting. Recently the school was graded outstanding by Ofsted.

Students take part in several performances throughout their training, culminating in a London showcase in their final year. SLP also offers a one-year, full-time foundation course. slpcollege.co.uk

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

Location: Bristol

BOVTS has a reputation for being one of the best drama schools in the world – along with RADA it is one of only two UK drama schools to make the top 10 in the Hollywood Reporter’s survey of the best graduate degrees.

The school offers particularly strong MA courses, including acting international, drama directing, film production, scenic art, theatre design and theatre production management.

BOVTS trains students for the theatre, film, TV and radio drama industries. It offers foundation degree awards in acting, production arts and costume. BA courses include acting and production arts (stage and screen). oldvic.ac.uk

Alra North

The theatre at ALRA North. Photo: ALRA
The theatre at ALRA North. Photo: ALRA

Location: Wigan, Greater Manchester

ALRA has two schools: one in London and one in Wigan. Both offer a foundation in acting (one-year, full-time) and an MA in professional acting (15 months), but at ALRA North the lower fees reflect the reduced running costs in Greater Manchester.

For ALRA North’s new two-year MA in directing, the admission process is open to students via non-academic routes.

The school has partnered with Leicester College to start a two-year, fast-track acting degree in creative performance practice. alra.co.uk

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Location: Birmingham

Part of Birmingham City University,  BCU maintains an impressive international reputation for celebrating diversity and excellence. The school is dedicated to producing entrepreneurial graduates and ensuring students reach their full potential. It offers BAs in acting, applied performance and stage management and MA/PgDip courses in acting and professional voice practice. The BA in acting received a 100% student satisfaction rating in the latest National Student Survey.  bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire

Arden School of Theatre

Location: Manchester

Recently accredited by Spotlight, the Arden School of Theatre – part of the Manchester College – offers four degrees in acting, musical theatre, dance, and theatre and performance.

The school not only prides itself on its high standard of training, but also its links with the artistic community. The school hosts an annual event showcasing short plays in collaboration with high-profile and upcoming writers, and inner-city performance festivals, as well as commissioning a writer in residence every year.

Recent graduate Ciaran McCourt was a finalist in last year’s Spotlight Prize while Saoirse-Monica Jackson can be seen starring in Channel 4’s Derry Girls and appearing on stage in Sam Mendes’ The Ferryman at London’s Gielgud Theatre. thearden.co.uk

Look for training opportunities on The Stage website

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