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Riz Ahmed, Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson back free drama school audition scheme

Riz Ahmed, Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson have already been announced as patrons of the Open Door scheme. Photos: Shutterstock Riz Ahmed, Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson have been announced as patrons of the Open Door scheme. Photos: Shutterstock
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A new scheme has launched aimed at helping people from low-income backgrounds get into drama school.

David Morrissey, Amanda Redman, Emilia Clarke, Nadira Seecoomar, Riz Ahmed and Woody Harrelson have already been announced as patrons of the scheme, which has been set up by actor David Mumeni.

Open Door will support 30 young people with acting training, bursaries, workshops and free theatre tickets. Eight successful applicants will also receive one-on-one tutoring sessions and free auditions at six drama schools: RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Drama Centre London, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Each of the drama schools have agreed to give audition places free of charge to Open Door. The launch follows a recent report that criticised the “sky high” cost of applying to drama school, claiming it restricts the diversity of applicants.

Mumeni told The Stage: “The idea is for young people who don’t have the financial support or resources to apply for drama school.

“As an actor I feel quite a minority. I’m from a working-class background, that’s a rare thing in the acting profession. If 7% of people went to private school, it doesn’t make any sense. Class has been a barrier for me.

“We’re obviously offering free auditions, but more than money I think it’s the knowledge about what’s needed that’s important: that you do get rejected the first time you try, that’s normal.

“It’s about access to things like Shakespeare – I went to one audition and the guy said: ‘You’re not using the iambic,’ and I thought: ‘I don’t know what the iambic is, I’m here to learn that.’ There’s a need for it, and there’s a lack of knowledge.”

Applicants are required to be based in London, aged between 18 and 25, with a combined family income of £30,000 or less, and must not have already completed a degree.

Open Door has been funded with a £15,000 grant from Arts Council England as well as individual donations from patrons and friends, with a number of London theatres offering their space to use free of charge.

Mumeni explained that this year will be a pilot scheme for the organisation and he hopes to extend it to other parts of the UK in the future.

“It’s London this year because I’m here, I know people here and I can make it happen. I’m piloting it here. The idea is next year we’re in Manchester, or Birmingham, or Derby, or Liverpool.

“Everything is so London-centric and there is a lot here, but there are places in the country that have no theatre, no youth arts organisations. So the idea is next year we go regional. We’re coming.”

The deadline for applications is September 25.

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