Former students and tutors at Drama Centre London have warned that a review of actor training by management will result in the dismantling of the school in its current form.
They have revealed that a decision to suspend intake on the BA acting and MA directing course, while the University of the Arts London conducts a review of actor training at Central St Martins – where Drama Centre is based – comes amid a backdrop of “swingeing cuts” to students’ teaching hours and allocated space.
They argue this demonstrates management who are not behind the school as it stands and will result in the school’s identity vanishing, which in turn has “massive implications” for the future of drama training in the country.
One former student told The Stage he was there when the “drama started unfolding”.
“What is happening now is the natural conclusion to what was already happening,” he said.
He told The Stage that acting students had hours removed from their course, with classes being reduced from an hour and a half in length to just an hour.
The graduate told The Stage that students were told the drama school used too much resources and “needed to be cut back”.
He added that problems were exacerbated when another UAL campus was shut and students were moved to Central St Martins.
“That was the space issue, I think,” he said, adding: “management couldn’t understand the nature of actor training and what was required.”
Meanwhile, a former course director said she felt “profound emotion and disappointment” at the review.
She also pointed towards “swingeing cuts demanded over the past two years by the college in terms of hours and space”.
She warned that management were suspending intake review so any future students are unaware of the current quality of training.
“It has become common academic practice and… predictable for higher management to suspend courses… in order to create a firebreak between the present students and staff and the new intake for whatever course might emerge as a result of the review,” she said, adding: “This effectively moves these new students away from the tradition and philosophy of actor training that made Drama Centre the unique school it was. In simple terms, what they don’t see, they won’t miss.”
She added that other drama schools conducting reviews listen to the “advice, expertise, experience and opinion of the staff”.
“I speak from personal experience that the opposite is true at CSM,” she said, adding that the “chasm between the ideology of Drama Centre and actor training, and that of this particular senior management is unbridgeable”.
She said that “whatever course emerges as a result of the review… will no longer be Drama Centre”, and warned that this would have damaging consequences for drama training in the UK.
A spokesman for UAL said there had been a review of resources three years ago, “which resulted in some reduction to the space that the courses used”.
“Since then there has been no change,” he said, but added that “no course should remain within a fixed historical system and so it is likely that changes will be made, as happens in all our other courses on a regular basis”.
“The current model of actor training is not without its issues and needs reconsidering in the context of contemporary teaching, values and acting practice,” he said.
He reiterated that the review takes place in the context of UAL’s major investment in performance provision, and the “intention to expand performance provision at Central Saint Martins”.