Drama schools are working to improve accessibility for disabled students (your views, July 19)
Your article highlighting the under-representation of disabled students in UK drama schools makes a number of valid and timely points.
However, it fails to reflect accurately the commitment and focus shown by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to addressing this issue. As highlighted in our response to The Stage’s research, Scotland’s national conservatoire has embedded the ethos and delivery of fair access across the institution, ensuring students benefit from our learning and teaching regardless of a wide range of potential barriers.
The most striking example of this commitment has been RCS’ development of the UK’s first and only performance degree for D/deaf actors, the first cohort of whom graduated earlier this month. This pioneering degree is already having a positive impact on the industry, with many graduates already taking up professional roles with companies across the UK.
Across other drama-related programmes, RCS continues to demonstrate strong commitment to inclusivity and widening access. In this regard, the statistics from the 2017/18 graduate cohort make compelling reading, with disabilities being declared by 66% of BA (hons) contemporary performance practice graduates, 45% of BA acting graduates and 35% of BA production technology and management students, to cite a few relevant examples.
While without question there is some way to go before the performing arts reflect more fairly and fully the rich diversity of our communities, be assured that Scotland’s national conservatoire is aware of the injustice and fully up for the challenge of tackling it.
Director of drama, dance, production and film, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Graeae absolutely agrees that there should be more D/deaf and disabled students within mainstream drama education, and our Ensemble Training Programme is set up in direct response to this.
The programme trains D/deaf and disabled artists in partnership with leading drama schools LAMDA, RADA, Rose Bruford College and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. The current intake of artists have been training since January 2018, and are performing their breakthrough new production Hurricane Protest Songs at RADA on July 20, and Rich Mix on July 25, with creative British Sign Language, captioning and audio description for all performances.
Head of marketing and development, Graeae Theatre Company
I doubt the statement that “schools including Arts Educational Schools and LAMDA are fully physically accessible to disabled students”. These institutions may be wheelchair-accessible but accessibility goes much further than that.
Claiming that any space or institution is fully physically accessible rings alarm bells. Disability encompasses a broad range of bodily and mental diversity, so improving accessibility is an ongoing process. For example: are courses accessible to students who may not be physically capable of full-time training because of stamina issues? Are the courses themselves inclusive of wheelchair users beyond them being physically able to get through the door?
Drama school training is often seen as necessarily physically rigorous, thereby excluding many with physical disabilities, despite the richness that disability culture has to offer.
Tackling bullying in the industry
Mark Shenton is right to say bullying is theatre’s next big challenge.
When I was at college, another student fired a cap gun at me as I went up the stairs to the prop room. I reported it to my dad, who complained to the head of department, but I was just told off. Later, I was accused of not knowing my lines, but because I had the main part and the person I was acting with could not feed the correct line, it was impossible for me to reply. Again nothing was done.
It was left to the astute lady who taught first aid to tell other staff about the way I was being treated. In the end, the troublemakers all left and, although I loved my time there, this beginning did nothing for the credibility of the course.
A friend of mine who studied at one of the top drama schools in the country a few years ago said she was ostracised and isolated by the majority of students for no obvious reason. She was the only Indian student on her course.
She’s not the type to make a fuss, so she simply accepted the situation and completed her degree. Unfortunately, the individuals engaged in this bullying are the ones most likely to eventually work their way up the industry, hence contributing to the system in which we now work.
I was bullied throughout my school life, and although I didn’t pursue the arts then, I fought it and the system. It made me even more isolated and lonely, even though I was doing what was right. Unfortunately not everyone is able to cope with that, as the article proves.
Streaming service rip-off
It’s disgusting that Marquee.TV is charging 30% more in the UK than the US, especially when the content is currently so meagre. Even Apple’s iTunes doesn’t have that differential.
Quotes of the Week
“I care so much about what I do. I care too much sometimes. I can’t even deal with knowing that there are reruns of certain films I’ve done. Carrying around work that you’re not proud of is not a great feeling for me, so I just don’t do it.”
Actor Gemma Arterton (Guardian)
“I’m not a writer of ironic musical theatre – there’s no jazz hands, tits and teeth.”
Composer and lyricist Sam Kenyon, on Miss Littlewood (Stratford Herald)
“I defend to the ultimate my right to give deep and profound offence. So long as people laugh while they’re being offended.”
Comedian and actor Barry Humphreys (Observer)
“Do you think Gus the theatre cat ever gets pissed off that they all shorten his name from ‘Asparagus’ to ‘Gus’ ’cause they think it’s ‘such a fuss’ to call him by his real name? Think he’s ever like ‘Jennyenydots. I don’t shorten your fucking name to ‘dots’ so don’t shorten mine’.”
Singing teacher Matthew Shaw (Twitter)
“The great lesson about Sherlock Holmes is that Conan Doyle could never understand why people liked it more than his serious stuff. If someone likes what you do, then for God’s sake go with it.”
Actor Mark Gatiss (Times)
“When I was a child actor, I did a BBC show called The Glittering Prizes. In a shower scene, I had to stand up and wee on the kid next to me. They brought over this tube and a funnel and poured orange juice down it.”
Actor Martin Kemp (Weekend Magazine)
“He doesn’t present himself as a political playwright. He does not seem self-consciously radical, yet the state of England has defined his career.”
Director Nicholas Hytner on Alan Bennett (Telegraph)
“Comedy is great in that it’s accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.”
Comedian Hannah Gadsby (Guardian)
“I think it might start some rows. Or it might do the opposite. Hopefully there’ll be lots of good sex after people come and see the show.”
Katherine Parkinson on Home, I’m Darling (Evening Standard)
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