2016 seems to have been a shocker of year. I don’t think various bites of terrible news, deaths etc are purely a response to Brexit but Brexit has the misfortune of being a June event and some news of a couple of weeks ago really made me consider the performance arts industry’s options in light of that referendum.
The news that the 32 year old Poor School will shut its doors really shocked me. The Poor School was aimed at older people who wanted to train but who didn’t have the time or the money to commit to the full course, which are now over £9000 per academic year. The Poor School offered a two-year course which cost £2,190 per term for six terms and shorter, four-day courses were also available. There has been no statement but from my personal experience in a Drama examination board (aimed at pre-university candidates) it is clear drama schools are not only limiting their intake but they expect more from their students. When actors, such as Tom Hiddleston discuss how off-putting tuition fees are for poorer students it is a worthy fight that ignores how students get in a position to even be accepted on the courses in the first place; expensive after school classes and tuition within the private school system. It is rare that state funded schools do drama/music exams in my experience because it is a cost many lower income families
Crucially drama schools are reluctant to take on young students (18-21) so not only are they are expected to do something else in this time (University? Too expensive. Local drama training? Also too expensive) and the body that accredited many of the UK’s drama schools, Drama UK, closed after many top drama schools left leaving only a small number. The reasoning was that formerly independent drama schools were now accredited by the university system and didn’t need Drama UK anymore but to compare the specific vocational teaching of drama with universities which may teach drama but have a more traditional focus takes away what makes drama training so special and so craved. It is quite apparent that the system will soon have to adapt to a generation of actors that have done something else before becoming actors. I think currently there is a lot of suspicion over older actors who have been in the business for years, let alone those that come into the field after doing something else because they have the time/money to train.
In reference to Brexit who knows what the legacy will be in terms of acting students who come to schools like RADA and CSSD from overseas. It is naïve to not realise that not only are many of London’s finest creatives European but they are here because of the freedom of movement, what costs (both creative and financial) will happen to many of London’s theatres because they are now limited in what talent they can employ. No more Ivo Van Hoves, no more Miriam Buethers. It will be a devastating loss. If we are lucky we may get a lot of Americans from a Post-Trump USA.