Studies show that more and more people wish to express their artistic talents and pursue their dream of becoming actors or theatre performers, and are thus looking to audition for drama school this year. Given the number of existing schools, it can be rather tough to decide which one to approach.
If you are looking to enrol, and although it is always important to do your own research, this list will give you a pretty good overview of the landscape in the UK. To build up this list, we have focused on reputation, alumni, teaching staff, facilities and industry standings.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to move to London to train in drama - or indeed study acting abroad. True, many of the best drama training institutions in Ireland are based in the capital but living away from home can be prohibitively expensive. Elsewhere across Ireland, there are many celebrated courses at universities and colleges offering thorough training in acting, leading to a degree too.
The Best Acting Colleges - UCC
Let's start with one of the most reputable universities UCC
University College Cork (UCC). Theatre & Performative Practices degree at University College Cork (UCC) is a window to the exciting world of theatre and performance. This programme explores the world of theatre and the wide spectrum of performance: such as dance, outdoor performance, and music theatre.
You will create and make work: indeed, you usually devise, perform and evaluate your material, rather than putting on existing plays. You will also learn how theatre can engage with and respond to cultural change. We also look at the business side of theatre production through study and internships.
This is a broad-based degree, that seeks to leverage your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, is taught by researchers, makers, and practitioners. Practical workshops and classes, alongside academic study and passionate argument, are at the core of your learning. You will have the chance to perform, create work, direct, and be involved in the technical development of productions as well as debate and examine ideas and theories.
You will have an opportunity to elect to study our international pathways and spend your third year abroad. UCC's partnerships open up opportunities in Denmark, Germany, Malta, France, Canada, the US, Mexico, and beyond, in English or in other languages.
UCC has a long and established theatre tradition and our alumni include some outstanding examples of this tradition, and include:
- Cillian Murphy (actor)
- Fiona Shaw (actor)
- Graham Norton (TV presenter/actor/writer)
- Jessica Reagan (National Theatre, London)
- John Crowley (theatre & film director)
- Lochlainn McKenna (music video director)
- Oonagh Kearney (film director)
- Ray Scannell (composer/actor Abbey Theatre)
- Stefanie Preissner (writer/actor/director)
- Thomas Conway (Druid Theatre Co.)
- Tom Creed (Festival, Theatre and Opera director)
Note: while the minimum age to partake of these lessons is 16, there is no maximum age so, if you were looking for a new project to sink your teeth in, you might consider one or more of these courses!
The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin
The Lir Academy was established in 2011 to satisfy identified needs within the theatre, TV and film industries. Offering a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and short courses, The Lir Academy is successfully supplying the theatre, film, TV and related industries with students who have been trained to the highest standards possible.
At night, The Lir Academy opens its doors to the public and offers a developing programme of performances, films, play readings, talks and lectures.
Some of the courses which Lir Academy offers are as follows:
- Postgraduate Degrees
- MFA Theatre Directing
- MFA Stage Design (lighting design, set design and costume design)
- MFA Playwriting
- Undergraduate Courses
- Bachelor in Stage Management and Technical Theatre
- Foundation Diploma in Acting and Theatre
- Bachelor In Acting
- Study Abroad - Stage Management & Technical Theatre
- Short Courses
- Introduction to Screen Acting
- Introduction to Playwriting
- Intermediate Acting: Character and Scene Study
- Audiobook Narration
- Individual Coaching Class
- Introduction to Set Design
- Physical Theatre
Bachelor of Arts in Performing Arts - IT SLIGO
This course is designed to provide graduates with the skills to work as actors in theatre, film and television. Coursework includes skills classes, workshops, masterclasses from industry professionals and performances in the Institute’s Black Box theatre.
Throughout the three years, you will be introduced to the main acting genres and be given a range of approaches to acting. In addition to vocal and movement skills, you will learn how to create characterisation.
There is a strong demand for qualified practitioners in the theatre and film industries. Graduates will be qualified to work either as an actor in film and TV, or alternatively in a range of areas across the performing arts, teaching, or careers in the broader cultural context (e.g. graduates have founded new theatre companies, written plays, etc.)
This programme has partnered with Debrecen University in Hungary where our acting students may go for two weeks of masterclasses in voice, movement and acting.
Flying Turtle Productions (formerly the Abbey School of Drama) - Dublin
The Drama/Acting School was created under the direction of Kathleen Warner Yeates in 2003. Flying Turtle Productions has established itself as a studio known for a very high standard of tuition and production, with small class sizes and very experienced, dedicated staff.
Some of the courses which Flying Turtle Productions offer are as follows:
- Screenwriting - Evening courses for adults who are interested in writing for film and television, under the master guidance of tutor Barry McEvoy
- Acting for Camera - This is a 7-week course on acting for the camera for those of you with some previous acting experience either in the classroom or on sets.
- Scene Study - This is a 10-week adult acting performance course covering some of the basics of voice and bodywork, improvisation, understanding text and performance.
- Advanced 6-Month Actor Training - This course is the most comprehensive advanced performance course that we currently offer, and is for the experienced advanced student by audition/interviews. The highest level of commitment is needed to participate in this course as students will be expected to work outside the allotted class times and additional rehearsals will be scheduled before productions.
The Best Acting Schools in the UK
Some students wish to spread their wings and study abroad, the UK and Ireland have always exchanged students and professionals, so why don't we take a quick look at what's on offer across different parts of the UK?
Below are 3 of the best they have to offer in England, Scotland and Wales:
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts - Liverpool, England
Even though this article is mainly about acting, we just have to gush a bit about the many study programmes on offer at LIPA: Stage Management, Creative Technologies, Sound Technology, Applied Theatre...
Now that we have that out of our system, we’ll gush about the acting programmes LIPA has on offer.
The internationally renown Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts delivers its own BA (Hons) acting course. The school offers around 36 places per year and potential entrants are expected to have attained a minimum of 64 UCAS points but the faculty is also looking for key attributes in their students, including self-awareness, commitment and an entrepreneurial spirit to create new work.
Their one-year, intensive foundation course is a great starting point to your education in acting. It gets the nuts and bolts of the craft out of the way; sort of an introduction to what is expected of actors on a modern or classical stage.
Now suitably prepared, you may move on to their BA Honours programme, a 3-year, full-time endeavour that will make you ready to face every acting challenge from physical roles to emotional ones.
Not every actor stays in the limelight for the duration of their career; many move behind the camera.
To add that layer of skill to your repertoire, you may continue your studies at LIPA. Through their Masters’ programme, you will learn about everything that happens behind the scenes to make actors’ performances shine.
Sir Paul McCartney raves that it is one of the best performing arts schools in the world!
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama - Cardiff, Wales
Established in 1949 in Cardiff Castle, RWCMD (The National Conservatoire of Wales) is another top-level acting school in the United Kingdom, and even the world.
Most testimonials and articles concerning this school agree to say that it truly cares for its students and makes sure each one of them is taken care of during and after their studies, thus really helping them get onto their feet in the industry. To do so, the school nourishes very close partnerships with local TV stations and regularly invites casting directors. In addition to this, the RWCMD stages over 300 performances every year.
That is a fairly remarkable statistic for a school with only 22 undergraduate slots and a mere 10 in their Masters’ programme!
This school is unique in its course structure. Unlike other schools’ syllabi that devote a substantial amount of class time to theory and method, RWCMD compels you to get hands-on straight away.
Even as an undergraduate, you would devote yourself to physical and vocal work in the morning, with rehearsals in the afternoon.
No wonder it’s been voted the top drama school UK four years running!
Graduates include Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ruth Jones. If you are anywhere near Cardiff or consider the idea of living in Wales, this drama school could be a very good option and will shine on your Curriculum.
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Glasgow, Scotland.
Located in Scotland, RCS (formally RSAMD for Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) is a solid drama school founded as long ago as 1847. Prince Charles is currently a patron of the Academy, helping to maintain a school’s place as a vibrant conservatoire.
Their curriculum is divided into three broad categories: acting, musical theatre and contemporary performance practice.
One outstanding feature of this school is their curriculum for actors who are deaf, called Performance in British Sign Language. It is the only one of its kind in the UK and throughout Europe.
The training included in this programme is much the same as their regular acting and musical theatre programmes. You will learn how to move, sing, dance and improvise.
And you would learn one skill that traditional acting students are not taught: puppetry.
Throughout these three-year programmes, every student will have the opportunity to work with established actors and performers, getting tips on how to improve their craft.
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