Luke Rittner, Rory Kinnear, Joanna Read and Nicholas Hytner at the launch of Act Now! at the National Theatre
Joanna Read with Luke Rittner, Rory Kinnear and Nicholas Hytner at the launch of Act Now!
© Dan Wooller

The principal of LAMDA has fired back at recent criticism of the value of a three-year drama course.

Speaking at an event last month, National Youth Theatre's artistic director Paul Roseby told cultural leaders: "Drama schools are incredibly expensive and the majority of actors don't need three years' training."

But speaking to WhatsOnStage at the launch of LAMDA's Act Now! fundraising campaign at the National Theatre yesterday, the school's principal Joanna Read said: "I think [such comments] are mad, to be quite frank. Everybody can see the difference between a trained and a non-trained actor."

Citing LAMDA graduate Jim Broadbent as an example, she added: "His career is fantastic and it's grown and grown as he's got older because of his training. It's given him depth, variety, the ability to pick and choose performances, and it's made him tremendously versatile and employable. He couldn't do that if he wasn't trained."

The Act Now! campaign aims to raise £6.1 million to complete the construction of a new theatre and studio space as well as film and audio training facilities at LAMDA's west London home.

Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello
Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello
© Alastair Muir

Read's comments were echoed by actor Rory Kinnear, who completed a two-year course at LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) following university.

"You can thrust people into the spotlight and hope they swim rather than drown," he said, "but more often than not they'll spend those first three years feeling ill at ease, particularly if they're surrounded by people who have been trained."

Kinnear, who recently starred opposite Adrian Lester in Othello at the National and took part in last weekend's star-studded 50th anniversary gala, added: "I think you'd feel scared if your first theatre job was on the Olivier stage and you hadn't had any training. Three months in you might be feeling sore, because a theatre like that tests your vocal and physical capabilities.

"I was so delighted to go the LAMDA for two years, where drama was the main focus of my life. As a new graduate you're lucky if you spend a fifth of your year doing a job you want to do, so to have two or three years of concentrated thought I found absolutely essential."

Reflecting on Saturday's gala, in which he appeared alongside the likes of Judi Dench, Michael Gambon and Alan Bennett, Kinnear added: "Everybody on stage and in the audience felt enormously privileged to be there. Evenings like that don't come around too often."