In 2000 Anna Scher, the school’s founder, stepped down from her teaching job after over 30 years when a bout with depression forced her to enter a hospital. She has now recovered, but has not been reinstated. Her plight has attracted support from famous actors, including Kathy Burke and British TV star Ross Kemp. The press release announcing Harries’ appointment says, “There would seem to be a general misconception that The Anna Scher Theatre is a private business, owned by Ms. Scher, and that she has in some way been ousted from her rightful place. . . [It] is, however, a registered charity, it has continued to bear Ms. Scher’s name in recognition of her status as founder, but it has moved on considerably in the past four years. The Charity Trustees . . . consider that . . . it is not in the best overall interests of the Charity to restore her to her original position. In reaching this decision, they have had to recognise the distinction between the interests of the Charity and Ms. Scher’s personal wishes . . . the Charity should now be allowed to move forward under the leadership of Andrew Harries as its new Artistic Director.”
Harries himself adds, “I am passionate about the role of theatre as an educational and social tool and excited buy the prospect of working with the 1000 plus membership of the theatre. It is regrettable that the dedicated staff at the theatre and the young people who use the theatre have been drawn into the recent fray. I have the greatest respect for Ms. Scher’s achievements; she is a talented and charismatic woman whose work has touched many people. However, any organisation is about far more than one individual and must face change if it is to move forward.”
Alumni of the school include stage and screen stars such as Burke, Gary and Martin Kemp, Pauline Quirk, Gillian Taylforth, Linda Robson, Dexter Fletcher, Patsy Palmer and Naomie Harris. Opened in 1968 as an Islington school’s drama club, the theatre school preaches a policy of social inclusion and deliberately sets out to work with people from many cultural and social backgrounds.