What do Andrew Garfield, Carrie Fisher, and Judi Dench have in common?
They all studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
The school, which has produced stage veterans like Vanessa Redgrave (Driving Miss Daisy) and screen stars like Kit Harington (HBO’s Game of Thrones), is one of the UK’s leading performing arts institutes.
Wendy Gadian, Principal Lecturer for the BA Acting Musical Theatre course, who has worked in the West End as a Music Director and performer, says Broadway up-and-comers should consider honing their craft across the pond.
“We hold US auditions in San Francisco and New York every year as well as seeing American candidates in London,” she says.
“There are two or three American students in every cohort of the Acting Musical Theatre Course. Our training is unique because of the focus on acting process, acting movement and text work alongside singing and dance.
The prestigious school dates back to 1906 and reportedly has a one percent acceptance rate. Graduates of the course can be seen leading roles in West End plays and musicals, at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the National Theatre as well as in international feature films and TV.
Texas native Stephen Louis, who is about to enter his third and final year at Central, was among the chosen few. He says he was sold on the school after his first audition.
“I knew I wanted a program where I could give absolute focus to my performance training, and more than any other audition I had done thus far, Central seemed to have a real interest in trying to break down the power imbalance that comes with being one of thousands in line for a single class,” Louis says. “Central had become my top pick even before the end of the day.”
Since moving to London two yeas ago, Louis has undertaken subjects like Animal Studies and Clowning, but it’s stage combat where his passion lies.
“After high school, I attended the national workshop of the Society of American Fight Directors and pretty quickly found a love for stage combat,” he says. “Since then, I’ve become an Advanced Actor-Combatant with the SAFD, an Actor Combatant with the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat, and recently was elected an Actor-Combatant Representative for the Executive Committee of the BASSC. I’ve also had the good fortune to be published a few times in the SAFD Journal ‘The Fight Master’ and will be giving a talk at TEDx RoyalCentralSchool this November about combat and musical theatre.”
Garrett Turner, who grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Central in 2014 with an MA in Musical Theatre, says the school opened doors for him.
“I loved how diverse my cohort was; we had folks from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Trinidad and other parts of the US like Kansas,” he says. “I had a totally global experience just within the 18 folks in our cohort.”
Turner was awarded a Marshall Scholarship, which offers American students the opportunity to complete their postgraduate studies at any university in the United Kingdom.
“With the scholarship, all the barriers in my mind were broken down,” he says.
Since graduating, Turner has appeared on TV in Law & Order: SVU and Madame Secretary. He also starred alongside Tony Winner André De Shields in the Jerry Mitchell-led production of Half Time at Paper Mill Playhouse in 2018.