Shakespeare's Globe boss warns prevalence of acting talent from private schools is a 'real worry'

The theatre's artistic director Dominic Dromgoole was speaking at the launch of the first season of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

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The Independent Culture

The dominance of young actors coming from private schools is a “real worry,” according to the head of Shakespeare’s Globe, as it is becoming harder for less well off children to break through into a career in acting.

Some of the brightest acting talent currently performing in the UK, including Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Damian Lewis and Benedict Cumberbatch, went to private school.

The Globe’s artistic director Dominic Dromgoole fears for the next generation of young people who did not access to the same facilities available at independent schools, or able to support themselves through drama school.

He said: “It’s just the way things are stacking up at the moment. It’s becoming harder and harder for children and young actors without means to get into drama school. I think that’s an enormous shame.”

“The actors coming through are immensely talented,” Mr Dromgoole continued, before adding: “A thinning of the social spectrum is a real concern and a real worry.”

Mr Dromgoole was speaking at the launch of the first season of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe, a new Jacobean-style theatre currently under construction that will initially look at work by playwrights he dubbed “Shakespeare’s backing group”.

As part of the launch, he revealed the Globe is on the lookout for 12 to 16-year-olds to build a company of 16 young actors, and he hopes to give opportunities to less well-off children.

“Hopefully we can look across as broad a social spectrum as possible,” he said. When they initially looked at the idea “we thought: ‘Oh we can get in a group of boys from Eton or Dulwich or whatever, and that just felt wrong somehow. The kids of those periods would have been from all different parts of the social spectrum.”

The actors will be trained in verse speaking, as well as music and dance of the period. They will rehearse with a view to performing in April next year.

Mr Dromgoole said. “It will be fantastic to create that as an institution. So you’ve got an extraordinary early drama school, for a group of very talented kids.”

His fears over lack of opportunities for poorer children echo comments last year from acting grandees from Geoffrey Colman, the head of acting at Central School of Speech and Drama, to Julie Walters

Clare Higgins, an Olivier Award winning actress, said she was working on a free drama school for “those who don’t have any money and have not gone to Eton or Harrow, who are actually working class”. This comes over concerns about drama schools raising their fees to the top £9,000 allowed by the government.

The Globe’s new indoor theatre space, which opens to the public in January, is designed as a historically accurate Jacobean theatre, and follows careful research into materials, design and construction methods used at the time. 

The new theatre is currently “the biggest Lego kit in the world,” Mr Dromgoole said. It has been built in the workshop of Peter McCurdy, described by the artistic director as a “rockstar carpenter”. Over the next five weeks it will be brought onsite in London and assembled.

Mr Dromgoole said: “It is looking thrilling. It’s going to be, we hope, as extraordinary, as thrilling, as full of revelations and insights as the Globe itself.” This will include stage tricks, and trapdoors of the time.

“It is a way of continuing the story of the Globe in understanding the theatre of that time, life at that time, and how people used to get together and congregate.” It will

The new theatre will seat 320 “packed into a very tiny space,” Mr Dromgoole said. “It will be incredibly intimate.”

It will open in January with a production of Duchess of Malfi and the theatre will not put on any Shakespeare in the first year. The second play will be Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont.

Mr Dromgoole said: “If we have been remiss in anything over the past 15 years, it is looking at Shakespeare’s backing group and exploring the repertoire beyond Shakespeare.”

The company will also collaborate with the Royal Opera House for a production of the little known opera L’Ormindo by Francesco Cavalli.