Sunday, July 25, 2021
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The Red Guards of RADA

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THE ongoing tragedy of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which I detailed last year in TCW, has reached a new climax. Those members of staff who have not already departed are now receiving ‘unconscious bias training’ under the tuition of one Vini Lander, director of the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett University.

Apparently, she has been invited to be a keynote speaker at universities here and abroad, the NHS and other schools. At £400 for a two-hour session ‘plus an additional £180 if your organisation would like bespoke elements’, I imagine she must be doing rather well out of it.

She asks participants to watch a video which gives a good idea of the level of debate:

Last July, a long text was issued to staff at the world-renowned school of acting (and released publicly) detailing how the Black Lives Matter agenda is to be promulgated. In 99 painful pages of badly written detail it defines exactly how the school has misbehaved and how it should correct every tiny infringement of the Marxist, woke philosophy. The authors were said to be RADA students but judging by the style of writing I guess it came down to one individual suffering from an extreme form of racial paranoia. Too long to quote in full, a few samples can illustrate:

·       There is a need for us to understand, accept and critically discuss the imperialist history of RADA as an institution so we can critically approach our learning . . .

·       All staff should be encouraged to actively investigate how their personal practice is west-centric and imperialistic . . .

·       The dominance of white people in sources must be addressed with a critical reflection on colonialism and white supremacy . . .

·       All students must receive anti-racist education throughout the course . . .

·       Theatre history is Western-centric and whitewashed . . .

·       The current costume history classes are Eurocentric and thus misinform both its BAME and white students by omission . . .

·       The current dance curriculum is culturally exclusive . . .

It is a comprehensive document covering every aspect of RADA’s existence: dancing, singing, naturalistic and stylised acting, theatre history, text work, make-up etc. Technical and stage management courses do not escape the microscopic examination. There is a numbered list of Issues, and Points of Action are detailed. Every department is guilty of racism and each member of staff must be re-educated to discover the hidden racist within.

This is highly reminiscent of the Red Guards movement in communist China in the late sixties when professional workers were forced to confess, bullied to tears in public and booted out of their jobs. 

Among the aspects of the curriculum exposed as racist is Restoration drama. This is vital for any thespian to master as it requires a convincing grasp of highly stylised bodily movement, eccentric speech, specialised timing and the wearing of elaborate costumes. With BLM it comes in for particular criticism: ‘Most characters in Restoration comedies were figureheads of the Empire.’The plan recommends that training in Restoration drama be discontinued, as one other drama school already has.

The plan also says that black students should be allowed to use Afro-Caribbean accents. RP is so Euro-centric.

When I was a RADA student in the early 70s we had some wonderful teachers who showed us how to use our voices to great effect. Adopting different accents was a central part of the training. Standard English pronunciation is a necessity for all performers, regardless of their origins, even if they don’t use it very much. It’s rather like a pianist or a singer practising scales. I can’t help thinking that since this is a British drama school the teaching should reflect British traditions rather than those of other countries and cultures. If students wished to learn about Nigerian costumes, Indian dancing or Chinese rituals they could attend schools in those countries which teach those skills. Demolishing the British curriculum here will help no one.

Furthermore, if racism is such a wicked enemy, why are these students at drama school in the first place? Surely they should be out there, pounding the streets (rather than the boards), knocking on doors and holding public meetings or, dare I suggest it, writing to their MPs? I can’t imagine that actors, of all people, can bring about the kind of revolutionary change these types are seeking. I well remember Vanessa Redgrave, her brother Corin and the whole of the Workers Revolutionary Party having no effect whatsoever on British political life in the 1970s. Why are these students not working in those parts of the world where racism is a serious problem, such as Rwanda, Nigeria or Yemen? Perhaps because they know they’d get short shrift if they tried.

A glance at the fate of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA, may give us a clue as to what will happen to the world’s most famous drama school. Evergreen was taken over by BLM and is now facing bankruptcy. No one wants to teach or study there.

I correctly predicted the departure of the Principal of RADA, Edward Kemp. The resignation of the Chairman of the Council, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, and several other staff members may be only the beginning.

If falling victim to the latest trend in politically correct bullying was only happening in a school for luvvies it would be of little consequence but it is happening to a corporation near you right now. Many large and powerful companies, IBM amongst them, are succumbing to this idiotic and destructive ideology and handing over large sums to the likes of Vini Lander in the mistaken belief that their staff need to be re-educated. What is really frightening is that this is largely unopposed.

In the words of the racist Bard himself: 

Prevent it, resist it, let it not be so,

Lest child, child’s children, cry against you woe!

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David Cann
David Cann is an actor.

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