Monday, November 23, 2020
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The woke tragedy of RADA

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LAST week I received an email letter from the director of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Britain’s world-renowned school of acting and my own alma mater. It horrified me. Drawn up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, it set out a revisionist plan to turn RADA from a school for acting into a school for activism.

You can read it in full here, but here are some highlights. The format of confession, contrition and penance is frighteningly reminiscent of China’s 1968 cultural revolution when Chairman Mao’s Red Guards pulled the professional classes from their offices, beat them, forced them to cry on their knees in public and made them apologise for their ‘sins’, then sacked them and made them do menial jobs while kids were made to inform on them. RADA’s director, Edward Kemp, has followed the Little Red Book script down to the last bullet point.

The public confession

‘We recognise that RADA has been responsible for maintaining structures that are systemically racist. We are aware that RADA has been and currently is institutionally racist.’

The abject apology

‘We are profoundly sorry for the role we have played in the traumatic and oppressive experiences of our current and past Black students, graduates and staff . . . We apologise unreservedly for failings of action, leadership and our systems in making RADA a safe and inclusive environment for Black staff and students.’

Re-education for all

‘RADA needs radical change and must work together as a community to achieve it. We are forming a dedicated Anti-Racism Steering Group (of students, staff and Council) that will work with independent advisers to establish the next steps in both immediate change and a root and branch structural reform to end institutional racism at RADA.’ There is a pledge to ‘decolonise the curriculum and pedagogy’.

Student power 

‘Students request that their plan takes priority in any work we do next, and we have agreed it will be central to the continued work on the Academy’s anti-racism action plan.’

Institutionalised informing

‘During the last weeks we have heard from students, staff and graduates about their experiences of racism at RADA. We acknowledge and apologise for those experiences and their impact. We are establishing a process for historic feedback and reporting and specialist support in managing this process. We ask anyone who wants to share their experiences with us to do so.’

Unfinished revolution

‘These commitments are the beginning of the process and we will keep you closely informed on progress.’

So woe betide any fools (teachers or students) who are not mindful of their white privilege, however poor or disadvantaged they may be. Needless to say I was appalled and wrote to the director accordingly.

This is part of what I said:

‘The BLM movement is a Marxist organisation hiding behind an anti-racist mask. This has been well known for many weeks now.

‘The correct response to their vandalism, violence and thuggery should have been outright rejection of their false claims and the exposure of their true agenda: the destruction of civilisation.

‘You state that “RADA has been and currently is institutionally racist”. This is not true, indeed, it is an outright lie.

‘If BLM cared about black lives what are they doing about it apart from pressurising you to conform to their propaganda? How many of them have volunteered to help out in primary schools to help black kids improve their literacy skills? How many have volunteered at youth clubs to get young black men off the streets and into sports teams and training programmes to keep them away from drugs and knives and crime?

‘Your long list of bureaucratic bullet points is a pretty clear illustration of how you see RADA’s future. An administrative exercise in “virtuous” box ticking in order to kow-tow to the politically correct bullies who have intimidated you.

‘For you to have aligned the finest drama school in the world with such an ideology is a disgrace.’

The truth is that RADA has an excellent track record. I have often been back there for readings, script development workshops etc. and to watch the students perform. The atmosphere is still one of creative companionship, hard work and fun. It is quite obviously not a racist organisation. The number of Jews and Indians and West Indians and Africans and Chinese and Turks and Arabs and others who have successfully passed through their portals over the last hundred years or more – to say nothing of the Irish, Welsh and Scots – is testimony to that. 

Stirring up racism whilst pretending to oppose it is an obvious trick that must not be fallen for. But I fear that is exactly what the cowardly director of RADA has done – which is probably why I have not heard back from him.

It’s a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare’s pen. 

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David Cann
David Cann is an actor.

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