Eddie Redmayne, Old Etonian, in Birdsong.
The acting profession is notoriously hard to get into – you need a lot of talent, for one thing. But these days, many young stars of the thespian world are privately educated – look at Tom Hiddleston, Harry Lloyd, Eddie Redmayne, Harry Hadden-Paton – all public school boys. Daniel Stevens of Downton Abbey fame was educated at Tonbridge. Could it be possible that acting will become the preserve of the privileged? David Harewood has recently encouraged young black actors to go to the States to build their careers – should we be worried?
Actors are too posh! Theo Bosanquet on The Guardian thinks so. There are a couple of implications – these actors get a “high standard” of training at their schools. Eton has a 400-seat theater. And it also tells us that “in order to succeed” you need a lot of money behind you. Training fees at acting school cost £10,000 a year; when you start, you often work for free. The rewards, though, are “significant.” Bosquanet did not seek to denigrate the talents of these young actors – and pointed to Dominic West and Damian Lewis, both Etonians with successful and wide acting ranges. But he does think that “fairness and equality” are eroded; also that the theater can’t examine “Cameron’s cabinet when there are more old school ties among its members than on his front bench.” Despite some attempts at reaching out, it seems that theatreland is “a club whose door is open only to the well-heeled and well-connected.”
No they’re not! One commentator on the piece, The HynterYouth, said that he (or she) had trained with a couple of the named actors, and that the fees were two thousand a year. Bosanquet’s article is “insulting” – acting is “down to hard bloody work, talent, a good agent, being very good at meeting people in auditions, and luck.” So what that these guys went to private school? So did loads of their contemporaries, who are “jobbing actors, if they’re still acting at all.” Look at cast lists from the past thirty years – then find out where the actors went, and then you’ll have a better picture.