10 of the Best Top-Up Acting Classes in London

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Photo Source: Chanté Timothy

Been to drama school, got the certificate, training done and dusted, right? Wrong! For most actors, training and learning about the art of acting is a lifelong process. Most actors regard every role as a chance to learn and better themselves, but they also see keeping their talents up to date and well-exercised as a crucial part of their skillset. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. 

Almost everybody has gaps between jobs and most actors fret about getting out of practice. So, developing as an actor, whether you’re being paid or not, seems like a no brainer. That might mean running lines with friends, filming a new audition piece, or for many of us, it means saying yes to more training, admitting we can always add more skills to our CV and crucially, embracing further professional development.     

Topping up your training mid-career is a chance to look with new eyes at the career you love. Maybe you’ll learn methods which are new to you since you trained first time round like Viewpoints and Suzuki, or perhaps you’ll bring new life experiences to bear on a course you completed years ago. Whatever your motivation for signing up to more training, it’s likely to be a chance to renew your passion for acting. 

With that thought in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best top-up acting classes available in London.

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The Actors Centre

You’ve probably seen the ads for this one. Set up in 1978 by actors for actors, the Actors Centre’s aim is to “support actors throughout their careers”. The centre offers loads of great classes on everything from Shakespeare, improv, accents, and Stanislavski, to doing your tax return – plus, they tend to be held at convenient times for a jobbing actor. There are also occasional masterclasses with top-drawer talent like Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen on offer at their Covent Garden HQ.  

Of course, you do have to pay and also you have to meet the Actors Centre’s strict membership criteria – that means having an Equity card, being a member of Spotlight or having gone to an approved list of drama schools. However, the classes are varied and great, and as an Actors Centre member you also get discounts for theatre and kit hire, industry invitations, and ticket deals. Also, the Actors Centre is a great hub for networking and meeting like-minded people, so you may well conclude it’s worth the extra money.

How much does it cost?
Actors membership costs £30 a month or £75 a year. Individual course rates vary but most sit around the £40 mark.   

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The City Academy

Based in venues across London, the City Academy specialises in the performing arts and runs lots of different types of acting classes, from advanced Method, Stanislavski, Meisner, and Augusto Boal classes to assorted screen acting, stage combat, Shakespeare, and voiceover training sessions. All the classes are taught by industry professionals, and the academy’s ambition is to fit around your working schedule so you can learn at lunchtime, weekends, and after work.  

An interesting offering from the academy is its Resident Companies, which run alongside the classes to give students the chance to get involved with productions in a more hands-on manner. They’ve got a Musical Theatre Company, several theatre companies, and six choirs to get hands-on experience with. The academy regularly holds events in London’s premier venues including Sadler's Wells, the Dominion Theatre, and Soho Theatre. 

How much does it cost?
There’s no membership fee – you just pay for each class as and when. To get some idea of price, a five-day Screen Acting class costs £595 and a one-day Body Memory workshop costs £139.

READ: The Definitive Guide to the Meisner Technique

City Lit

Holborn’s City Lit is a London institution offering classes on a vast array of subjects. You may not be interested in their Data Analytics with Python or Trees of London modules, but there are plenty of acting courses which might be right up your street. 

Short courses on subjects like Stanislavski, Laban, the Lecoq Method, the anatomy of the voice, and America’s popular Viewpoints technique are all on offer here, and City Lit, which bills itself as “where London learns” might be a good choice if you want a wide choice of classes at affordable prices. 

One thing to think about is that students here are from all walks of life, so – unlike other places on this list – it’s likely you’ll be working alongside non-actors. The City Lit does have professional classes aimed at working actors such as sessions on the Alexander Technique and preparing for auditions, so if you’d rather stick to those then keep your eyes peeled, but many actors enjoy getting stuck in with a range of participants.    

How much does it cost?
Fees start at around £79, but it’s worth bearing in mind that’s for four two-hour sessions over four weeks.

The Actors Temple

Billed as an alternative to drama school, the Actors Temple, based in central London’s Warren Street, is where actors come to learn about the Meisner Technique. It was created from founder Mark Wakeling’s reaction to life as a jobbing actor, described by the website as “a desire for connection with others and to balance the isolation that can arise from life as a working actor.” 

What can it offer training-wise? Aside from the longer drama courses introducing the Meisner method, the Temple also offers classes where you can “continue to hone your craft” in small classes of just six to 12 people. There are sessions on cold reading, accents, repetition, and improv as well as voice and movement. They also run various top-up workshops like intensive US accent training, sessions on the business side of being an actor, and introductions to Stanislavski’s Active Analysis technique.

It’s worth noting that they do prefer students to have completed their own Foundation Course in Meisner before doing shorter classes, but some exceptions may be made, so contact them to find out more.   

How much does it cost?
Classes cost £18 for one class or £125 for ten. The Foundation Course costs £425 and runs several times a month.

READ: The Definitive Guide to the Stanislavsky Acting Technique

The Cockpit

Unlike the other institutions on this list, 1970s institution The Cockpit Theatre is a venue rather than a provider, but it’s still worth checking out as it regularly holds classes in its Marylebone space. The Salon Collective seems to be the main organiser of classes, running Meisner sessions for actors with differing levels of experience of this method. If you’ve never heard of them, we’re sure you’ll be reassured that Miriam Margolyes is their patron. More generally, The Cockpit seems to have a fun, creative ethos aimed at actors and performing arty types, so it may well be worth checking out if you’re after like-minded people and a nice spot of networking.  

How much does it cost?
Drop-in classes cost £15 for one or £70 for five.

READ: 10 Podcasts Every UK Actor Should Be Listening To

Actors Studio

Actors Studio was started in 2004 by former agent Tim Kent, and its base in Pinewood Studios might give you a clue as to its main interest when it comes to acting. Led by industry professionals, Actors Studio offers screen acting courses for reasonable prices: the one-day Screen Acting Workshop costs £75 and offers time with an experienced television or film director, as well as giving networking and business tips. If Pinewood seems too far away, they also offer a weekly acting course in central London which culminates with you getting a professionally shot showreel.

How much does it cost?
The weekly acting course costs £499

READ: 10 Film Schools in the UK You Need to Know

City Acting

Describing itself as London’s “boutique Drama School,” City Acting offers courses to actors of all levels. If you’ve already had some training or some acting jobs, they suggest the following courses: Intermediate’s Scene Work, Character Building, Voice & Communication Skills, and Monologue & Presentation workshops. They also run an Amateur Theatre course, where actors are directed as a theatre company over a ten-week course, with each student taking a role in a well-known play. The school is mainly based in Waterloo and has been going for eleven years.

How much does it cost?
The eight-week Intermediate’s Scene Work course costs £195

READ: Everything UK Actors Need to Know About Monologues

Actors Door Studio

Over in east London’s Brick Lane is the Actors Door Studio offering drop-in Meisner classes onwards. The drop-ins are on Saturday afternoons and offer two and a half hours of Meisner-based training. The Studio also offers courses on American accents, intensive scene study, and audition workshops – all for relatively good prices considering their central London location. Dialect coach Shaun Morton offers teaching over Skype if you’re in urgent need of some Received Pronunciation refresher time or any accent-coaching.

Actors Door Studio also has its own film production company, Angry Bee Films, founded by the studio’s director Fay Beck.

How much does it cost?
Drop-in classes cost from £15

RADA

Okay, so it’s not cheap but it is RADA. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, probably the UK’s most prestigious drama school, offers short classes – for a price. No audition is needed for its elements of RADA workshop, which each week covers individual subjects like voice, movement, contemporary text, classical text, and improvisation, all for £50 a pop. The classes run from 7pm to 9.30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, and there are only 12 people in each group so you’re sure to get individual attention from a bona fide RADA teacher. 

How much does it cost?
£50 per two-and-a-half-hour class

READ: What Is RADA and Why Is It so Famous?

Giles Foreman Centre for Acting

This is one to keep your eye on as they regularly offer intensive acting workshops expressly for professionally trained and experienced actors. Techniques taught are drawn from “the great acting teachers of the world” –  that means “Stanislavski through to Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, and Stella Adler.” They won’t let just anyone in on these courses, but it’s based in the middle of Soho, so is very handy. 

How much does it cost?
A Professional Actor Weekend with Giles Foreman costs £180. Email the centre for details.

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Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s London audition listings!