Drama body rejects accusations of bias

April 26, 2002

A specialist drama school has claimed that other schools have prevented its students from getting grants. But its claims of discrimination have been rejected by the National Council of Drama Training, which accredits 20 of Britain's best-known drama schools.

Students at the north London-based School of the Science of Acting have found it increasingly difficult to get grants under the government's dance and drama awards.

These were introduced in 1999. after drama schools had told ministers that talented actors were being barred from the profession because local authorities no longer gave discretionary grants.

But so far only students at NCDT-accredited schools have received awards under the scheme, though accreditation is not a formal requirement.

The School of the Science of Acting has engaged in a bitter battle to get accreditation or to get grants for its students.

Its students might get grants if the school received accreditation from Trinity College London, which the government has commissioned as an alternative accrediting body, but no school has yet been accredited by Trinity.

Sam Kogan, principal of the School of the Science of Acting, accepted there had to be checks before grants were given, but insisted his training, though unique in Britain, was professional.

Mr Kogan, a 55-year-old Ukrainian, graduated in 1971 from Konstantin Stanislavski's theatre school in Moscow, from which method actors such as Marlon Brando took their inspiration.

After working as an actor and director in Russia and Ukraine, he came to Britain in 1973 and set up a restaurant. In 1986 he began teaching drama and eventually set up his own school. It is now a registered charity. The method he uses is based on Stanislavski's, although he claims to have improved on the master's work.

The training is rigorous. The NCDT report states: "Walking at least 100 miles a year is compulsory; washing in cold water advised; smoking prohibited; and the day starts with yoga and has meditation at the end. Discipline is enforced with sanctions, which include fines, tasks such as cleaning and suspension from classes."

There is an element of therapy, and, in addition to acting, students study a huge range of subjects, ranging from technical drawing to law.

One reason the NCDT refused accreditation was that the school takes almost all the students it auditions. NCDT executive secretary Adele Bailey said:

"We look at the ratio of acceptances to applications. Drama schools believe talent exists - there are so many people who would like to become actors. We ensure that courses we accredit will prepare students for the profession. We gave him pointers for what it would take to get accredited."

But Mr Kogan claims to be able to teach anyone to act. He said: "They are trying to stop the school and its graduates from getting anywhere."

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