How to become an actor in London, including where to find auditions, drama schools and the cost of living in the capital.
London is the centre of the UK’s entertainment industry, making it a popular base for performers. Often referred to as the ‘theatre capital of the world’, it has around 40 theatres in and around the West End. It is home to renowned venues such as the National Theatre and Shaftesbury Theatre, with a fantastic range of Fringe venues.
For actors wanting a career on screen, London is a hub for major TV and film studios like Shepperton Studios – where Netflix and Amazon Prime lease studio space for their productions.
Many of the UK’s industry professionals – such as agents, directors and producers – are based in the capital and a substantial amount of casting happens here.
If you’re living in London or considering moving there and want to begin an acting career, this guide will cover all the aspects.
Actor Training in London
If you want to do a three-year acting course, you’ll find some of the UK’s best training facilities in London, including:
- The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), founded in 1861, is the oldest drama school in the UK. It offers state-of-the-art facilities and notable alumni, including Spotlight members Sam Claflin and Rose Leslie.
- The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is considered one of the best drama schools in the world and has notable alumni, including Spotlight members Imelda Staunton and Anthony Hopkins.
- The BA Acting course at Guildhall School of Music and Drama is notoriously difficult to get into. Notable alumni include Daniel Craig and Lily James.
Part-time and alternative actor training:
- Fourth Monkey, founded in 2010, is a newer school and offers a two-year accelerated BA (Hons) Acting course.
Take a look at our interview with Fourth Monkey’s artistic director, Steven Green.
- The Identity School of Acting was founded in 2003 by actor Femi Ognuns “to reach out to black and ethnic minority actors, who felt relegated, ignored or misused by the industry and by existing drama schools.” The school accepts students from age 16 and notable alum include John Boyega and Letitia Wright.
- The Bridge Theatre Training Company was established in 1993 to make drama training accessible and affordable. The school offers a two-year intensive acting course or a one-year course for people aged 21 and above with acting experience.
Musical theatre training:
- London is also popular for musical theatre, and prominent schools offering full-time training include Mountview, ArtsEd, Urdang and Performers College.
- The London School of Musical Theatre and the Royal Academy of Music are great options for one-year intensive courses – while the Musical Theatre Academy and Associated Studios offer two-year intensive courses.
Take a look at the full list of accredited drama schools in London for more options and use the UCAS course finder tool for courses in acting and musical theatre at a London university.
If you want to hone your craft while auditioning or do a short course in acting, there are plenty to choose from. If you’re a member of Spotlight, go to your account to check what free workshops and Q&As with industry professionals and classes are upcoming.
Many London drama schools – including RADA and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – offer short courses on different disciplines and City Academy offer flexible courses from beginner to advanced levels.
Most of these classes are in the evening or at the weekend and are a great way to brush up your skills, network and keep up-to-date with London castings.
Types of Acting Work in London
London is the heart of the UK’s entertainment industry, offering substantial theatre, TV and film opportunities. Popular soap EastEnders is filmed at Elstree Studios – which has propelled the careers of actors such as Spotlight members Ben Hardy and Mimi Keene.
London is a popular backdrop for film and TV, so there’s a constant flow of productions. Having a base there will be an advantage for actors in the casting process.
There are around 241 theatres across London, creating lots of theatre work in a range of productions. Some venues, such as the National Theatre, have an in-house casting department and casting procedures.
London is home to a thriving fringe scene ranging from tiny venues like the Finborough Theatre to the Southwark Playhouse, one of the largest fringe theatres in the city. Fringe productions are a great way of finding work, getting credits for your Spotlight profile and having something to invite industry professionals to. It’s worth noting that many productions work on a profit-share basis, where payment will depend on audience numbers.
How to Find Auditions in London
Wherever you live in the UK, finding auditions will be a similar process. Casting platforms are a fantastic tool to find auditions – whether you have an agent or not – so make sure you’re a Spotlight member to keep up to date with the latest castings.
Notable casting directors based in London include:
- Nina Gold Casting, whose credits include Game of Thrones.
- Suzanne Smith Casting, who sources the talent for Outlander.
- Des Hamilton, who cast the iconic This is England.
- David Grindrod, whose credits include Mamma Mia! 1 and 2.
Cost of Living in London
It’s no secret that London is the most expensive city in the UK. The average rent is around £2,383 per month, and the average rent for a room in a shared house is £971 per month. This guide breaks down the cost of rent in all 32 boroughs.
Before these figures scare you off, remember that it depends on where in London you live and it’s possible to find more affordable options. There are two-bedroom flats on Rightmove for under £1,500 per month and rooms in shared houses starting from £650 per month. You can find plenty of affordable spots if you’re flexible on location and commute.
London has one of the world’s most efficient public transport services, with many different modes of transport.
A Hopper fare costs £1.75 and allows unlimited journeys on buses and trams made within one hour. A one-day bus and tram pass costs £6.00 and a weekly pass will cost £24.70.
Take a look at TFL’s website for further bus and tram fare information.
The cost of the train and London Underground tubes depends on which zones you’re travelling in and whether you’re travelling at peak or off-peak times.
More information about tube and train fares can be found on TFL’s website.
Finally, London is a very cycle-friendly city, so for a more cost-effective option, hire a Santander bike for around £20 a month.
Overall, London is the heart of the UK’s entertainment industry, which is why many actors choose it as a base. The city’s world-famous theatres provide a wealth of castings to actors and its thriving fringe scene creates exciting opportunities – a great way to start your career!
London’s many TV and film studios have a constant stream of impressive productions, including Netflix and Hollywood films. Living in London is not essential to becoming an actor, but performers will find a broader range of opportunities compared to the rest of the UK – due to its position as a major creative hub.
Sarah Ridgway trained as an actor and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. Sarah is now a freelance writer, and her credits include Backstage and Actors Pro Expo; she is also passionate about empowering solo female travel.
Headshot credit: Sarah Ridgway