Book smART

I’m watching Netflix and chilling. I didn’t really think that was in my repertoire. But my friend, my cat and my ass – the three of us are watching Homelands. Or two of us are, if you count Pickle who is mostly indifferent. Yeah okay it’s just one of us, since my ass is blind… But it gives me time to write this.


I’ve been helping build the next generation of lawyers as a day job. Then I’ve been helping dream the next generation of theatre as an evening job.

For three years I’ve gone to a major law firm and helped them select people who will go on to shining things. It’s a day long. It’s always lovely. You see people come out of their shells. You help a major employer to employ lovely smart people. At grass roots, it feels like a chance to use empathy and general understanding of heart to help guide employers to good kids. We are not the only eye in the room. But our eye is valued. And as actors we know the difference between genuinely smart people and obedient people with no agency.

Over half of the 7 actor/tutors I worked with today trained at GSA. The Guildford School of Acting. And I discovered today that this school for actors has recently imposed an AAB minimum at A level for entry into their acting course.

As an actor, nobody has ever asked me my A level grades. I’d find the question laughably irrelevant and a road to disrespect if it was asked of me. But by imposing this entry criterion, this so called “acting” school is passing on the best portion of its potential intake, and feeding the middle class bias in the industry. Yes there are academic high achievers that turn out to be good actors too – by chance. But in my experience many of the best actors are not book-smart, not obedient, not AAB or anything close. And our job is to represent all parts of society. Not just gradesy McGradeson’s obedient yesno chums.

It’s left me feeling conflicted. I would never recommend GSA to anyone now. There are too many echo chambers available to us. I was lucky to be broken out of my sense of privilege by Guildhall – in many ways the opposite of Guildford despite the similarity of name. I saw how people in my year with no book learning whatsoever could understand things deeper and clearer than I could with all my inherited self importance. The very reason we are there at the law firm is to assess the human nature of these kids. If someone gave me a list of all the candidates ranked entirely in order of their academic achievements, I’d consider it totally irrelevant to my assessment and leave it on the side.

After work I went to the Arts Theatre and stood with about 20 people who are unbelievably talented makers and movers and shakers in the industry. We had a creative brainstorm about a massive new upcoming project. If more than an eighth of those people got AAB at A level I’ll eat my hat. These are people who are making things without fetters, without obedience, without the entrenched belief in a binary answer. They’re my people. And they make my life better by existing, even if they didn’t quite gel with school . Or perhaps because they didn’t.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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