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RADA students demand George Bernard Shaw’s name be dropped from drama school’s theatre

Students at RADA have called for George Bernard Shaw’s name to be removed from the drama school’s theatre due to his support for eugenics. 

The students have demanded the playwright’s name be removed from the George Bernard Shaw Theatre (GBS Theatre) as part of an anti-racism action plan.

They have also asked the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) to stop performing Restoration comedies due to their association with Empire, the Telegraph reported. 

The anti-racism action plan has been drawn up by RADA’s student body and argues that ‘RADA celebrates historical figures who embraced racist ideologies’.

Students at RADA have called for the drama school’s George Bernard Shaw Theatre to be renamed due to playwright’s (above) support of eugenics

The student body have given an anti-racism action plan to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), arguing that 'Rada celebrates historical figures who embraced racist ideologies'

The student body have given an anti-racism action plan to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), arguing that ‘Rada celebrates historical figures who embraced racist ideologies’

Speaking of re-naming the GBS Theatre, the plan says: ‘This man spoke in support of eugenics and fascism.’

Irish playwright Bernard Shaw controversially supported eugenics in his writings and lectured for the Eugenic Education Society, which aimed to teach the public about the practice.

Great playwright who praised Hitler in 1935 

George Bernard Shaw, born on July 6, 1856, was an Irish playwright and the recipient of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature.

He wrote more than 60 plays, including Man and Superman in 1902 and Saint Joan in 1923.

One of his most-recognised works is Pygmalion – which My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn, was later based on. 

His success was cemented with plays such as Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara and The Doctor’s Dilemma.

Shaw expressed contentious views, including promoting eugenics and alphabet reform, which had little effect on his success as a dramatist.

He controversially denounced both sides in the First World War as equally deserving blame, as well as opposing vaccination and organised religion.

In the late 1920s, he spoke favourably of dictatorships of both the right and left, expressing admiration for Mussolini and Stalin – as well as voicing praise for Hitler in 1935.

Shaw made fewer declarations later in his life but continued to write until his death, aged 94, on November 2, 1950.

He refused all state honours, including the Order of Merit in 1946. 

Shaw, who wrote more than 60 plays, even voiced praise for Hitler in 1935, as well as expressing admiration for Mussolini and Stalin. 

Shaw did not follow the idea among eugenicists of ‘controlled breeding’ for humans, but controversially argued that natural instinct, unrestricted by social forces, would guide reproduction.

He argued: ‘The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man.’

The theory of eugenics had become popular before the Nazis rose to power in 1933, and gained support in America during the first half of the twentieth century.

Early supporters believed that people inherited mental illness, criminal tendencies and even poverty, which could therefore be bred out. 

Sir Francis Galton coined the term eugenics in his 1883 book, Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development.

Prominent citizens, scientists and socialists championed eugenics, including the likes of Marie Stopes, Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell.

John Harvey Kellogg, who invented Kellogg ‘corn flakes’ cereal, was also a noted eugenicist.

Shaw also controversially promoted alphabet reform, a movement to reform the spelling to the English language to be more consistent and match pronunciation. 

RADA has promised to act on the action plan, saying it recognised the need for ‘urgent and fundamental change as the school ‘has been and currently is institutionally racist’, according to the Telegraph.

Shaw, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, was one of the earliest members of RADA’s council in 1911.

Following his death in 1950, he has become one of the school’s most important benefactors as one third of his royalties have been given to RADA since.

In the year 2019-20, royalties from his work, including 1913 play Pygmalion, contributed £78,000 to the school.

But this is set to end this year when the 70-year copyright term comes to an end.

After Shaw's death, one third of his royalties have been given to RADA. His most-recognised work include Pygmalion, the inspiration behind My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn (above)

After Shaw’s death, one third of his royalties have been given to RADA. His most-recognised work include Pygmalion, the inspiration behind My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn (above)

Famous musical My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn, is also based on Pygmalion, one of Shaw’s most well-recognised works.

Shaw’s success was also cemented with plays such as Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara and The Doctor’s Dilemma. 

What is the RADA students’s anti-racism action plan calling for?

The student body’s anti-racism action plan has also called for the focus to be taken away from Received Pronunciation, which it argues is given ‘precedence’ over all other speech in training.

It instead recommends encouraging students to use their own accents – particularly when playing characters of royalty.

Other recommendations have included the introduction of a Head of Hair and Makeup role for a black professional who can style Afro-textured hair. 

The plan also calls for ‘master and servant’ exercises to be banned from improvisation classes and for singing lessons to be remodelled because the composers studied ‘are almost entirely white men’.

As well as RADA students’s action plan calling for Shaw’s name to be removed, it also requests that staff investigate how their practices are West-centric and imperialistic.

The anti-racism document also asks for the drama school to remove ‘all paintings, sculptures, pictures and room names that celebrate racist figures’ and stop performing John Osborne’s play Look Back In Anger, which it argues makes BAME students feel excluded. 

In their submission to RADA, the students said: ‘What black people experience with an education that is filtered through imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy and a westernised history, is not solved by shoehorning in black texts, or making Hamlet black. 

‘It is deeply distressing that the basis of our education today continues to be lacking in variety or diversity.’

The students’s action plan also asks the drama school to remove all ‘paintings, sculptures, pictures and room names that celebrate racist figures’.

The document reportedly also included a number of other claims, such as de-centring Received Pronunciation from teaching and banning ‘master and service’ improvisation exercises.

RADA have reportedly responded to the students’s plan promising to carry out ‘structural reform to end institutional racism’ at the drama school.

The drama school was first established in 1904 by renowned actor Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, as an academy ‘founded by the industry for the industry’, according to RADA’s website.

The school was first situated in rooms above His Majesty’s Theatre in the West End and have since offered vocational training for actors, stage managers, designers and technical stagecraft specialists. 

MailOnline have contacted RADA for further comment.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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