Eton spawns a new breed of stage and screen luminaries Renowned as launch pad for politicians and TV personalities, the school has found new role as source of acting talent

Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent The Guardian

From Wellington to Gladstone, and Macmillan to Cameron, Eton College has long been a seedbed for British politics and for the diplomatic service. More recently a smattering of television personalities, conductors and Olympic sportsmen have also been able to look back at schooldays spent on the celebrated playing fields. Now though, that famously establishment school near Windsor is increasingly being hailed as a first-rate launch pad for a theatrical career.

Leading Old Etonian actors such as Tom Hiddleston, Harry Lloyd, Eddie Redmayne, Henry Faber and Harry Hadden-Paton are suddenly at the top of the list for casting directors on the most prestigious film and television projects.

This startling line-up of achievement will be celebrated next month by the setting up of Eton’s first drama bursary. The school is not trying to produce professional actors, but drama, like everything else at Eton, is taken very seriously

The drama department boasts a full-time designer, a carpenter and a manager, as well as a part-time wardrobe mistress. This weekend sees final studio performances of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, before the curtain goes up on Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life. Productions of Ben Hecht’s The Front Page and Alan Bennett’s The History Boys are waiting in the wings for February. The school’s director-in-residence, Rebecca Steel, is also helping to open up the world of movement and dance with productions devised in school.

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