Anna Scher Theatre

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The Anna Scher Theatre School
TypeIndependent, Performing Arts School, Charity
Established1968; 53 years ago (1968)
  • Anna Scher
  • Bernie Burdis
Islington, Greater London
AffiliationsSt Silas Church, Islington

The Anna Scher Theatre is an independent and co-educational performing arts school based in Islington, Greater London. It was founded in 1968 by Anna Scher.

Anna Scher[edit]

Anna Valerie Scher, MBE, was born on 26 December 1944 in Cork, Ireland, to Irish Jewish parents, Claire Hurwitz, and Eric Asher Scher, a dentist of Lithuanian descent. After starting out as an actress, her father told her to get a proper job, so she became a journalist specialising in theatre with the Islington Gazette for five years, and reviewed for The Times Literary Supplement.[2]

Scher's philosophy is based on promoting love, peace and understanding through both learning and professionalism.[citation needed] Her heroes are Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.[2] She frequently shares with her pupils various meaningful words or sayings which she calls Winston words after Churchill, but which are not necessarily attributed to him.

Ubuntu is my favourite Winston word – it means community care, collectiveness. I love that word. It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who taught it to me.

In the past, Scher was chairperson of the International Song Contest for Peace also in Ireland, and served on the juries at BAFTA, the Sony Awards and the Royal Television Society. As an actress, she appeared in The Battle of St. George Without (1969), You Must Be Joking! (1974) and Anna (2011).

Scher is married to Charles Verrall, an acting and public speaking coach who has also written and directed several stage plays and a musical. He was co-director of the Anna Scher Theatre for many years, and co-authored several of Scher's books on acting. They have one son.

Since founding the school in 1968, Scher has been awarded:

  • Community award from the Irish Post
  • Woman of Distinction Award from Jewish Care
  • Peace Person of the Year Award, Ireland, 1999
  • Associate of RADA
  • Honorary Fellow of the Leinster School of Music & Drama
  • Patron of Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam – Oasis of Peace.
  • Freedom of the London Borough of Islington, March 2003.
  • Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), 2013, appointed in the Queen's Birthday Honours List[3] for her services to Drama.

Theatre school[edit]

In 1968, Scher started an extracurricular performing arts school at Islington's Ecclesbourne Primary School. 70 pupils came the first week, including future Birds of a Feather stars Pauline Quirke (aged 9), Linda Robson (aged 10) and Ray Burdis (aged 11).[2]

In 1970, the classes moved across the road to a council hall in Bentham Court on Ecclesbourne Road. By 1975 she had 1,000 pupils and 5,000 on the waiting list,[4] so moved to the custom converted mission hall on Barnsbury Road in 1976, when the performing arts school was established as an independent charity.[2]

Scher's teaching style produces what critics call a natural delivery, but Scher comments that she just uses their natural voice. Of her improvisation technique, she told Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian in 2004:

I fell into that quite by chance – necessity is nearly always the mother of invention, and because 70 turned up and because a lot weren't too hot at reading, improvisation fell into place.[2]

In 2000, Scher suffered ill health and stepped down during her recovery period.[5] Scher was never reinstated as head of the theatre, despite a vociferous campaign led by her and her supporters, The Friends of Anna Scher.[1][6] In 2005, the remaining staff and board set up a new school[7] but Anna Scher went on to continue her theatre school under her own name at the nearby Blessed Sacrament Church Hall, Islington. Since 2009, the Anna Scher Theatre has been teaching from the St Silas Church in Islington and classes are run 3 days a week by Anna Scher and former pupil Bernie Burdis, who together have taught for over 30 years.

The school has trained many actors who went on to star in the soap opera EastEnders, including Martin Kemp, Gillian Taylforth, Patsy Palmer, Sid Owen, Natalie Cassidy, Jake Wood, Susan Tully, Tilly Vosburgh and Brooke Kinsella. Scher also trained Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya, and he thanked her in his BAFTA award winning speech.



  1. ^ a b Reynolds, Nigel; "Angry actors back ousted drama teacher" The Daily Telegraph, 27 December 2003
  2. ^ a b c d e Hattenstone, Simon; "I just want to be back at my theatre" The Guardian, 24 March 2004
  3. ^ "No. 60534". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2013. p. 22.
  4. ^ Wynne-Jones, Ros; "School for working class heroes — and heroines" The Independent, 25 May 1997
  5. ^ "Bid to build Anna a new theatre"[dead link], 8 June 2005
  6. ^ Austin, Jeremy; "School removes Scher name" The Stage, 20 July 2004
  7. ^ Austin, Jeremy, School removes Scher name, The Stage, July 2004


External links[edit]