Benedict Cumberbatch Makes Return To LAMDA

Students invited to Q&A session with award-winning actor and producer

From left to right - Dhruv Ravi, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Wollen, Kate Pullen. Picture: Oscar French
From left to right - Dhruv Ravi, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Wollen, Kate Pullen. Picture: Oscar French

Former student and now President of LAMDA, Benedict Cumberbatch, visited the school recently to share insights during special Q&A session.

He answer questions from the Executive Dean of the Drama School, Will Wollen, before heading over to Olympic Studios for a private fundraising Q&A with LAMDA Development Director Lyndel Harrison and screening of The Power of the Dog.

Students and staff were treated to a conversation which covered topics such as mental wellbeing, celebrating successes and failures, diversity within the industry and the importance of asking for help.

“It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that representation and diversity and inclusivity is very much at the forefront of our artistic experience. I think it’s something that’s definitely still evolving and has some engine behind it now and I think you just have to be really honest about it and call it out when you see it’s lacking” said Benedict.

Later on that evening, Benedict attended another Q&A session with LAMDA's Student Presidents and Director of Development, hosted by Olympic Studios in Barnes, helping to highlight the importance of the LAMDA Student Hardship Fund where he spoke directly with donors about how their donations support the next generation of actors, directors and technicians.

“There’s an openness about students from LAMDA; that’s the kind of flavour and characteristic that is associated with them” he said. “They are bright and really inventive; there’s no ego about them, they work really hard and there’s a real openness to how they do that”.

“A third of our BA Students are on scholarships; beyond that, people still struggle hugely, which is why we have the Student Hardship Fund, an emergency fund that students can apply for” said Lyndel Harrison, Director of Development.

Student President, Dhruv Ravi said, “The circumstances are always changing, but in the last two years, especially with the access to technology that some of us don’t have and the equipment we need to still be functioning actors and human beings trying to take care of our mental health, it’s
really fortunate that LAMDA has a hardship fund that we can access. It includes international students and students from all different types of backgrounds. The amounts vary, for sure, but if you apply you will be taken seriously and you will be given as much support as you need. So all of you coming out and supporting this really means a lot, so thank you.”

It was also highlighted that students on the PTASS course (Production and Technical Arts: Stage & Screen) can sometimes have a highly demanding schedule, leaving very little time for them to get a job to earn extra money.

When asked where he gets his inspiration from before he goes on stage, Benedict replied, “I would say, increasingly, it’s from the practitioners, directors and writers. It’s as much about me being inspired or influenced or changed in my approach to what I do as by what I’m being asked to do on the page - the lure of how different the part is to what I’ve done before, the challenge of it, which is what is also really exciting; and this one - The Power of The Dog was kind of the golden ticket of both - a complex, rich character. From the unlikely casting, to what was being asked of me on the page, to a director (Jane Campion) who held me and went on this journey with me, who gave me a massive new asset to my process and how I went to work, from examining the character to creating the character. Increasingly it’s about who I work with, just as much as what I do with them when I’m working with them.”

When asked by a young member of the audience which superpower he would most like to have and why, Benedict said, “I would have the gift of creating instant empathy. So if something was hurting them from their past or being made to feel aggrieved about their future present, I’d be able to have the power to go to that person - or not even go to them, just send something out there that would instantly make them realise that love is the answer"

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June 3, 2022

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