Islington drama teacher awarded MBE for services to the industry

Theatre queen Anna Scher celabrates 45 years of her famous drama school. Picture: Tony Gay

Theatre queen Anna Scher celabrates 45 years of her famous drama school. Picture: Tony Gay - Credit: Archant

Renowned drama teacher Anna Scher has kick-started the careers of many national treasures.

Bond girl and Finsbury Park actress Naomi Harris, Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp, actress Pauline Quirke and comedienne Kathy Burke are just some of the famous faces that have passed through her doors before hitting the big time.

And now Ms Scher, who runs a theatre school under her name at St Silas Church in Penton Street, Islington, has won recognition from the Queen her part in the many success stories of her alumni.

But despite creating so many stars since founding the theatre in 1968, the news from the Palace about her MBE for services to the industry came as a big surprise.

“I was absolutely thrilled to bits, positively delighted by the news”, she said. “It was a serendipitous gift.

“A lot of the alumni continue to do very well and I’m very happy with them. They’re all stars to me but the ones that particularly stick out are Naomi Harris, who is so modest and nice.

“Another is Tameka Empson – she’s fantastic in EastEnders, she’s a real comedienne and fellow EastEnder Jake Wood is brilliant too.

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“There are lots at the moment who are really flourishing,” she added. “I’m just thrilled for all of them and happy they haven’t forgotten their roots.”

When EastEnders began in 1985, the show’s producers sent casting agents to Mrs Scher’s school scouting for new talent and have kept returning ever since after unearthing a number of young actors who have ended up in the famous Albert Square soap.

Many of her former pupils, which also include former EastEnder’s star Brooke Kinsella and actress Linda Robson, return to celebrate the theatre’s birthday each year, which reached the age of 45 in February.

Ms Scher was an actress herself before she turned her attention to teaching. She launched her theatre school as a lunchtime drama club but it quickly grew, soon attracting as many as 70 pupils in a class.

Because many of her students were non-readers, Mrs Scher took to improvisation and found it an effective way of character training.

Mr Scher, who lives on Matilda Street, Barnsbury, said she is extremely excited for her day at the Palace and will be taking her husband Charles Verrall.