Drama teacher Anna Scher, who launched careers of working class actors, dies age 78

She founded the Anna Scher Theatre in 1968 which taught stars including Brooke Kinsella and Patsy Palmer


LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Anna Scher MBE poses with her Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) medal after an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 30, 2013 London, England. (Photo by Sean Dempsey - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Influential drama teacher Anna Scher, who taught actors including Kathy Burke, Daniel Kaluuya and Adam Deacon, has died aged 78.

Scher was known for her work on helping working class students succeed in acting, drama and theatre and set up the Anna Scher Theatre (AST) in 1968 to achieve this. 

The Jewish drama teacher helped launch the careers of actors Linda Robson and future Birds of a Feather co-star Pauline Quirke. Other famous alumni include Brooke Kinsella, Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen.  

Nic Knight Management, Scher’s talent agency, announced her death on Sunday, saying: “It is with deep sadness that I must report that Anna Scher, the best and kindest drama teacher in the UK for the last 50 years, has passed. 

“Joining her husband, Charles [Verrall], in a better place to rest. She will be missed but never Forgotten. RIP."

Tributes poured in from former students and staff at her theatre.

Adam Deacon, best known for his roles in Kidulthood and sequel Adulthood, said in a statement: “So upset to hear the news that my drama teacher and mentor from the very start, Anna Scher, has sadly passed away. 

“I’m truly heartbroken. I owe everything to this amazing woman. She helped me and so many other working-class kids coming from a bad start to not only get a chance to have a shot in the acting industry and change our lives, but also grounded us and gave us the skills and the tools we needed to get by in life. 

“Thank you for everything Anna. For all the wisdom and resilience you installed in us. You always had the warmest heart and the strongest of morals. 

“You were never judgmental and would always go out of your way to help anyone. You’re a legend and will always be remembered. 

“My thoughts are with your family and friends at this sad time. Love you lots.”

Brooke Kinsella, who played Kelly Taylor in EastEnders, said Scher had “changed the course of so many lives”. 

She added on X/Twitter: “No one believed in us working-class children more. She changed the course of so many lives. More scared of her than my mum and dad combined, I owe everything to her. What a remarkable woman. Sleep tight, Anna.”

Kathy Burke, best known for her role as Magda on the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, said that the “magnificently mighty” and “wonderful” Scher, along with her late husband, were “responsible for hundreds of us having a better life”.

Evelyn Duah, actress and former teacher at the theatre school, said: “Dearest Anna Scher theatre family friends yps and alumni. It is with great sadness and heavy heartache that I find myself sharing the passing of Charles Verrall and Anna Scher.  

“So many of us were honoured and humbled to have been taught by them both. They both shaped so much of who we are but the way they taught us. 

“Not only to act but to be kind. To be curious and generous. No matter how successful and acclaimed we became we were all just one of Anna’s kids.”  

Scher was born on 26 December 1944 in Cork to Irish Jewish parents.

The educator started her career as an actress and when her father told her to get a proper job she became a journalist with the Islington Gazette. 

She prided herself on a philosophy of promoting love, peace and understanding.

Her heroes were Anne Frank and Winston Churchill. After setting up her drama school, she would incorporate them into her lessons.

At the start of her classes there would be a “Winston'' word on the white board for students to read and understand.  

Churchill was said to have learnt a new word every day and Scher wanted to encourage her students to do the same.  

Talking about the tradition in an interview with the Guardian, she said: “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.” 

Gillian Walnes Perry, co-founder and honorary vice president of the Anne Frank Trust UK also paid tribute to the teacher.

She said: “I spent some wonderful times in the 1990s at the Anne Scher Theatre in Islington, watching in awe as she nurtured her young students (many to outstanding success), having afternoon tea at Anna's flat upstairs, or notably, myself and our Anne Frank Trust Principal Guide, the late Herbert Levy, being truly honoured by receiving Anna's annual award, for our work educating about Anne Frank, one of Anna's heroines.”

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