September 23 2014 Latest news:
Janine Rasiah, Senior Reporter
Friday, March 21, 2014
EastEnders actress Ann Mitchell urged for more to be done to stop acting becoming elitist during a visit to the University of East London.
Mitchell, who plays Cora Cross in the BBC soap, toured the Stratford campus which is around the corner from where she learnt her trade at the E15 acting school, which was based in Plaistow during her time.
“What is happening at the moment is very frightening,” she said. “Very few young men and women from working class backgrounds are applying for drama school because they are petrified that they will not be able to pay back their loans.”
Mitchell said she was “part of the luckiest generation” of actors as she trained in the Sixties during the revolution in British theatre which saw the breakthrough of working class actors such as Albert Finney and Michael Caine. As someone who grew up in the East End herself, born in Stepney Green and later moving to Plaistow, she says she was always keen on abolishing working class stereotypes.
“From when I was a child and I was watching the movies I was determined that I would be there representing my people and my background,” she said. “I was very aware of being patronised as a child.”
Mitchell says her EastEnders character is inspired by the strong female role models which she experienced while growing up.
“Cora, whether you love her or loathe her, she’s someone that you’d like in your corner, just like the women I grew up with,” she said. “I wanted to bring a kind of glamour that the women had in my background and lose the stereotypes because they came from the upper classes.”
Mitchell was visiting the university with theatre director Philip Hedley who trained alongside her at E15 and spent 25 years as director emeritus of Theatre Royal Stratford East.
They said they were impressed with facilities on offer and admitted they were very different to their experience - which required them to polish the theatre school’s floor on Fridays.