Live Every Week Like It’s May Week

TOBY PARKER-REES hails the ridiculousness of May Week as epitomising what life before the real world should be about: not following rules, experimenting, and doing things for the sake of enjoyment.

ADC Antony and Cleopatra green room May Week The Movement Theatre toby parker rees

May Week theatre is one of the finest traditions this University has. And one of our traditions involves an earnest tussle for the head of a pig. It is great because it is in May Week, everyone is at least a bit drunk, and no one has invited an agent.

The problem with the majority of Cambridge theatre, and most extracurricular activities here, is that no one seems to be doing it for fun. Because there is the possibility of a theatrical Knight in the front row or an internship at the Guardian somewhere down the line, our amateur theatrics, amateur journalism and so on are hampered by a damp desire to impress far beyond our three mile radius of St Mary’s Church. Everything is an internship. And internships are hateful.

Our biggest theatre does not have an artistic director curating seasons, which would require some individuality, bravery or nous. It has a committee of techies wanly emulating the West End, clipping invention with the tragic efficiency of a widower cutting his new wife’s hair to look like the dead one. Putting techies and business managers in charge robs student theatre of the fantastically important function it has: unrestricted experimentation.

Similarly, student papers that exist solely as extended portfolios for job interviews (I am here describing the little-known student paper Varsity) offer little scope for what is fresh and free. The problem with Cambridge is that people tend to get good jobs after their degrees, which means the people after them get all competitive and teleological. There is a wider issue here, which is the commercialisation of education and the attitude of entitlement and careerism it breeds in students, but I am too busy submitting joke applications to AC Grayling’s sham university to address that now. Besides, it’s May Week, the time when the stunted profundities of SPS journalism are put on hold in favour of a far nobler pursuit; silliness.

Silliness is the cooing mother of the best invention – Peter Cook, Lord Byron, James Watson. If you are doing something seriously it is highly likely you are following rules, which – as anyone with a leather jacket knows – makes you a square. If you are following rules you are following someone else, which makes it significantly less likely that you are going to add anything of value to your chosen field.

There is a place for following, of course – as even a cursory watch of Disney’s ‘The Sorceror’s Apprentice’ will demonstrate – but University is not that place. You have been given what is almost certainly the best opportunity you will ever have for ridiculousness unrestrained – don’t squander it on CV building. Forget UCAS, it served you well but now it’s dead, and you should move on – like the widower in my earlier intensely original simile.

Go and see May Week shows, and revel in them. There won’t be complex lighting states or elaborate sets apologising for the medium, there will only be actors, relaxing and unfurling. Then come back next year, if you’re coming back, and heckle dull things.

Toby Parker-Rees is directing Antony & Cleopatra at Downing on Thursday & Friday of May Week at 3pm. It will definitely be ridiculous