Freshers’ Guide to Cambridge Theatre

Theatre Editor CAITLIN DOHERTY shares her top tips on how to make it in the world of Cambridge theatre.

acting ADC adc bar Caitlin Doherty Cambridge Theatre directing Freshers marlowe society producing Simon Haines Theatre

Sheila, take a bow. You’re in and the loan-funded struggle for your art starts here (yes, really, at your laptop). Here are five dos and don’ts for the aspiring Simon Haines among you.

1) DO sign up to the actors’ list ([email protected]) or the directors’ list ([email protected]), or the tech list ([email protected]). These are weekly email bulletins sent round detailing audition times, and upcoming theatrical opportunities and, as such, are the best way to find out about shows that you might want to get involved with. Stop reading now and just do it, or you’ll already be several schmoozes behind the competition. Filthy competition.

DON’T sign up for all of them. Your hermes can only handle so much and at some point in the ADC bar during the next few months you’ll have to make a choice: eat crisps on the sofa with the techies or drink salt-flavoured cocktails at the bar with the cast of that week’s mainshow. You can’t have it both ways – it’d be more than your daily six grams.

Theatre, darling! Much Ado About Nothing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

2) DO audition and apply for everything, not just the Freshers’ Shows. Don’t be dissuaded from applying for productions seemingly earmarked for the big kids. Fresh faces are often welcome additions to a cast with enough messy interpersonal relationships to rival the Borgias. Often more incestuous ones too.

DON’T be put off by rejection. Unless you turn out to be genuinely terrible. As much as we’d like to pretend the opposite, theatre in Cambridge can be cliquey and prone to generating ridiculous celebrity cultures around people who’ve achieved a magic number of mainstage appearances. So, don’t, don’t believe the hype, and if you’re not getting the parts or productions you want, put your own plays on. In fact, just put your own plays on anyway. It’ll show you how arbitrary the decision to cast one person over another can be, and you’ll feel all warm and fluffy inside because of your newfound tyrannical power.

3) DO go and see plays at venues other than the ADC, which, while certainly impressive at times, does not have a qualitative monopoly over Cambridge drama. The smaller the production budget, the bigger the imaginations involved have to be to pull it off.

DON’T prioritise seeing theatre over other art forms. Cambridge has more than its fair share of poetry readings, dance shows, art exhibitions, operas, and so on. There’ll be more plays on every week than you can possibly get to see anyway, so sometimes it’s worth taking a break and spending your time and money elsewhere. If our actors, directors, designers, technicians etc. didn’t look beyond the fourth wall for a few ideas every once in a while, things would get staler than an ‘awkward’ joke at a smoker very quickly indeed.

4) DO look out for opportunities to work with professionals. Over the last 800 years or so Cambridge has managed to build up a fairly decent reputation, theatrically speaking. This means as students here we often get offered the chance to work on productions that our colleagues on drama courses would kill for. Make the most of them you spoilt jerk. Notable examples include the annual Marlowe Society production at the Arts Theatre, auditions for which will be held later this term, the Greek play (returning in 2013 – you lucky fresher) and the one-off shows advertised on the lists by professional companies.

DON’T mistake fellow students for professionals. At the very least, supervisions are guaranteed to teach you one thing – how to bullshit. Unfortunately, this is a skill that’s proved all too transferable to the stage, or, at least, to the theatre bar. No one here (or at least very few people) has had any real theatrical training. We’re all learning, hopefully from each other in a nice and constructive way, so don’t get too swayed by showboating. Except when it’s done by wise Tab critics obviously.

5) DO write reviews. This is not (only) a cry from a section editor eager to bulk up the writing team with delicious fresh blood, it’s sound advice confirmed by successive successful generations of theatrical critics. If you’re going to write a review of several weeks worth of your peers’ cherished labour, you have to consider your ideas and expectations of the theatre as an artistic medium and then be able to evaluate what works and why – skills as useful for producing creative work as they are for penning good, critical reviews. When your name (and photo) is on the byline, you have to stand by every word that’s written below it, and the same principle applies with your own productions. You have to enforce vigorous standards in both cases, or else one night you might find yourself gagged with lx tape, slung over a pantomime horse and taken to the forest of Arden for a bit of a talking to. If you want to get involved with reviewing for The Tab, email [email protected].

DON’T bother reading any of the other papers’ Theatre Sections. KIDDING! They’re really awesome, honest <3 !