Turns out the Cambridge theatre scene is pretty fucking good

PHOEBE JAYES asked students at Oxford, UCL, Keele, Sussex, Manchester, Bristol, York and Kent about their respective drama scenes

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With Oxford turning out to be the most similar to Cambridge (shock horror), some of these answers may actually shock you.

How many plays get put on per term?

SUSSEX:  SUDS do 4 to 6 plays per term.

MANCHESTER: 4 in Autumn, 7 in Spring and 2 in summer.

YORK: There are 8 plays a term. There are also extra events- every week there is an Open Drama Night (often a new piece of student writing/something short/experimental). We also have a Summer Solstice event, where open air Shakespeare is performed.

KENT: There are 4 plays a term, as well as a musical theatre show or showcase with the musical theatre society. These all audition at the same time, so if you don’t get into anything then there’s nothing else to join in with all term.

UCL: 20 or more productions.

OXFORD: Loads. Probably between 70-80 a year.

BRISTOL: The average drama society puts on at least 5 full length plays a year and at least 5 smaller showcase type things. That’s not including independent student productions. So that comes to at least 30 to audition for.

KEELE: As part of musical theatre we put on 2/3 performances a year and the Drama society do 5 a year.

Much glitz

Who is in charge of what gets put on?

YORK: Dramasoc has a committee which decides. Prospective directors will pitch to the committee.

KENT: The paying members of the society decide what gets put on, but it’s very biased. People tend to pick the plays their friends are directing, and in turn the directors will cast these friends.

UCL: The committee of the society who funds the production. Most of the time you bid for the play you want when bids are called for a particular slot and venue, and then interview with the committee.

OXFORD: Anyone can put on a play, if they can put together a successful bid for one of the venues. Most of the venue committees are student run, bar the Oxford playhouse.

BRISTOL: The committee for each drama society will usually decide the theme/style for each showcase and the calendar for the year. What plays get put on is entirely down to who proposes a play, and then people vote for the one they like best.

KEELE:  Usually students who are members of the committee in their society.

A bit like the UN, but more high stakes

Are the drama students very cliquey?

SUSSEX: Yes. I did not feel welcome. Also they say you can come on for anything (set, props, writing), but I asked when I didn’t get into the plays to do backstage stuff and they never got in touch.

MANCHESTER: Yes but I’ve never seen a group of people so supportive: they ALL go to each others’ plays.

YORK: It’s relatively easy for new people to integrate. There are naturally social groups which form, but never to the point of being exclusive.

KENT: The drama kids are cliquey because there’s a drama degree, so if you try to get in on the extra curricular drama as a student doing another subject you’re already at a disadvantage.

OXFORD: There is quite a definite drama clique, but the sheer breadth of what gets put on means that there is always opportunity for new people to come through.

BRISTOL: It can feel very cliquey when you arrive as a fresher because all the older actors are really close, but the drama societies at Bristol are generally very friendly, and work at making everyone feel welcome.

KEELE: There’s such a mix of different people in musical theatre. I’ve also done socials with the drama society and they seem lovely too!

“Who are you?” “I am an ac-taw, who are you?” “I am an ac-taw.”

What kind of venues are used?

SUSSEX: Falmer Bar and Chamber House mainly.

MANCHESTER: Students Union, Contact, John Thaw Theatre, MHC building and there was one in Manchester Natural History Museum last term which was cool.

YORK: We have the Drama Barn, which is our only venue on campus. There is also a studio where things are performed, but these tend to be for TFTV assessed performances, and the lighting facilities aren’t good.

KENT: There is a theatre on campus (the Gulbenkian), as well as a few drama spaces. Seminar rooms have also been used. Recently the commercial theatre in town, the Marlowe, has given the society the smaller theatre space within the building for performances.

UCL: There used to me a mid size venue called the garage theatre but UCL shut that down, so the main venue is now the Bloomsbury theatre. Productions are also put on in the quad, in independent venues around Camden, and at the fringe.

OXFORD: Countless. Oxford Playhouse is the big one but there are only 5 student productions there per year. Another good one is the Keble O’Reilly which has 4 productions a term. BT studio has loads of plays on, but is the smallest out of the ‘main’ venues. In summer we have lots of garden plays.

BRISTOL: We can use the studio theatre and the main 200 seat theatre in our student union, and all the societies have links with other local and professional theatres and spaces around Bristol.

KEELE: The venues used are mostly the stages in the student union.

Drama Barn?

Drama Barn?

Do other students show an interest and come to watch the shows?

SUSSEX: It’s mainly mates of people in the play or other people in the society.

MANCHESTER: Manchester’s society is incredibly interlinked so everyone probably knows someone to do with whatever that play is.

YORK: We get a lot of people from all courses come and see the shows. The shows are pretty well advertised.

KENT: It depends – the main play of the term that takes place in the Gulbenkian will attract more students from all areas of study, whereas the smaller productions will attract mainly friends.

UCL: I think most people who turn up to see the productions have some connection to the people involved, though they are not necessarily actors.

OXFORD: Yeah – because drama is so big at Oxford it is pretty hard to avoid seeing things. There’s also lots of money spent on marketing.

BRISTOL: Loads of people come and see the bigger showcases, including ‘non thespy’ people.

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your crew will definitely be at your next performance

Do agents come to see shows which are put on?

Apart from the ‘occasional’ agent to Oxford, which usually begins with student initiative, and a few people from the industry at Gradfest (Bristol’s festival of the third year drama students’ final pieces), most students aren’t aware of any agents coming to their respective universities.