James Bond Director Sam Mendes in town for Peterhouse Freshers’ Play

He returned to his old stomping ground of Peterhouse and helped out with the Freshers’ Play

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What is it about Peterhouse and secret celebrity visits? Not long ago, it was the Prince of Wales who was gracing the college. On Thursday it was the turn of Britain’s biggest film director.

The Tab has obtained exclusive imagery of the visit of Sam Mendes to Peterhouse, his old college, on Thursday.

The director of American Beauty, Skyfall and Spectre delighted Cantabs with an apparently spontaneous appearance in Peterhouse the other day, much to the surprise of the Petreans rehearsing for their Freshers’ Play in the college theatre.

Spectre has broken box office records

Unlike the recent visits of his Hollywood colleagues, the esteemed film-maker was not in Cambridge to visit the Union – who, having had Baz Luhrmann earlier this term, must be kicking themselves for failing to capitalise on the opportunity to net an even bigger director – or launch a fundraising campaign – as Sir Ian McKellen was doing a month ago in King’s Chapel.

He was, in fact, simply stopping by because Thursday marked thirty years ago to the day that he’d put on his first play. He stopped by the college theatre having heard the freshers were rehearsing and, according to one of the actors, “watched for a bit” before taking a photo with them all.

Apparently he told them the play “looked good”

One of the budding thesps explained to The Tab how it was “slightly unnerving”: “I was told the moment before I stepped on that Sam Mendes is watching…”

When we asked if they had a chat with him, we got this brilliant response: “Yeah, he was cool. He asked who was reviewing us, we said we didn’t know, he asked if it was Varsity mag then said ‘fuck Varsity’. It was great.”

Seems like some things never change.

The motley bunch

Mendes graduated with an honors degree in English in 1987 and was involved with the student theatre scene, putting put on a student production of David Halliwell’s play, Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, when he was at Peterhouse.

This experience made Mendes realise that theatre direction was “a combination of lots of different things that I liked: the society of other people, the visual aspect of it – I had originally got into Cambridge to study history of art, and I’d worked in my year off at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice – and weird elements of sports psychology and teamwork.”

Peterhouse Theatre: don’t judge the pinkness

The freshers’ were practising for a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Table Manners, which they describe as a “hilarious portrait of mid-life crisis explores ordinary family tensions in the context of a rather extraordinary love triangle… Or hexagon.”

Sam Mendes’ endorsement should be reason enough to see Peterhouse’s “shiny new” dramatic talent in the Heywood Society Freshers’ Play grande finale this evening. Tickets can be bought here.