A freshers’ guide to Cambridge theatre
*disclaimer* does not include Pinter’s blessing
Despite what you might think, you can be involved in theatre at Cambridge without a degree from RADA, without having played the lead in at least seven school plays, and without the personal, rose-infused blessing of Harold Pinter himself.
The theatre scene here is surprisingly open and encouraging, and you don’t actually need any experience to get started! So that you aren't quite as clueless as I was as a fresher, here's a little guide to help you out:
The most important aspect to Cambridge theatre is to play the part (kind of to be expected, really). I don't know about you, but I had no idea what the word 'thesp' meant for a majority of my first year. According to Urban Dictionary, it means 'a fucking annoying genre of person found in university musical and drama groups'. Laying that obviously biased definition aside, the title of 'thesp' is in fact one of unparalleled respect and admiration for actors and other theatre-y people. Always pronounce it with a tone of fond reverence, and that'll set you up nicely.
There are A LOT of different theatres across Cambridge. Think of the ADC as the mothership of the Cambridge theatre scene, but don’t mistake it for the only source of theatrical fabulousness. The Corpus Playroom is smaller, and focuses on more niche experimental productions and sketch shows. Most colleges have their own theatre spaces too. Keep your options open and try out as many as possible!
Ways to get involved
Depending on your past experiences, you may not have realised quite how many aspects there are to theatre other than acting. At uni, you can direct, produce, design costumes, do publicity, stage manage, do tech, or steward, to name a few. Reviewing for The Tab is an amazing way to watch shows for free and have the chance to write for the most popular paper in Cambridge. Just pop us an email at [email protected] (or you could review for other papers, though I really don’t know why you would do that to yourself).
Although they can seem daunting at first, auditions can actually be a laugh. Strangely enough, it never occurred to me that quiche could be the object of so much passion before my first audition (honestly, don’t ask). So go for it! Worst comes to worst, you’ll always have a wacky story to tell. Audition slots go quickly though, so keep an eye out and sign up asap!
Balancing with your workload
If they’re anything like mine, your parents are unlikely to be thrilled by the idea that their little genius has come all the way to Cambridge to abandon their degree and plunge headfirst into theatre instead. But trust me, you CAN juggle both. You just need to figure out your work-life balance (it’s completely normal not to get this perfect straight away- that’s what being a fresher is all about!) Some people are in a play a week or more, while others might prefer a couple a term. Roll with whatever works best for you.
Websites that will be your bible
Camdram is the actual holy grail. Many a confused wayfarer has been saved by its endearingly intense orange embrace, so treasure it, and I guarantee it will serve you well. It is the benevolent provider of all the information you need, including a calendar of all the shows and advertised positions and, each time you’re involved in a play, you get a Camdram credit- so go wild. The Cambridge Theatre facebook page is also pretty handy.
So why go for it?
1. You’ll meet some great people who are just as into theatre as you are.
2. There’s always a great story to get from it.
3. You’ll be involved in creating something you can be really proud of
(while boosting those infamous CV points, yay).
4. This is Cambridge, dammit! With so many amazing facilities, alumni, and opportunities, how can you not give it a go?
5. And crucially, the regular artsy profile picture updates, of course.