A Cambridge student’s guide to line learning for lockdown theatre

One student’s guide to getting those pesky lines nailed!

Theatre, for a lot of people, has taken a backseat following lockdown; Theatre Kids have been resigned to belting out Michael in the Bathroom in their very own bathrooms and watching Hamilton on repeat, rather than jamming along to the timeless Hamilton bangers in an actual theatre.

However, the thesps have made the best of this less than ideal situation, and there are some brilliant people in Cambridge and across the country who are bringing back theatre in new and exciting forms, with online plays, radio plays and so much more!

So some creatives are back in business! Brilliant! Except the fact that we have all forgotten how to learn lines… not so brilliant.

So I have experimented and reviewed a few different ways to get those lines stuck in your head, despite all of our fuzzy Week 7 brains.

Wearing stash to make alumni proud

Stash, of course, helps with everything; nothing can match that Michelin-man feel of your college puffer. So I tried wearing all of my stash in the hopes that manifesting some Cambridge spirit might put my brain into gear – channel that academic rigour, if you will.

While this did cause me to sweat profusely, it acted a bit like a shower (refreshing and restorative – I would expect nothing less from Ryder and Amies), and I felt ready to work and start learning. Probably not my best look, talking to myself alone in my room wearing clothes fit for a snowy day, but it allowed me to focus on something new and added a bit of variety to a normal lockdown day.

Working hard or hardly working?

Effectiveness: 5/10

Slightly too warm for my liking, and I think it largely just reminded me I miss Cambridge *sigh*. However, the change in routine did me good and allowed me to focus on something new! Line learning might not always be fun, but this way you will look stylish doing it!

Bribing your family

Like a lot of people I have spent the majority of my lockdown alone. If I had siblings, I might have tried to manipulate them into reading with me. (Is that what siblings do? I don’t know.). Anyway, I went for the next best thing and enlisted the help of my cat.

There were a few drawbacks. Namely, that he can’t read or speak (yet…) and so it was a very one-sided rehearsal.

Good communication is key

Effectiveness: 1000/10

He may not have been able to read, but he is very cuddly and that makes up for everything.

Virtually wandering hallowed halls

Cambridge has many literary and dramatic icons, so I took a virtual walk around some of the colleges to find some inspiration. And also to make me feel like I have gone outside and haven’t been sat in my room for the last three weeks.

I took a quick trip to Queen’s, where Stephen Fry read English and graduated in 1982, followed by Newnham, where Emma Thompson studied, and finally I came to Tit Hall to round off my trip with a bit of J.B. Priestley. Sadly, didn’t see David Thewlis hanging around to crash dinner parties.

It’s like I can feel the judgement of the porters as I take a tourist-y photo

Effectiveness: 9/10

This reminded me why I love Cambridge and why I love being involved in theatre; the person next to me might be the next Sacha Baron Cohen! It was a fun reminder of the things to come once theatre is back in full swing.

Exploiting the talents of your friends

One of the best things about Cambridge is the range of subjects your friends study! I decided that in order to learn my lines, a little insight into my character from another perspective might give me a boost.

So, I enlisted the help of an Engling. We chatted about the character and their emotions, the structure of the play itself, and, of course, whether their bedroom would have blue curtains to symbolise their inner melancholy.

An Engling in her natural habitat

Effectiveness: 8/10

This gave me a great insight into my character and the chance to catch up with a friend in lockdown! It is always good to feel more confident about the character you are playing, and, while this did not necessarily help me with learning lines, it helped me find the drive I needed to increase my knowledge about and interest in the play. It also gave me a very much appreciated chat with a friend, and a break from studying.

So there you have it! Some line learning strategies that will help you become the next fashion icon of the Sidgwick Site, discover some new places in Cambridge, and spend some quality time with friends and most importantly, your cat. You’re welcome. Just remember to thank me in your Oscars acceptance speech.

Featured image credit and all image credits: Author’s own 

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