Theatre: Year in review

Image credit: Kaye Song and Tian Chan

Michaelmas – Pippa Smith

Michaelmas term this year did not disappoint when it came to the diverse and exciting theatre offerings Cambridge has become known for. An early highlight for me was the beautifully subtle and skilfully directed The Habit of Art. This Bennett play was brought to life on stage and demonstrated that whilst comedy shows often draw the biggest audiences, realistic drama should also never be overlooked in the theatre scene. That said, the comedic offerings of Cambridge thespians has been particularly strong this year.

The wit and instinct of many comedians and actors here never ceases to delight me. Certainly, the regular Footlights Smokers didn’t disappoint, but it was particularly exciting to see the increasing dominance of other comedy groups this year, which was visible in Michaelmas term. Lily Lindon’s panel show Have I Got to Mock the Buzzcocks Ja Vu: A Panel Show Sequel cemented these improvised performances as an emblem for innovation as a driving force for comedy.

Nowhere is this more true than in the work of the Impronauts, who have soared to success this year with sell out shows and excellent reviews. Their Michaelmas offering, Yo Ho Ho: An Improv Show, was a particular highlight of my time as theatre editor. This broadening of success in the comedic offering of Cambridge seems to me to be only something that can strengthen its growth and reputation over the coming years, and I look forward to the belly-aching laughs that will accompany this.

                                                                                             

Lent – Gemma Sheehan

Lent term started as it meant to go on, with some incredibly strong productions in Week 0 – the ETG tour’s production of Hamlet brought an impressively technical naval take on Shakespeare’s classic; BBC new comedy award finalist Ken Cheng made a triumphant return to the ADC with new stand up material Best Dad Ever; and Britney made a poignant and profound mark with its heartfelt and comedic exploration of coping with a brain tumour.

Week 1 saw the impressively intimate Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons bring a novel two person performance to the Corpus Playroom, as characters struggled in a hypothetical future where a cap is introduced on the amount of words anyone can speak in a day, and Week 2’s production of Stuart: A Life Backwards packed the Playroom, bringing to life the local story of Stuart, a homeless man from Cambridge, which was written by a former undergraduate student. Always a relevant and urgent issue in Cambridge, the cast’s sponsored sleepout for Jimmy’s shelter also drew plenty of attention.

In Week 4 Sogur introduced a new idea of relaxed and accessible theatre, and the Footlight’s Spring Revue at the end of February was a highlight of many people’s calendars, filling out the ADC as ever. The entirely BME production of Macbeth at the Michaelhouse Café rightly drew attention to ongoing issues of representation within the Cambridge theatre scene as well as offering a powerful performance in its own right, and student written SCENE in Week 8 sold out the Corpus Playroom, offering a touching story of an interracial queer couple partly based on the experiences of the playwrights. 

 

Easter – Anunita Chandrasekar

Despite the pressure of looming exams, the theatrical community manage to put on some brilliant shows during the Easter term. Amongst the several hilarious smokers of the first few weeks, a particular highlight was the BME smoker in Week 2, which was the first smoker to be comprised of solely BME students. This was an entertaining follow up to attempts throughout the year, such as Teahouse and the BME production of Macbeth, to diversify the Cambridge theatre scene and hopefully marks a significant shift for theatrical representation.

Other highlights included the ambitious ADC main ensemble pieces such as MOJO, Bedroom Farce and The Merchant of Venice in weeks two, four and three respectively, with the latter’s set being one of the most impressive I’ve seen at the ADC, including working drawbridges and elevated walkways. These were, however, offset by more intimate one- or two- handers at Corpus including the thought provoking one-woman show Why is John Lennon Wearing A Skirt? in week two; the touching, student-written Spiders in week seven; and last week’s Oleanna.

It was heartening to see student writing showcased throughout the term, along with week three’s HATCH17, where plays were written, casted and rehearsed in a mere 17 hours, and week four’s Harry Porter prize-winning Stalin’s Russia: A Teenage Romcom. I look forward to watching more student drama in the future, as it is clear that Cambridge has a talented pool of student writers.

As the term draws to a close, it is wonderful to watch more shows set outdoors that make use of the (fleeting) good weather. Weeks seven and eight have a slew of shows set outdoors such as In Extremis, and several Shakespeare productions such as Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II and All’s Well That Ends Well – and even Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia, Limited set on a floating punt stage! All in all, a lovely way to round up a year packed with brilliant productions – bring on next year!

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