Cambridge Theatre 2008 – 2009

Annabel Banks and David Ward 29 June 2009

Annabel Banks and David Ward on the College shows

David Ward: For me, the three big highlights of the year have all been ADC late shows. Sam Pallis is one of the most exciting and talented directors currently in Cambridge, and his Lent term production of ‘The Chairs’ was quite simply brilliant. Atmospheric and foreboding, yet humorous and sparkling with energy, Pallis drew two sublime performances from Ellie Massie and Oliver Soden, and the production was nothing less than an absolute triumph. I eagerly await Pallis’ production of Lorca’s all-female ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ in Michaelmas.

‘The Big Book for Girls’ was another Lent term late show gem. The production carried a great vitality,and it was quite superbly cast, with Victoria Ball and Tamara Astor standing-out in particular. The quite frankly mad scenes at the ADC box-office were a testament to the production’s quality
and embracement of good-old fashioned ‘fun’.

The Fresher’s late show this year was Ayckbourn’s ‘Bedroom Farce’, which I had the pleasure of reviewing in Michaelmas. It was undoubtedly the highlight of a packed Michaelmas term in my
opinion.

Looking ahead to Michaelmas, I eagerly await the ADC week 5 musical, which this year will be the all-time classic ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and also how Alexander Winterbotham moves on from
Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ to another contemporary American classic, Williams’ ‘A StreetcarNamed Desire’, in week 3. It promises to be another great year for Cambridge theatre.

Annabel Banks: The ADC sets a high bar for Cambridge amateur productions, and I’ve enjoyed many performances there, but I can’t help but feel that audiences tend to trot along and watch whatever is put before them. If this isn’t the case, how is it that college productions-even those in colleges lucky enough to have theatres-are horrifically under supported?

The second night, when friends and family have paid their dues to the cast members, the productions play out to empty seats. The shows are amateur. Truly amateur. Woven from bare rooms, some people willing to create something noisy, and others who help them in silence; a pared down production demands the audience’s imagination as well as their attention, and when it is done well, it shines. With this in mind, the show I enjoyed most was Richard III performed at Fitzwilliam College. With a set that consisted of two PE benches and not much else, a mixed-bag of acting ability in the smaller parts, and the corpse of Henry VI conjured from a cycle helmet and a sheet. Ben Woodford’s Richard set about the mayhem and murder with great enthusiasm, finding all of the humour in Richard’s lines and managing to make the seduction of Anne delightful in its manipulative declarations of love. He was ably supported by David Harrap’s Clarence, who has wonderful voice for Shakespeare, and whose dream-speech in the tower was over too soon, cut off as his throat was slit and his forehead dipped in a bowl of wine, in some nicely thrilling stage violence. I loved it.

Another favourite was Toby Parker Rees and Jessica Patterson’s sex-romp Sodom held at Queens, whose claim to political satire was drowned in bodily fluids from curtain to curtain. Pot plant sex, lines delivered mid-anal, knickers, dildos and Vaseline…and ten people watching. It’s such a shame. The whole cast worked hard, were (maybe) a little pissed, and whooped their way around the stage in bright red codpieces delivering rhyming couplets. It was special and deserved an audience. College productions: the prices are cheaper, there may be wine, and they are always, always interesting or unusual so I sincerely hope I shall see you there next year.

Annabel Banks and David Ward