Modern Trends

Jessica Jennings 31 January 2010

Jessica Jennings locates Cam Dram’s innovations

The Cambridge theatre scene boasts an impressive number of venues. Whether it’s the crumbling studio feel of Pembroke New Cellars for theatre in the round, the Fitzpatrick at Queens for a large auditorium that’s not the ADC or the living-room intimacy of Corpus Playroom that you’re in search of-not to mention the numerous but less popular college locations-it is indisputable that Cambridge offers a wide variety of theatrical spaces which uniquely compliment production’s potentials. But there’s a new kid on the block – Downing College’s Howard Theatre.

The new theatre hosts its inaugural production next week with John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse although Trevor Nunn will officially open the theatre on 3rd March. That the first production to be presented in this technologically advanced theatre is a seventeenth-century Restoration comedy which highlights its unity between modernity and history. Alex Lass, director of The Relapse and a Downing student, tells TCS that the Regency theatre “has been designed by famed architects Quinlan and Francis Terry LLP, featuring an interior in the Neo-Classical style akin to that of the college’s original architect, William Wilkins”. Despite its old-fashioned design, the Howard Theatre will be “the most technologically advanced theatre in Cambridge”, Lass boasts. Appealing to the demands of the modern world it has also been designed with the environment in mind, containing “ground source heating and cooling, together with a ‘harvesting’ system to collect rain-water for bathroom and catering use.” The Howard Theatre, fitted with solar panels, is not just the greenest theatrical space in Cambridge but also the most stylish. Bespoke ruby-red leather seating, made by the same Italian design studio that manufactures Maserati and Lamborghini interiors, fill this 160 capacity auditorium.

If the prospect of being kept on the edge of one of the Howard Theatre’s new saucy red seats next week doesn’t thrill you then check out House Party’s secret-location. If the sound of an experience more akin to kidnap than quick-snooze theatre excites you then this is the show for you! Director Lauren Cooney describes her production as “an environmental extravaganza” which “probes questions about whether the production is more a ‘play’ or an ‘experience’.” Cooney sees it as an “entirely unique” addition to the repertoire of Cambridge dramatics, taking on new dimensions of site-specificity. After the success of immersive shows like ‘Submerge’ (2008) and ‘Tripped’ (2009), director Josh Seymour sees “a real hunger for more immersive, inventive experiences like this in Cambridge”.

Jessica Jennings