The Cherwell guide to Drama Cuppers 2014


So you’ve just arrived at Oxford, and you want to get involved in drama. You might be a director, actor, or costume designer, but the truth of the matter is, you’re not really sure where to begin. Well, fear not my fictional fresher friends, I am here to answer all your questions.

What is Cuppers?

Every year, OUDS, the Oxford University Drama Society and TAFF, the society for behind-the-scenes production staff put on a drama festival with production teams from each college where everyone involved – cast, directors, and crew – is in their first year at the university. Each team gets a thirty minute slot to perform their show at the Burton Taylor Studio some time in 5th Week. The performance is attended by a panel of judges, including at least one member of the OUDS committee, which then selects the ten best teams to put on an additional performance of their plays on Saturday.

Why should I get involved?

Cuppers is the traditional way to enter the Oxford drama scene, but it’s also a lot of fun and a great way to hang out with some people from different subjects who you might not have met yet. Plenty of people do Cuppers as a springboard into the Oxford thesp lifestyle, but lots of people just do it for pleasure and for some light relief from the sudden onslaught of essays and tutorials. You can basically do what you want with your Cuppers experience. Own it.

How do I enter?

There’s an application form online which teams need to fill in and submit, usually by the end of 2nd week. Don’t worry if you don’t have a fully rehearsed performance or polished idea, you just need to have the basics of your production and who’s involved, before getting rehearsed and ready in time for 5th Week.

How do I put together a team?

If you have some theatrically-inclined acquaintances, then you’re already half way there, but what if you need some extra cast or crew and don’t know who to ask? You could post on your college’s Freshers 2014 Facebook group (if you have one) or maybe get your JCR president to put out a notice in the weekly email. Failing that, you could always try approaching random people in the JCR. Worst case scenario, you’ll make some new friends… right?

What do I win?

Wow, you’re feeling confident. Well, there’s plenty of prizes up for grabs, from best actor and actress, to best new writing, to the much coveted ‘Spirit of Cuppers,’ for the productions which most embody the joyfulness and camaraderie that Cuppers is really all about. If you’re one of the Best of Cuppers shows, then you get the Saturday performance, but other than that, all you’ll really win is glory and bragging rights. Still, even if you miss out, getting nominated is cool, and participating is the really rewarding thing.

Any last words of advice?

I’m glad you asked me that, imaginary fresher. There are no hard and fast rules for how to get the most out of Cuppers, but I’ve managed to put together some rough guidelines for your delight and instruction, or hedonistic and wilful disobedience. Whichever works.

Do – have fun. Cuppers has a competitive element to it, sure, but there’s no need to take yourself too seriously. Better to have a great time and win nothing at all than win big but have an absolutely miserable three weeks.

Don’t – take yourself too seriously. Don’t be mean to your fellow teams, or worse, to your own team members. Cuppers isn’t the be all and end all of your dramatic chances at Oxford. Really. It isn’t.

Do – pick a play you’re enthusiastic about. Whether this means editing down a classic, or devising something yourselves, perform something you’re passionate about. Second-guessing what the judges will like might seem like a clever move, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get it right, and even you do, what’s saying they’ll like it more than your original, unique concept? Do what feels right. That said…

Don’t – try to write a play about life in Oxford. Especially if it’s supposed to be funny. Just… don’t do it. Everyone else has been here longer than you, and even if you’ve written the most on point and hilarious satire of Oxford life, odds are it’s not going to go down well with anyone who’s been here more than two months.

Do – go crazy. Put on something totally out there and bizarre. This may be one of the only chances you’ll get to create something that’s really out of the box. Go forth and do it. I believe in you, freshlings. Good luck.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here