Rowan Atkinson’s done it, as has Hugh (Grant and Dancy). Beckinsale’s been there, Katherine Parkinson’s done that. Yes, as an academically focused university it’s fair to say we’ve done quite well on the producing famous actors front. I might even go so far as to say we’ve done incredibly well, perhaps even the best in the country – but I don’t want to sound big-headed. And it’s not just the people on stage we’ve reeled off at a furious rate; we’ve also tossed into the big wide world a number of notable guys and gals off-stage, too. Take Peter Brook or Alan Bennett for instance, or LMH progeny, Caryl Churchill. But enough of the past, they’ve had more than their share on the student circuit. Now, Oxford Fresher, it’s your turn. Whether you’re a dab hand at directing – or you simply want to dabble in performing, whether you’d rather watch a piece of drama than be the damsel in distress, we’ve got your Stage needs covered.
It stands for ‘Oxford University Dramatic Society,’ in case you’re wondering, and is the overarching drama society for the whole University, knitting together all the theatrical going-ons in Oxford. O.U.D.S differs to most universities in that it nourishes individual drama groups to produce their own plays, as well as putting on large-scale shows of its own- keep a keen eye out for A View From the Bridge and Orphans. They’re going to be big, FYI. O.U.D.S is the go-to place for funding, for information, for wardrobe and scripts. It’s even recently unveiled a brand new, shiny website just for you Freshers, where you can register and be placed on the mailing list. Exciting, huh.
We love our abbreviations, and here’s another one – ‘Tabs Are For Flying,’ existing solely as a stage, for, well, the back-stage crew. TAFF is a hub for all the aspiring theatre technicians of the University, offering support and training to lighting designers, sound checkers and production managers. It seeks to encourage a greater understanding of technical theatre and to practice a high degree of professionalism in a community often over-shadowed by those out of the shadows.
The Oxford Imps
If you’ve visited Oxford before, or even if you haven’t, chances are you already know about the Imps. These guys have been making Oxford a funnier (and in our opinion, better) place since their debut show in 2004 with their spluttering, side-clenching, improvised comedy. Performing weekly at the Wheatsheaf pub for a steal of £3.50, there really are no excuses not to see the Imps at least once during your Freshers year. But don’t stop there, if you have a funny bone that demands to be shared, the Oxford Imps are recruiting. Auditions are on the 10th October at Wadham, 6.30PM. Go on, we’re not pulling your leg.
It’s home to Oxford’s funniest sketch comedy group. They have gags the rest of us mere mortals of mediocre humour can only dream of. We’re talking side-splitting, barely-breathing, toilet-inducing, hysteria-producing comedy at its best, and at its worst, at least a stifled chortle. The Oxford Revue have regular shows throughout the year, and like the Imps, will add some much needed comedic relief to the inevitable essay crisis. Keep an eye out for auditions, we’ve heard from our inside sources (their website) that they’re recruiting soon.
Oxford plays host to an array of performance areas, including Balliol’s Michael Pilch Studio, the Old Fire Station, the North Wall Arts Centre and more than we can possibly write down. Here’s a sneak peak at four well-used student spaces you will inevitably visit.
Ok, so there’re rumours it’s owned by St. Johns, but in this day and age, who isn’t. The Playhouse is the place to perform here in Oxford; it’s the venue where O.U.D.S repeatedly sells out their performances, and where Maggie Smith made her first public appearance (no pressure). On its 600 seater main stage, the theatre offers six performance slots to Oxford University students per academic year, where they receive the assistance of Playhouse staff in realizing their production. Nice.
Burton Taylor Studio
Named after that couple, ‘the BT’ is the rebellious baby sibling of the older, more respected Playhouse. A place for those plays too experimental, those crews too inexperienced or those budgets too small for any other venue. Everyone who’s anyone in Oxford drama had their debut here – and as a result, is host to some pieces of drama that are truly world class, and to many that are decidedly not. Although tucked away in the low key loft of the playhouse, on the bright side, its fifty seats won’t look that empty if its only your parents who turn up to see the opening night of your new one man show.
The Moser Theatre
It’s another one of those elusive student spaces, where half the fun in watching the play is in finding the place to actually watch the play. But don’t worry, once you’ve found the Moser you’re unlikely to lose it again, although no guarantee. This jazzy space is located underground, giving it an intimate, cosy feel as you gaze down from tiered seating onto the actors’ sweaty faces. So it might take a bit of your day to find, but when you do find it you get the satisfaction of feeling like an intrepid explorer.
Keble O’ Reilly
The O’Reilly is still a baby in relative terms to other Oxford theatres, and is consequently in demand for companies wanting to experience that new baby smell. Or, perhaps more likely, to utilise the extensive lighting and sound equipment it boasts. Exhibiting a varied and enriching programme, this is a space you will be sure to visit during your stay here, and, unlike many older student performance spaces, has the versatility to be end-on, traverse and even in the round. Crikey O’Reilly.
An intercollegiate drama festival you say? Organised by O.U.D.S? Exactly. Drama Cuppers is the chance for anyone with even a suggestion of theatrical inkling to get involved and do their college proud. It’s judged in front of a panel of independent judges and has the prospect of winning prizes but more importantly, college glory. Taking place annually in Michaelmas, Cuppers offers Freshers the opportunity to gather a company and produce a 30 minute show. Aside from being a genuinely fun experience, the competition also acts as the starting point and pedestal to prove you have what it takes to be in University-wide productions.