Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Tom Hiddlestone, Eric Idle, Simon Russell Beale; the list could go on… at Cambridge anyway. Don’t panic, like our inferior cousins, we too have a succession of illustrious dramatic predecessors. At Oxford you could be the next Hugh Grant or Rowan Atkinson: a choice between a bumbling middle English nobody and… the point is that the sky is the limit, whether you’re an actor, producer director or indeed a humble critic, the Oxford theatre could be your big shot. First, a confession. I, dear fresher, also came to the dreaming spires with dewy eyes and baited breath. Sitting over an extortionately priced pint, I too dared to compare the thespian bums that had graced my bar stool with my own, surely destined to greatness posterior.
Alas, dear freshers, this nostalgic episode is also a sad one. Looking back I feel like that older sibling, looking on with amusement and condescension as their naïve younger sister/brother tries to buy booze without ID at the off license. A regrettable combination of deluded optimism and woeful ridiculousness.
But I will not judge you by my own low standards, let us for a moment glimpse at the pantheon and your destiny within it. The journey will be long and fraught with difficulty. The first thing you must do is sign up to the Cherwell stage mailing list – email firstname.lastname@example.org. This beacon in the darkness will guide you through the murky waters of the week’s drama. Cherwell will not only tell you what’s good but can also get you in for free. Our weekly mailing list will offer you the mildly Faustian pact of writing a review in exchange for tickets. Your next stop will be Cuppers. The Cuppers drama festival is an opportunity to laugh with (but mostly at) your new dramatically minded friends. It’s like freshers’ week all over again, but cheaper. Each college is given a twenty-minute slot in which to perform a play worthy of the university Drama Society committee’s understandably low expectations. Yours truly for example, was nominated for a best supporting actor award after his luminary rendition of a questionable Catholic priest.
After Cuppers you will hopefully have made a small name for yourself at college, or at any rate as someone who found use for their theology degree. Next, you should audition for a play. Bring along Camus in this time of existential doubt. Yes darling, you really are good enough – brave it. If asked to prepare a piece, remember that the most original thing a student actor can do is wildly oscillate their delivery from really loud, to really quiet. If you are a budding director, remember any small studio production will benefit from throbbing dance music in between scenes: truly a declaration of originality. Imitation of the 90s, not only in music but also in dress, will cement the edifice of ‘edge’ that is your dramatic reputation. From there, who knows – more auditions, more plays and more ridicule from the rest of the world. But worry not: Cherwell will be with you every step of the way; like an indulgent uncle who instead of sweets and trips to the zoo offers you mildly sarcastic reviews and semi free tickets. Make no mistake though, the road will be long and arduous. But if you want a short cut straight to bumbling idiot status, you can always write for The OxStu.