"Show Choir gave me my first opportunity to perform on a Cambridge stage, just 3 months after my dad’s death"Thomas Best

In September 2018, the month before I started university, my father lost his battle with cancer. Coming to Cambridge, I struggled with feelings of grief and loss alongside more common anxieties. Cambridge Theatre provided me with a platform for expressing my emotions. It has helped me to overcome my struggles and, more importantly, allowed me to pay tribute to my father.

My father and I had always shared a musical connection; he taught me to play guitar, pushed me to learn piano and determined my outdated music taste. In my first term at university, I discovered I could honour this relationship on stage. Any opportunity to perform has since felt like a clandestine homage to my dad.

In my first year, I was overwhelmed by grief and by crippling imposter syndrome as I struggled desperately to fit into an intimidating Cambridge community. Little did I know that the answer to all of these problems could be found through the welcoming world of Cambridge Theatre.

In Michaelmas Term 2018, I decided to join Cambridge University Show Choir. I was given an incredibly warm welcome by the group which came to include some of my closest friends. They helped me overcome my initial anxiety of being at Cambridge in a way that felt unparalleled. What I did not expect however, was that this light-hearted group of singers and dancers would also help me confront my grief.

“My father and I had always shared a musical connection: he taught me to play guitar, pushed me to learn piano and determined my outdated music taste.”

Not least because the choir members were an invaluable source of support, particularly my girlfriend who I first met at my audition, but because Show Choir gave me my first opportunity to perform on a Cambridge stage, just 3 months after my dad’s death. In Show Choir’s 2018 Michaelmas show, ‘The Greatest Show’, I sang Queen’s ‘Only the Good Die Young’ in front of a sold-out ADC Theatre in my first, fitting, musical tribute to my dad, unbeknownst to the rest of the choir or, indeed, the audience.

Show Choir was the beginning of my theatrical journey in Cambridge as I sang secret memorials across several performances. My introduction to Cambridge musical theatre came when I performed in Brickhouse Theatre’s ‘Violet’ in my first year and I was instantly drawn in by the unique opportunities for self-expression it offered.

"‘Those Left Behind’ is without a doubt the project I am most proud to have been a part of"Sebastian Carandini

I seemed to reach the end of my emotional journey last term when I was cast in Arthur Roadnight’s original musical ‘Those Left Behind’. This musical gave me the opportunity to play a bereaved son and told the story of a family struggling with the loss of their father/husband. This beautiful musical allowed me to express emotions I had hidden for almost two years and create a perfect, personal tribute to my dad that anyone could see, particularly as I was able to add personal memories and details to the script, music and my performance. Across several weeks of rehearsals and the show’s four-night run at Brickhouse Theatre I was given the means to confront how I felt and to express these emotions on stage, finally revealing a side to myself that I had long struggled to keep hidden.

“College-based theatre companies provide a vital platform for student expression not given the same opportunity at the more popular venues of the ADC or Corpus Playroom.”

‘Those Left Behind’ is without a doubt the project I am most proud to have been a part of. Arthur’s musical, based on the personal experiences of his friends and family, conveyed an important message about support systems in the face of bereavement that was a privilege to be a part of telling. As Arthur describes at the end of the musical, bereavement is an everyday reality for many people and the importance of support from family and friends in the wake of loss cannot be overstated. I know this would have been an enormously valuable message for me to have heard in my first few weeks as a struggling fresher.

Unfortunately, however, this message did not reach as far as it should have. ‘Those Left Behind’ was not reviewed, it did not sell out, was not extensively photographed and was almost not filmed to be shared after the performances had ended. The reason for this is that ‘Those Left Behind’ was only given a chance to flourish at Brickhouse Theatre. Brickhouse, being situated at Robinson College, is often too far outside of the centre for many to travel, even when reviewers are offered a free ticket. This is a real shame as college-based theatre companies provide a vital platform for student expression that is not given the same opportunity at the more popular venues of the ADC or Corpus Playroom. At these venues, fledgeling student writers, like Arthur, are offered only 1-hour late shows and limited resources, depriving students of the voice that their material deserves.


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I am so grateful for Cambridge Theatre, for the opportunities it has given me to address my grief and to give my dad the tribute I wanted and felt he deserved. Going forward, my intend to continue to use my position as president of the Brickhouse Theatre Company and in the Cambridge theatrical community to support student expression and the promotion of important messages, powerful emotions and, of course, personal tributes.

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