Ella Gold

My first encounter with the Cambridge theatre scene actually occurred in early 2017, almost two years prior to starting at the university. I was visiting my good friend in her first year at the time, and found myself sitting in the Corpus Playroom watching the freshers show she’d directed.

The Playroom’s low ceilings, bright red benches and general feeling of thrown-togetherness was excitingly novel to me. Compared to my only previous theatre experiences of school hall and drama group, this felt refreshing. Sandwiched shoulder to shoulder between strange students, I could hear the whispers of actors and the clicks of the tech box behind me as the lights buzzed on, and as the show began I found myself swept up in the final night energy of it all.

I stayed for the afterparty after the show, met all her friends, drank cheap gin and imagined for just a moment what it might be like if I were one of them.

"The Playroom’s low ceilings, bright red benches and general feeling of thrown-togetherness was excitingly novel to me"

The following morning I sat reluctantly on my train home. After my taste of university theatre, I found that my perspective had shifted a little. Returning to my own world of theatre; roles which included ‘seagull 3’ and, my personal favourite, ‘wave/log’ in ‘The Tempest’ (that’s a whole other story…), a world in which the notion of a student director simply did not exist, suddenly felt achingly inconsequential.

Fast forward a year and I was back. The same friend was directing a film, in which I played a character who wakes up with a tail. It was a lot of fun. I saw my first ever John’s room ( consequently I have been disappointed with every Cambridge room I’ve seen since), and was suitably impressed that the film had a producer. I didn’t have a clue what a producer was at the time (secret: I still don’t), but it sounded important.

'Shakers: Restirred' at the Corpus Playroom, which Ella assistant directedElla Gold

My third and final pre-Cambridge Cambridge theatre experience was the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. The cast and crew of ‘Drifting Towers’ kindly housed me in their lovely flat for a week, and I got to experience university theatre like I’d never seen it before. Flyering on the Royal Mile was dizzying; bouncing from show to show in the day and spending the nights in flats packed with countless unknown yet unimaginably friendly faces, making me momentarily forget that I was merely a visitor.

Despite all the excitement, I was wary of getting too attached to it all. My trip to Fringe took place the week before my A Level results day. I realised that, where before the thought of Cambridge had been overly daunting and my feelings about it conflicted, the connection to the uni’s theatre scene I was already beginning to cultivate from our two-year-long acquaintance was something I feared I would be reluctant to break.


Mountain View

Telling Time and Tales of Superheroes

Two months later, I found myself sitting in a ridiculous hall, wearing a ridiculous gown, feeling ridiculously intimidated. Matriculation dinner. I vividly remember staring at the neatly folded card in front of me, reading the familiar shape of my name over and over and feeling like it was all some big, sick joke. I thought that I could not possibly belong anywhere less.

I genuinely believe that, in my first Michaelmas term, the traces of familiarity I felt for parts of the theatre scene were what kept me afloat. Recognising the layout of the ADC bar; passing the Playroom on my way to lectures; spotting the odd friendly face from my trips to the city were all things that helped me fight the ache of imposter syndrome.

The scene was by no means something I felt I understood or knew, but the parts of it I recognised were what led to it eventually feeling like a kind of home, almost two years and many shows later.

"I thought that I could not possibly belong anywhere less"

Like many, I am not sure I will ever feel like I entirely fit into the academic side of Cambridge. That feeling of being a kind of observer that I first experienced three years ago at that afterparty is one which has since revisited me during my degree, in countless supervisions and seminars.

Yet the familiarity of the Corpus Playroom will always provide the comfort that academia does not. While the ADC Theatre is certainly alluring in both its size and (more importantly) its ice creams, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it is the Playroom’s dusty corners which draw me back time and time again. I suppose that first excitement I felt is not something I’ve yet been able to shake.