Cast and Crew of Second Generation INTEGRATEDZaynab Ahmed

What I have found in Cambridge Theatre is that, to get into it, you must already be good. To get a part in a play, you need to audition. Then it is no surprise that people who are good get the parts and the lead roles. This of course makes sense and is no one’s fault! Obviously, you’ll want the best people in your production! The issue is that people from deprived backgrounds, such as those from some BME communities, but not restricted to only the BME community, do not have access to the required skills or training. People from deprived areas generally don't even have access to opportunities such as drama classes due do their lack of funding in the community.

Having come from a state school background, I know how difficult it can be to have access to lessons in music and drama, not only due to the lack of opportunities but also due to the cost of things such as classes or musical instruments. Also, people from a deprived background generally have to work a lot harder to get into places like Cambridge, so this means they don't have the time to take drama as an extra curricular activity as they are focusing on exams such as GCSEs or A levels. This is by far not something caused by theatre at Cambridge, but due to the lack of access to drama and performance arts in some areas of the country, I feel like there is a lack of BME people in theatre. The issue isn't the roles in productions or the lack of diverse characters, the issue is that directors and producers simply want the best and the best may not be what the BME community can offer compared to their counterparts. 

"I feel that BME only productions have pushed a lot more BME people to apply for roles and not to be scared to audition for them"

However, I do like what Cambridge theatre has done to improve access to the theatre. In terms of being a part of a production, I feel that BME only productions have pushed a lot more BME people to apply for roles and not to be scared to audition for them. Shows such as Second Generation: INTEGRATED had a full BME cast and was very well made as it celebrated Asian culture and how many of us grew up! It was a super fun show! I personally could not be a part of the production due to the amount of work I had during those weeks of term, which is another point to consider. The condensed 8 week term at Cambridge means that some students, especially STEM students, have difficulties committing to a production.

What I think helped me personally were free acting sessions and workshops. These allowed me to be in a non-judgemental space and work with others to create, practice and allow my confidence to grow without having to throw myself straight into a show. Every Saturday morning I'd be in the ADC with the Impronauts, playing games, meeting new people, and having fun! This allowed my confidence in myself and in my acting skills to grow, and has led to some wonderful opportunities. Things such as the Footlight Corpus Smokers have also let me and other people join the theatre scene. I think this is what Cambridge theatre should work towards, not necessarily just BME integration, but integration for people who didn't come from somewhere with access to drama or just for people who want to try something new.


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As someone who grew up in a state school background, going to the theatre was not something I was accustomed to growing up. One thing that always made me feel out of place is the stereotypical person that would go to the theatre, I always felt like I was not one of those people. But at Cambridge, you can go to a show with a group of friends and you don’t feel out of place at all!

I also think that music at Cambridge has some of the same issues. As a person coming from a background without music, musical instruments and lessons were not available to me. And to be a part of an orchestra or band, you need an instrument and you need the skills. College societies can't provide instruments and lessons to people, which is a shame or else I would've picked up an instrument when I got to Cambridge. However, colleges such as Robinsons offer DJ lessons for free, and it’s so nice to see opportunities like this!

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