The ADC Theatre at Park Street is the oldest student playhouse in BritainSimon Lock

Auditioning for the Footlights, Olivia Coleman famously ate a cigarette stub. Now, she’s the queen. Other notable Cambridge Theatre alumni include Richard Ayoade, John Oliver, Rachel Weisz, Phil Wang and Sam Mendes. With this kind of showstopping history it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but before Monty Python were defining British comedy, before Tom Hiddleston stole our hearts, and before Mel had even met Sue, they were just a bunch of students trying to have fun. Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know to get involved in Cambridge Theatre.

The Holy Trinity:

- Camdram: Camdram is the database that keeps track of all the shows going on. It’s a great place to keep track of what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and to see the different opportunities coming up.

- Cambridge Theatre Facebook Group: Trust me, I know. I didn’t want to get Facebook either. But this is where most advertising for shows and opportunities takes place. You can get involved without it, but it’s a great place to keep your eye on.

- ADC Theatre: As the oldest student playhouse in Britain, the ADC is the go-to for new productions. On their website you can apply to stage a show, see what’s on and get tickets (they even have their own bar?!).

Learning and Growing:

There are plenty of writing competitions, acting opportunities and chances to try something new; if you don’t get the first thing you apply for, or the fifth for that matter, that doesn’t mean you won’t get there. Despite cliché, there really is something for everyone: from a musical theatre society (birthplace of ‘Six the Musical’) to the American tour, writers’ groups to workshops galore.

Top Tips:

- Watch watch watch. Go to the theatre, you’ll never get a more accessible place to watch. Students get discounts at the ADC, but ticket prices can add up. Signing up to steward a show (helping with tickets), run tech on the night, or even reviewing is an excellent way to see new theatre for free.

- There’ll always be people with more experience than you: whether that’s GCSE drama, parents in the industry, pure hard work or professional credits. Good. We’re all students, make the most of it: learn.

- You will find a home. Inclusivity has taken centre stage these past few years. New Footlights president Adédàmólá Láoyè wants ‘the comedy scene to be inclusive for all students’, while societies like CULES and Impronauts have inclusivity built into their very DNA. On the drama side, societies such as BREAD and Old Vag Club have made leaps and bounds in placing the limelight on students of colour, women, and non-binary performers. If none of those feel like a fit, you can always start your own project and find people who want to work with you. Cambridge’s history may not be squeaky clean, but it’s passionate students like you who are helping to change that.

- It’s never too late to start. Some of the big names on campus didn’t discover theatre until their second or even third year. While some students seem to have been living and breathing theatre since they were born, for most people, myself included, theatre wasn’t even on the radar until university.

Ultimately you must decide what’s best for you in the short time we have here. Terms feel endless when you’re learning new things, but they go by quick. Whether you’re looking for a social hobby that doesn’t include boats, trying to build a career, or just have a story you want to tell, there’s a place for you here. What matters is having fun. No one is going to ask you to eat a cigarette stub or be Emma Thompson right here right now, but as long as you come at this with enthusiasm, commitment, and a keenness to learn, you’ll find out just why no one ever wants to leave the Cambridge Theatre bubble; you’ll find magic.