Joshua Obichere

Where did the concept for A Comprehensive Understanding originally come from?

Whilst there is undoubtedly social issues in Cambridge theatre, I’ve seen students around me making positive changes to the way things are run and broadening the opportunities. In the Comedy scene, there are Bipoc smokers, Disability smokers and LGBT+ workshops; yet I’ve never seen comedy classes or productions aimed at platforming working class students. In my mind, class access remains an important intersect for all minority issues, and is often not talked about beyond actually getting into the university. Because of this, I wanted to create a show that tailored to state school pupils from start to finish, the whole cast and crew coming from a state-comp background. That meant assuming no prior experience in auditions and rehearsals, as well as modifying the entire concept of how the show would be run. I recruited well established comedy directors, performers and writers to lead workshops with the cast throughout the run up to the show, in order to impart their expertise. My hope is that this will not only be a fantastic show, but also platform our cast and crew to go on to do other productions with some experience under their belt.

“Class access remains an important intersect for all minority issues, and is often not talked about beyond actually getting into the university” 

I assume A Comprehensive Understanding is mostly devised? Has that been a collaborative process or have individual performers worked on their own stuff?

Yes, it’s all written by the cast and has been mostly a collaborative process. Whilst I did go to a state-comp school, I would never claim to be disadvantaged, and so was very careful not to influence the narrative or themes of the show. That meant allowing the cast to determine what the sketches were about, and what message we were trying to convey. These sketches were mostly written in pairs or small groups, with edits from the myself and the assistant directors. Of course, some monologues or sketches have been written by individual cast members, but the production team have then helped edit those, alongside advice from the workshop leaders. It’s been really fun seeing a group of people who didn’t know each other prior to the show, working collaboratively to create some really hilarious scenes.

How have you personally found the process? How much directorial involvement has there been?

It’s my first time directing and in fact my first time backstage at all, so it’s been hard. Usually, when I’m writing and performing in a show everything *magically* comes together, I write, rehearse, do the show and go home. No one really tells you how much goes on behind the scenes. It takes up a huge amount of time to organise rehearsal spaces, order posters, edit scripts and try and sell tickets. Even just answering these questions is something you don’t have to think about when you’re a performer. So there has been a lot of directorial involvement, not just from me, but from my amazing AD’s Chez and Harri. With it being most people’s ADC stage or production debut, we knew it was going to take a little more time and work- that’s why I’m very grateful for my super diligent team. It makes it easier though, knowing we all care about the cause!

Anything else you’d want to say about the show?

I would just like to highlight the charity we are donating all profits to: IntoUniveristy. They are a brilliant organisation that help disadvantaged pupils from around the country get into universities from Manchester to Bath Spa to Cambridge. It feels right to be giving back any money made from the show, as access is at the core of the project. So a big thanks to Millie at our funding body CADS for supporting our decision!


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Is this a project you’d take further or maybe do again?

I’m in my final year now, and there is no way I will undertake as big a project as this again before I leave Cambridge. What I do want however, is for ‘A Comprehensive Understanding’ to become a yearly feature, with a regular slot at the ADC. That way, every year new students arriving from state schools will have this same high quality opportunity in comedy. So, please, if anyone does love the show and the concept, get in touch and I’m happy to help you with pitching for next year!