The writer backstage at the ADC Theatrealice roberts with permission for varsity

About a week into Michaelmas term, I wrote in my diary: “in many ways this has been the worst week of my life.” Because I am dramatic. Later, in an attempt to cheer myself up, I made a list of good things that had happened, among which were: “ADC events and getting my loyalty card for the bar”, and “going to auditions (being brave).” The theatre scene was there to welcome me and give me hope that I would be happy in a new and intimidating environment.

I met a few students in the ADC bar on one of my first nights in Cambridge who were so sweet, making me feel included and giving me advice. With a new cohort of freshers about to arrive, I want to reflect on what has been a truly formative year and give any advice I can.

To begin with, here are some quickfire lessons from my time in Cambridge theatre. There’s no particular order of importance; you will work out what is important to you…

“It is easy to slip into self-denigration when you are suddenly faced with a huge pool of talented people”

Check the Cambridge Theatre Facebook page regularly, you never know when a new show will be announced! Be kind to the management and bar staff! Keep your area of a dressing room tidy. Get an ADC bar stamp card and actually use it (it is valid for non-alcoholic drinks, too). You don’t have to be good at dancing, there are roles for all types of performers. It helps to be very familiar with your lines in auditions. Lots of people pitch to put on a show so don’t worry if you don’t get programmed on your first go. Watch as many shows as you – and sign up to steward to do so for free. Take one for the team and do the hoovering at a get-out. Learn your lines early; I learned this the hard way!

Don’t do things for the sake of a CamDram credit. It gets toxic and competitive and no-one’s that impressed anyway. It is easy to slip into self-denigration when you are suddenly faced with a huge pool of talented people; Cambridge forces you to re-calibrate your sense of self because you can no longer be the big fish in a small pond. There is no need to recreate the familiar over-achievement of secondary school by trying to outdo others in the theatre scene. It won’t do you any good to burn yourself out in Week 5 because you’ve already done three shows. I know it sounds like tough love, but this really is the time to enjoy what you’re doing rather than hold yourself to unsustainable standards. I think we all need to pay a bit more attention to self-preservation. Ultimately we are humans who need to eat and sleep and begrudgingly write our essays. There is no morality in stretching yourself too thin.

“It can be difficult to remember to look after yourself when it feels like everyone else is already doing more than you”

I struggle at times to take my own advice. Every time audition season rolls around, I tell myself not to get over-excited and, every time, I exhaust myself by auditioning for too many shows. It can be difficult to remember to look after yourself when it feels like everyone else is already doing more than you. I try to avoid overthinking audition tactics and outfit choices and time slots, but I don’t always succeed. The sad fact of it is that we all love theatre and so we all go into every audition hoping to get a part when of course there are never enough to keep everyone happy. I’m speaking from painful experience when I say that you should not imagine yourself doing a show before you have been cast.

Speaking of rejection – it happens to everyone multiple times a term, but that doesn’t get as publicised. Often people are rejected because they don’t fit the character, not because they can’t act. Your self-worth is not defined by the number of roles you’re booking. On the flip side, don’t get complacent if you get offered a lot of roles early on. It’s exciting and impressive but doesn’t always mean that the success will continue. Rejection is inevitable but, although the sting of it never really fades, it teaches you to be gracious and can helpfully inform your audition technique.

I don’t know who needs to hear this but you are so much more than your CamDram profile. We are amateurs, we are students. Theatre here is extra-curricular and voluntary. It is supposed to be fun and casual and rewarding so we must agree to not take ourselves or the shows too seriously. We do it for the love of performing, telling stories, and building a community, and all of this is easier if we’re kind and professional.


Mountain View

Enter stage left, a guide to Cambridge Theatre

I may not have everything worked out yet and I probably sound naive, but I do know that I hope I never lose the love of an environment that saved me in my first year. I want to bring my future children to the pantomimes and force them to listen to stories from the ADC vault. There is nothing like the ADC, and as much as it is not perfect (nothing is!), I think we can easily skim over its brilliance. Whilst this year started off with some of the lowest days of my life, I think in many ways it has been one of the best years of my life. To anyone coming into the theatre scene, I hope you fall in love with it as quickly and deeply as I did. I hope you have the time of your life.