Approaching Cambridge’s theatre scene as an incoming fresher can be extremely daunting. You’ve no doubt scoured the internet for information, only to be baffled by concepts like ‘mainshows’ and ‘the Playroom’. Ultimately, much of the Camdram (Cambridge-amateur-drama) lingo is completely unique to the place itself, so don’t worry about it; you’ll pick it up as you go along. Instead of presenting you with a glossary to memorise, we’re here to try and give you a few easy steps to get you started when you arrive in Cambridge. Whether you’re a wannabe actor who’s already looking for an agent, an engineer who wants to put their building skills to work in technical theatre, or simply someone who enjoys the occasional musical, we hope you can find some helpful ways to make Cambridge Theatre work for you.

At the centre of a swirling ecosystem of theatres and venues are the ADC theatre (a 200+ seat proscenium theatre) and the Corpus Playroom (an 80 seat theatre shaped like an arrowhead). Both run under the management of the ADC. ADC stands for Amateur Dramatic Club - it shares a name with the society CUADC, but the management team is not made up of students, and runs operations for both performance spaces.

The ADC building houses the theatre, and has the social spot for drama kids: the ADC bar. Open late most nights and boasting a weekly show-themed cocktail, this is a great place to meet fellow theatre-lovers. Freshers week is extremely busy with college events, but try to catch a show at either the ADC or Corpus (located just off King’s Parade), then head to the bar afterwards and order yourself a Blue Worker (trust us, they’re heavenly). Inevitably you’ll see the actors and creative team from whichever show you just watched, and it’s a great conversation opener. If you’ve ever met a theatre kid you know there’s nothing they like more than talking about their shows! You’ll be able to find what shows are running each week on the ADC website; with a minimum of two shows at each venue (a ‘mainshow’ and a ‘lateshow’), there’s sure to be something that takes your fancy.

There are other venues around Cambridge to keep an eye on as well: various colleges have their own theatres (Pembroke’s New Cellars in particular, though Robinson’s Brickhouse Theatre and Queens’ Fitzpatrick Hall, run by BATS, are also notable) and the Cambridge Arts Theatre stages some great productions (although they are rarely student shows). While the ADC does boast a host of knowledge when it comes to putting a show on, it is by no means the only space for theatre-making in Cambridge.

“The only way to discover your favourite thing is to try it all!”

In order to find out what’s going on, we’d recommend keeping an eye on the Camdram website! Not only is there a diary of all the student shows being put on across Cambridge, you can also see who’s involved in each one and what else they’ve done in Cambridge. It’s been running for years, and almost everyone is on there (a particular deep dive will reveal Eddie Redmayne’s single Camdram credit…). There’s also a Cambridge Theatre Facebook group which, although it is often inundated with promotion for upcoming shows, is worth joining, especially if you’re interested in getting involved in creating the shows yourself.

Which introduces our next point: explore all the different roles available. Unlike in school, where the only option for getting involved was as an actor, Cambridge shows are run almost entirely by students. If you like theatre but don’t want to be onstage, there are so many other ways to get involved. Are you an avid engineer? Try lighting and sound! Do you love charity shopping? We recommend costume design! Do you spend way too much time on social media? You’re perfect for publicity! Even if you’re sure acting is for you, now is your chance to explore - how about directing? Every element of a Camdram show is done by students, from suggesting what shows to do, to organising and running rehearsals, to screwing together the set itself. The only way to discover your favourite thing is to try it all! CUADC is running workshops throughout the term but you can also apply for assistant roles in pretty much any area you’re interested in. Keep an eye on that Facebook Theatre group, as well as the vacancies section of Camdram, and apply apply apply! Particularly in the backstage roles, the majority of shows could ALWAYS use an extra hand.

“The minute that clubroom sofa starts looking like a good place for a nap, leave”

It’s important, however, to be aware of the commitment theatre can require. The good news is that, unlike many university hobbies which require joining a specific society that schedules regular weekly/termly events, you are in complete control of your theatre commitments, and you can get involved as incrementally as you want. The bad news is that you can also very easily oversubscribe yourself. The fact is, you cannot be involved in all the shows. It’s impossible. For every show you do there will be ten that you would have loved to be involved with, and another ten you didn’t even know were happening. There will also be someone who seems to have managed to be involved in all twenty of those shows. Do not let it be you. The minute that clubroom sofa starts looking like a good place for a nap, leave. It’s a slippery slope from that to panic writing essays three weeks late because you’ve been living in the counterweight gallery (a completely random example…).

A general rule is that an absolute maximum should be around a show every fortnight, ideally no more than one show every three weeks. This of course depends on the capacity with which you are involved in the show, the scale of the show, and the commitments you have other than theatre (you know… like your degree). However, for example, most roles in an ADC mainshow will require your full attention for the whole of the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the show opens, as well as an overnight shift dismantling the set (and then subsequently mourning the show at the ADC bar) on the Saturday.

To summarise:

  • Catch a show in your first few weeks (either by yourself or with some new friends) and try to introduce yourself to some other students at the bar afterwards (even if that’s just the bartender on a particularly quiet night - they too are mostly students!).
  • Go to as many of the ADC workshops as you can but equally don’t worry if you miss them - everything can be learned on the job.
  • If you’re getting involved in a show, make sure to swing by the management office in the ADC theatre with your Camcard and they will activate it for you - this will provide you with access to the backstage and rehearsal spaces of the ADC building.
  • Keep an eye on Camdram, and join the Cambridge Theatre Facebook group. Apply for anything you’re interested in, but NOT for everything.

Past Varsity guides: (2017) (2022) (2021) (2020: guide to producing)

CUADC 2023-24 guide: