A Freshers guide to Oxford drama


It is fair to say that the opportunities to do some form of drama at Oxford are almost endless. With three or four shows minimum on an almost weekly basis, there is almost always a need not only for actors but equally for producers, technicians, set designers, stage managers, marketing managers, costume designers and all other jobs.

As a fresher coming in October this can seem overwhelming at first, but fear not, as the lovely people at OUDS (Oxford University Drama Society) and TAFF (which stands for Tabs Are For Flying; the society dedicated to all things technical) are always there to help you out.

Two good things to do from the off are to join their mailing lists; the OUDS mailing list has details about what to watch on a weekly basis as well as auditions and other exciting things going on. You can sign up for it at www.ouds.org . The TAFF mailing list is a more direct means of asking for specific technicians but also can be used by producers seeking members of crew for upcoming shows – a great way to know what’s going on and what will be coming up! You can sign up for that here: www.tabsareforflying.co.uk.

Oxford itself has a number of stages of differing sizes across the city. These range from the 50-seater Burton Taylor studio (yes, that Burton and that Taylor) to the 660-seater Oxford Playhouse, which hosts two student shows on a termly basis.

Another of note is the 200 person capacity Keble O’Reilly theatre which, over the last five years or so, has come to represent some of the most experimental and top brass student theatre; last year alone there were three musicals and perhaps the first ever revolving stage on an Oxford student stage.  The O’Reilly has a new show on every week from 3rd week to 7th week so is worth keeping an eye on!

As a fresher the best place to start is with cuppers – the intercollegiate drama competition in 5th week exclusively held for first years. This gives budding actors, producers and directors a great way of learning how the whole OUDS system works, and there are prizes not only for best show but also best technical and best marketing and publicity: a great way of highlighting how many facets there are to a drama experience! You can find more information about cuppers on the OUDS website.

One exciting part to look forward to is the Oxford phenomenon of garden shows, which take place in Trinity term across various colleges. These shows normally give audiences the chance to bask outside and watch the best student theatre in an idyllic location – what’s not to love!

But for now the best advice really is to just go for it – audition for shows and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get cast, these things always take time: just remember there will always be another chance to perform!  Juggling rehearsals and work may seem daunting but don’t let it put you off – drama can often be a welcome relief after hours of studying.

One more thing – the best way to learn about student theatre is to see some plays! The Playhouse is showing two shows in Michaelmas: the first being The Furies (Oxford’s Greek Play for 2014), and the second being Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, a dark comedy from the same writer as In Bruges. Aside from that the Burton Taylor has a huge roster of shows and the O’Reilly has five top notch names to go and see: things kick off with Our Country’s Good in 3rd week, Jerusalem in 4th week, His Dark Materials in 5th week, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando in 6th week (take note first year English students!) and in 7th is the musical Assassins.

PHOTO/Eric Meyer