From classic Shakespearian tragedies to contemporary pieces about the ‘human condition’; improvised comedy to musicals, operas and operettas to pantomimes and garden plays, there is something for everyone on the student drama scene in Oxford.
As well as providing boundless opportunities to perform or watch theatre, many of my friends, some of whom only really discovered thespianism upon coming to Oxford, have taken the chance to try out other backstage roles.
Whilst I have only ventured as far as acting, I have friends who have been stage managers, costume designers, directors, producers, writers and who have even designed and built sets (once involving fire-proofing over 30m of fabric by hand within the confines of a student bedroom).
Being part of student productions is also a great way to meet other likeminded, often similarly eccentric, students.
I was lucky to be able to perform in a production of Macbeth in the spring term with a fantastic cast of very talented actors, who also happened to be very good on a night out.
This production was, in my opinion, a great example of the many different aspects which go into making a successful student production. From the innovative war paint make-up design, to the creation of a ‘Which member of our Macbeth cast are you?’ Buzzfeed quiz to advertise the show, every aspect was well-thought out and represented a lot of hard work put in by the cast and production team.
We were even spared the usual student production nightmare of struggling to make enough ticket sales to break even, as several local schools studying Macbeth for GCSE English bought a combined few hundred tickets for their students.
I have very fond memories of unsettling the year 10 students as I wafted onto the balcony as one of three witches in the opening scene. The venue we were using was the Jacqueline du Pre music building in St Hilda’s College, just one of the many fantastic venues for theatre in and around the University.
Although some of the more popular student productions are put on in the Oxford Playhouse or the Burton-Taylor Theatre, many of the colleges also possess great spaces for performing, such as the O’Reilly Theatre at Keble College and the auditorium in Corpus Christi College.
In the summer, garden plays tend to dominate the drama scene. Spectacularly sunny June evenings in the idyllic gardens of various Oxford colleges serve as the perfect backdrops for many productions. (Or at least that is the ideal. In reality many of these ill-fated garden productions end up hastily relocating to college lecture theatres due to torrential rain half an hour before the show is due to start...).
I recently went to see a production where they persevered through the elements, providing audience members with umbrellas and carrier bags to put on the wet garden chairs. It was a fantastic production, albeit not a terribly pleasurable experience.
So come rain or shine, Oxford student drama provides a wealth of opportunities to enjoy theatre in its many forms