By Poddy Wilson
When choosing a university, there are many things to consider: the course, the location, the lifestyle… and the extracurriculars. For me there was one extracurricular in particular that, for me, was crucial when it came to narrowing down my options, and that was drama. And, with Oxford, there’s certainly no shortage – after all, this was the stomping ground for a wealth of big names, from Gemma Chan to Michael Palin, from Hugh Dancy to Katherine Parkinson. At school I had spent a huge proportion of my life in the theatre, and loved every second, so when I started in 2020, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the drama scene.
Unfortunately, due to some minor global crisis or another, my options were slightly limited. When, in Michaelmas, the only performances going ahead were online, for me personally, the loss of the social aspect of rehearsals, as well as audience interaction, didn’t really appeal. It wasn’t until Trinity, when plans were made for the first in-person performances, that I finally made my Oxford debut. The play in question was actually the very first post-pandemic in-person show in Oxford, which, whilst exciting, presented challenges: firstly, we had to rehearse outdoors (which is to thank for my first experience of hay fever!), and, with the rule of six still in place, we couldn’t rehearse with the whole cast at any one time. Even in the actual performances, all the actors had to remain at least a metre apart at all times. Still, I loved every second of performing that show, and it was such a thrill to finally experience the adrenaline of live performance after so long. That same term, I was also cast in a garden play, to be performed at the very end of term. Sadly, however, on the day of the performance, a member of the production tested positive, and the show had to be cancelled. Now I’m in rehearsals once more for a show in the home of student theatre, the Burton Taylor studio – and what a novelty it is to rehearse indoors!
This term, it’s been so wonderful to see student theatre coming back with a bang. Every single week, there’ll be another show featuring a friend or acquaintance, and there’s such a sense of comradery in going to support them. As extracurriculars go, it’s an incredibly supportive social sphere, and it’s so rewarding to see a play come together, especially after watching so much hard work go into preparations. I would also say that it was surprisingly lower commitment than I’d had with school productions, where we rehearsed nearly every day – at university, I’ve felt as if we’ve been trusted more to take the initiative and be more responsible for ourselves. The result being that the environment feels faster paced, but as a result you find many people who are involved in a number of productions at once – and somehow still manage!
Now, with only a matter of days to go until my next show, I can already feel those first tingles of adrenaline. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have chosen a university with such a rich and dynamic theatre scene!