There are more plays staged at Oxford than any other UK university, so if you are keen to tread the boards or to remain safely seated in the stalls, there’s a lot of opportunity to enjoy theatre here. The Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS) is the umbrella society which provides funding to help produce the shows you want to put on. Most student production teams start by friends getting together to work out a budget, design and marketing plan for a play. The team then presents this plan (‘bid’) to a theatre and OUDS in order to secure funding. There’s a range of theatres for students to use, from the 50-seatre Burton Taylor Studio to the Oxford Playhouse, which can seat 600 people. If you would prefer to join a drama society than be involved in specific productions, there’s a variety of options, from the brilliantly funny Oxford Revue to the Oxford Imps, who perform weekly improvised comedy at a local pub.
Drama is a large extracurricular Oxford, as there are more plays performed here than in most universities – and it encompasses pretty much every type of theater: from Ancient Greek drama, through Shakespeare, to modern and experimental pieces. Thanks to that, everyone is likely to find something that suits them! It’s completely student-led and overlooked by OUDS, an umbrella organization that helps any potential directors find funding and venues.
I got involved by going to numerous auditions (they are advertised through the OUDS newsletter which you can sign up to during Freshers’ Fair) and after many tries I finally managed to get cast in a few plays. I’m also planning to do some stage managing in the upcoming months.
I have particularly enjoyed meeting and working with interesting people on pieces that I have never been in before. Regardless of whether it was a trippy experimental piece by Kandinsky or a solid piece of Shakespeare, getting involved in a creative and artistic project with people who were new to me was absolutely amazing.
Hello! I’m one of the Oxford Imps, an ‘improvisational comedy group’. I had no clue what that meant at first, so it was only after seeing their free show in Freshers’ Week that I thought “that looks like fun”, and signed up for auditions the very next day. We make things up – be it short skits, puns, one-liners, Musicals, entire Shakespeare-styled tragedies, or even some carefully sculpted chat-up lines if you’re lucky – based on audience suggestion, which means that no two shows are the same. This is integral to the retention of your sanity when the whole troop bundle up to the Edinburgh fringe, and perform every day! Performing every week, and receiving that grin-inducing sensation that only an audience’s applause can give you, provides me with a well needed space to exorcize all the tension of the week. All I have to do is be silly for a couple hours! But the greatest thing of all, as with any co-curricular, is the people. Clichéd though it may be, they are my bestest friends, my confidants, my clowns, and a little island of security when everything else seems like too vast an ocean to tackle.
We write, produce and star in silly shows for students and those who cannot get to the theatre themselves (local schools and care homes). I met OULES at the Freshers’ Fair, when I was asked “do you like wearing silly hats?” – needless to say I was hooked.
My best experience with OULES so far was in Michaelmas term 2014/15, when the society put on a play which I had written. The student show went down really well but it was the version that we did at a local school which made me really proud.
OULES is drama for anyone. Regardless of experience or availability we have a part for everyone. It’s also an opportunity to get involved with writing, directing, producing or any other aspect of drama you hadn’t previously thought to do.
University drama was a big, scary thing in my mind before coming to Oxford. I’d taken part in small school shows and done various plays here and there but, given my lack of West-End experience or Golden Globe nominations, it seemed that drama would have to go on the back burner for my time at university. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve never been in a place where there are so many people putting on so many plays and pieces every single day of the week. I’ve been in a musical for charity, a play that a friend just decided he wanted to put on and am now the Production Manager for another. There are hundreds of opportunities every term to take part in something wonderful – whether it be a small, college-based production or a university-wide show. They are equally accessible, all you need is to be willing to give it a go.