1855 Campaign

While we remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are celebrating the fact that drama has been performed at the ADC since 1855, by sharing 18 (and a half) interesting facts about the Theatre.

As part of this, we would like to encourage our patrons to donate £18.55 to support the theatre during this difficult time. The ADC Theatre receives no regular public funding or financial support from the University and relies on ticket sales and the generosity of our patrons to fund our operations.Your generosity will help strengthen our financial position and allow us to continue delivering high-quality shows and provide excellent training opportunities to our students as soon as we can re-open. You can donate £18.55 here.

There are many different lights on the Stage Manager's desk, which display important information, but what does the one that says 'No. 10 open' mean?

'No. 10' refers to the Number 10 door, which separates backstage from the Patch Bay, which is a room where all of the theatrical lights are plugged in:


Since the patch bay is filled with electrical equipment, it has its own sensors to detect if a fire happens. But on-stage, it is possible to turn off (a.k.a. 'isolate') the fire sensors, which it would be necessary to do if the show has a smoke machine or dry ice.

(Don't worry, by the way: whenever the on-stage fire sensors have to be isolated, this is carefully risk assessed, and there is always a Stage Management team overseeing the effect, armed with fire extinguishers in case anything goes wrong!)

If the Number 10 door is accidentally left open, then any on-stage smoke could get through, and accidentally set off the Patch Bar fire alarm! It is for this reason that the sign on the Patch Bay door refers to 'RTOPS': this is an affectionate acronym for "Red Trucks on Park Street", which is what would happen if the sensor was set off and the fire brigade had to come to the Theatre...

Hence this light on the Stage Manager's desk serves as a good reminder to close Number 10 door, and we thankfully haven't had any issues related to this in many years.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

There have been performances in many parts of the ADC Theatre. There is the Stage and Auditorium of course, but there's also the Larkum Studio and our Bar. More unusual, however, was the time that some students chose to stage a play... in the Front of House toilets.

This production of the play Troubled Sleep in 2013 had such unique staging that it made national headlines. Since the play tells the story of two sisters, one of whom cleans toilets for a living, the director saw the ADC toilets as the perfect location for an intimate, small-scale production.

The play was only half an hour long, and only 8 audience members could watch at a time, which meant that the show was staged twice a night.

It goes to show that a play can be staged in the most creative of places. Perhaps more shows will be staged in the ADC toilets in future!

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

There is a trapdoor in the Stage Left Wing (also known as the 'PS Wing'). If you open it up, you will discover a small space (or void) that you can access underneath:

The PS Wing Floor Void is not used to store anything useful. So why does this space have green walls and a skirting board?

The answer is that this entire area was not always the Stage Left Wing. It was once the 'green room' where actors would wait before going off-stage.

During a previous redevelopment of the Theatre, brand-new dressing rooms and a green room was built, freeing up this space to become an off-stage wing. To make this new wing the same level as the stage, new floor was built, and this void is the last remnant of the green room that once existed.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

If you have ever been backstage in the ADC Theatre, you might have noticed that the Stage Left Wing is oddly shaped:

There is a strange corner that juts into the wing, limiting the amount of space that is available. One might ask why the ADC does not simply knock down these walls and expand into this corner...

Except that this corner actually belongs to the University of Cambridge's private members' club, the Pitt Club. With the Pitt Club being a Grade II listed building, this corner of the ADC stage is likely to exist for a long time to come.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

This large, thin sheet of metal can be seen suspended above the Stage Left wing. It is known as a thunder sheet, and is a very old-fashioned means of creating a sound effect. The operator shakes a rope that dangles from the thunder sheet, which shakes the piece of metal around and produces a sound that sounds a lot like a storm.

Although the ADC Theatre now has a digital sound system that has long supplanted the need for such old-fashioned effects, the thunder sheet is used surprisingly frequently in shows. It's difficult for a recorded sound played over speakers to replicate the volume and power that the thunder sheet has. And, of course, it is a lot of fun to use.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

This is the ADC Vault. It is a ladder that can be found in the Technical Manager's Office, and leads down to an area that mostly contains lots of spare parts and old files.

You can tell from the brick arch that this is an old part of the building, and it was only discovered fairly recently. The ADC Management team knew that the Vault existed, as it appears on old building plans, but it was presumed that the space had been filled with rubble.

During one of the building's redevelopments, some technicians drilled a hole down in the floor of the old workshop, into where they knew the Vault would be, and let a small camera into the hole to find out if the space was empty. This is what they discovered...

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

This is the hemps gallery, which you can reach by climbing a ladder found in the Stage Left wing. This is one of the two flying systems that the Theatre has, which can be used to fly lights and set items above the stage.

The gallery contains hemp lines, which are ropes that run from the item being flown to a railing where they are tied up. This style of flying system is very old, and at the ADC Theatre it is only used to fly very light items that can be physically supported by the hemp operators. The more sophisticated counterweights system is used to fly heavy lights and pieces of set.

The hemps gallery is a very old part of the building and it has a few quirks. One mystery is that at the end of the gallery, there is a short length of ladder that seems to go nowhere. This is most likely in place to help a user climb over a short railing that presumably existed at the entrance to the gallery.

During an especially complex show like the CUADC/Footlights Pantomime, there will be lots of flying cues and sometimes multiple operators in the hemps gallery to fly everything in and out.

The sloping roof facing the hemps gallery is painted with chalkboard paint, which officially can be used to provide more details to an operator about what a hemp line is attached to, but is also affectionately used for graffiti related to shows.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

If you look upwards while walking down the stairs leading from the auditorium into the yard, you will notice a lion painted against a blue background, just underneath the skylights.

This lion is unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is the only remaining part of the building still painted in that particular shade of light blue. Most of the walls in the ADC used to be painted in this shade of blue before being changed during the refurbishment.

This wall has remained untouched, both out of reverence for the lion and the fact that the wall is incredibly difficult to reach without a very precarious use of ladders!

But why is there a lion symbol? Eager-eyed people might notice that it resembles the lions found on the University of Cambridge's coat of arms. People who have performed on the ADC stage might know that this lion is the symbol for the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (or CUADC), the resident student society for this Theatre:

This lion has had many names over the years, but it's most recently been affectionately named '"Rory".

The lion on the wall of the ADC Theatre was painted by Claire Butcher, who was the Designer on the CUADC Committee between 2006 and 2007, and the first Production Manager between 2008 and 2010.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

This is the spiral staircase that leads from the Yard of the ADC Theatre to its Bar Terrace. During the evenings when the Bar is open it is frequently used as a way to enter and exit the Bar.

The ADC has not always had this spiral staircase. It was replaced during the building redevelopment in 2003-04... by complete accident.

How do you accidentally replace a staircase? Well, during the redevelopment the old spiral staircase was removed and taken to a storage site. When it came to putting the staircase back, it could not be found, and a new, custom spiral staircase had to be built instead.

What happened to the staircase? Was it lost? Stolen? This is just another mystery in the ADC's rich and strange history...

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

The ADC Theatre contains a lot of keys, which open various strange locks found around the building. But only one of these keys is called a haunted key.

The haunted key is that to the original front doors of the ADC Theatre, which survived the disastrous fire of 1933:

These doors were then relocated to the Front of House corridor when the Theatre was rebuilt:

So why is this key haunted? According to urban legend, when the Theatre burned down in 1933, there was still someone trapped inside...

Ever since, the Management of the ADC has been too afraid to lock these doors, for fear that they will be haunted by the ghost.

Around the time that the ADC Theatre closed for lockdown, the current Manager tried bravely (or perhaps foolishly) to lock the haunted doors, only to find that a slight misalignment in their heights meant that they could not be locked.

Is this simply a mistake in the way the doors were hung... or the intervention of a supernatural force?

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

Drama has been performed in the ADC Theatre since 1855, although the building has not always been called the ADC. The Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club was formed in 1855, and operated in a back room of the Hoop Inn. As the Club grew in popularity, the building gradually transformed from an Inn and Hotel into a Theatre, and there have been so many redevelopments and refurbishments that no visible vestiges of the original building remain…

…Except one. This archway and pillar, which can be found inside the ADC’s Management Office, is part of the original building. In fact, the arch was once part of the stables for the coaching house.

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.

If you have seen a show at the ADC Theatre, you will probably recall the large metal curtain that rises up from the stage during the interval.

This is a safety curtain. All sufficiently large theatres in the UK must have one of these: in the event of a fire, the safety curtain prevents it spreading from the stage to the auditorium, or vice versa. But the ADC's safety curtain is unique in the country in that it rises from the floor rather than lowers from the ceiling. There are other theatre safety curtains, like that at the Barbican or Lyttelton, which are split in half with one half going up and the other going down, but the ADC's rises fully upwards from floor to ceiling.


It might also surprise you to know that the ADC safety curtain is not controlled electronically. Instead, an intrepid student winds it downwards using a handle (pictured above). When the brake is released a counterweight system allows the curtain to rush upwards. Although its elements have been repaired and replaced, the core mechanism of this curtain is the same as it was when it was installed in the early 20th century.

The safety curtain lies at the heart of the ADC and is commonly part-jokingly considered to have a mind of its own, with a particular fondness for unexpectedly rising during particularly vigorous tap numbers (such as the 2018 production of The Producers, photographed above by Evelina Gumileva).

If you have enjoyed this fact about the ADC Theatre, and are able to support us during this difficult time, please consider donating £18.55 here.