Lucia Revel-Chion, former President of CUADC and current third-year student, discusses her experiences with the Cambridge Theatre scene.
In a University divided by subjects and colleges, finding a shared passion for something outside of the academic and social circles we all move in feels incredibly precious. I remember a conversation with a college friend in first year – at a time when we were both feeling particularly claustrophobic – where she observed that the only three things to seemingly bridge collegiate gaps were sport (at university level), music (at university level) and theatre.
I was never good enough at any sport for varsity level and I didn’t bring my clarinet or saxophone with me to Cambridge, but somewhere between the New Cellars of Pembroke College, the shadowy alley housing the Corpus Playroom and the hallowed halls of the ADC Theatre, I managed to find more of a home than my college ever offered.
I sought my refuge in the ADC: in the cushions of the clubroom sofa, in the familiar (read: stale) smell of dressing rooms, in the backstage buzz minutes before the curtain goes up and in the sweaty, tipsy haze of the ADC Bar. These are all places where I found a community – people who identified with being unable to fit into academic pressures of Cambridge. These are the spaces – so supportive of artistic independence, so teeming with people infinitely more skilled and generous than myself – that have kept me in Cambridge for the final year of my degree.
Photo: Meg Coslett
Beyond the ADC, to the college spaces and gardens that play host to May Week Shakespeares and new student writing, there stretches a vast and seemingly unending stream of talent and support. These people will take your hand and jump without ever looking back, will build you up in your creative endeavours until you feel like the sky's the limit, and will bolster your passion with their own. The generosity of spirit, particularly in the tight-knit community of technicians and designers, is something I never expected to find. I know I am just one of a huge number who have benefitted from a communal willingness to share knowledge and work together to help realise countless creative visions.
No cry for help goes unanswered, from sourcing a snow machine, looking for a van to transport a sofa from one side of Cambridge to the other, or just asking for more hands at a get-in – I once put out a call for a skeleton prop and had someone cycle a full size skeleton in all the way from Homerton, just so that we could dangle it on stage during two scenes of our freshers play. In a city where I’ve so often felt like I was screaming into a void of academic snobbery, that kind of aid, from students past and present, has meant I’ve never felt alone.
The Cambridge Theatre scene is where, for the first time in my life, I learned what it means to work with and for people rather than against them. The people who inhabit it have taught me more about love and compassion than anything or anyone else in my time at Cambridge. When you care so much about the work you are putting into a production, it becomes impossible not to care for the people involved just as much, often more. In return, we get to watch each other flourish and grow, knowing we will make the most out of whatever life throws at us. If you can manage to find a place in Cambridge which will accept you for who you are and bring out the best side of you, you will always be able to turn the real world to your advantage and find sanctuary somewhere.
Photo: Emily Senior
Looking back now, I can see that I have gained so much more than any sense of academic fulfilment could have given me. I have been humbled again and again by the wealth of talent and support on offer – both on stage and off – and by peers who have believed in each other so strongly that the world seems less scary with them by my side. The countless thank you cards I have written over the last term (let alone the last three years) could never express how grateful I am to everyone who has made Cambridge not just a bearable space, but an immensely rewarding one.
A place is only as good as the people you know in it, and in the theatre I have found enough of the most wonderful, interesting and kind people to build myself a home. It’s a home I am heartbroken to be leaving behind, particularly on such short notice, but it’s time for new inhabitants to take my place and find the best version of themselves under its roof.
ADC Archive aims to collect and share your memories and personal experiences of the theatre. Whether you are a current student, alumnus, former employee, or patron of the theatre, we want to hear from you! To submit your story, or for more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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