David Adamson, graduate of King's College, former Director of University Estates Management and loyal friend of the ADC writes about the early years of the theatre's history.
Who might think that the longest-running student theatre in the UK, and arguably the best, would have started life with some students acting in a pub? Well, actually, quite a lot of people might think that. And so it was. By the middle of the 19th century, a group of Trinity and King’s College students were meeting in the Hoop hotel to act out sketches and indeed plays; some of them were accommodated in rooms at the back of the hotel where the stables were, and where the front of the ADC is now. The Hoop Hotel was a sprawling set of buildings; until 1960 Park Street was just a narrow lane. In 1855 they decided to form the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (one account says it was first called Society), and leased a couple of rooms; there was a library with newspapers, a piano and drinks were available.
There was no enthusiasm at all for this by the University or indeed the Colleges; here was an organisation of students formally created and running finance accounts with no authority from, or indeed responsibility to, the University or any of the Colleges. (There was also in later years an issue for some College directors of studies concerned about the priority and the amount of time some students where devoting to the ADC, and sometimes were specifically warned that if they were involved in the ADC and failed exams, their Colleges would not be giving them a second chance). However, CUADS/CUADC flourished, with what was called a 'new stage' being built in 1860.
In 1933 there was a serious fire in the premises; the upper part of the current building was constructed by 1935, partly with money borrowed from the CU Rugby Club: interesting to note the closeness of the ADC and the Rugby Club. (This debt was paid off during a period of financial stringency in the 1960’s by personal contribution of Dadie Rylands of King’s College). In the 1930’s until 1939 the ADC custodian lived with his wife and son in a flat in the ground floor of the ADC; the son worked in Millers the nearby musical shop and ran the then ADC ticket-booking system from there.
You can read part two here.
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