Cambridge University Undergraduate Productions

October 1958 - August 1961

Ian McKellen, Cambridge, 1961
Ian McKellen, Cambridge, 1961

F R Leavis
F R Leavis
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

ADC Theatre, Cambridge, 2004
ADC Theatre, Cambridge
Copyright Cambridge2000.com

George Rylands
George Rylands

Little Theatre Guild of Britain

There is to this day still no drama department at Cambridge University.  Had there been when I arrived at St. Catharine’s in 1958, it’s doubtful I would have applied, as I then had no intention of acting professionally and was happy to be reading English Literature.  This involved University lectures from such academic stars as C.S. Lewis (the “Narnia” books) and F.R. Leavis (“Scrutiny” and other critical studies.

I sat at Leavis's feet in his small study group at Downing College — alongside Trevor Nunn — but presented my weekly essay to the patrician attention of T. R. Henn, whom Leavis defamed as “the red-faced brigadier of King’s Parade”.   Leavis was scathing about actors’ interpretations of Shakespeare, preferring to read the plays rather than see them staged.

Tom Henn, indeed an ex-brigadier, loved Yeats and Shakespeare (same here), though he warned me not to let undergraduate theatre take me too much from my studies.  With a rebellion that was out of  character, I ignored him and managed 21 productions in Cambridge 1958-61.  A couple of these transferred briefly to London and most were reviewed by national critics, often themselves Oxbridge graduates.  Agents scouted Cambridge, and Peter Cook even had two revues running in the West End.  The BBC held an annual party to encourage us to work in their news and drama departments. Were we privileged!

The University authorities were also friendly toward us. They provided a senior member to oversee the Amateur Dramatic Club and the other acting groups, whilst the influential George "Dadie" Rylands ran the Marlowe Society, of which I was President in my final year.  By that time I was bent on going professional, like the rest of that community of like-minded young people who made Cambridge as good as any drama school.

Dadie was scathing about our ambitions but his eyes twinkled. We knew he had directed Gielgud and Ashcroft in the West End and, over my time, he brought to Cambridge them and other professional actors to record all of Shakespeare’s plays with undergraduates in support.  Dadie the declared amateur always thought of us would-be professionals as his “naughty boys”.

Seeing amateur productions and acting in a few really good ones so early on at school and the Little Theatre as well as at Cambridge, I’m left well aware of the size and enthusiasm of the amateur theatre movement in UK, particularly The Little Theatre Guild. They’ve just made me their Patron and being an amateur, that is lover, of theatre, I couldn’t be more pleased. — Ian McKellen, December 2006

 

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The Plays

 

YearPlaceTitle/WriterDirector/Role
1958 Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
THE APPLECART
Bernard Shaw

DIRECTOR: Terrence Hardiman
ROLE: King Magnus


1958Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
CAMINO REAL
Tennessee Williams

DIRECTOR: John Tanfield
ROLE: Survivor


1959Bolton Little TheatreTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
ROLE: Townsperson


1959Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY
Ivan Turgenev, translated by Constance Garnett
DIRECTOR: Jocelyn Powell
ROLE: Alexei Nicholaitch Beliaev, the new tutor


1959Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
HENRY IV PART 2 (Cambridge)
William Shakespeare
DIRECTOR: John Barton
ROLE: Justice Shallow


1959University Actors
ADC Theatre, Cambridge
Arts Theatre Club,  London
DEUTSCHES HAUS
Richard Cottrell
DIRECTOR: Garry O'Connor
ROLE: Harry


1959Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Lyric Opera House Hammersmith, London
LOVE'S LABOURS
William Shakespeare (idea) adapted by Clive Swift, Richard Cottrell, Corin Redgrave, and John Wood


DIRECTOR: John Tydeman
ROLE: Holofernes


1959Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
THE THREE SISTERS (Cambridge)
Anton Chekov


DIRECTOR: John Barton
ROLE: Tuzenbach


1959Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
SAINT'S DAY
John Whiting

DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Reeves
ROLE: Charles Heberden


1959University Actors
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
Luigi Pirandello, translated by Frederick May


DIRECTOR: Garry O'Connor
ROLE: The Son


1960Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
CYMBELINE
William Shakespeare

DIRECTOR: George Rylands
ROLE: Posthumus


1960Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
THE DUENNA
Richard Brinsley Sheridan adapted by Lionel Harris, Music by Julian Slade


DIRECTOR: Corin Redgrave
ROLE: Father Paul


1960Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
LULLABY OF PARK STREET
Tom Vernon


DIRECTOR: Tom Vernon
ROLE: Apple-voiced juvenile


1960Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Stratford-upon-Avon Open Air Theatre
Lyric Opera House Hammersmith, London
FRIAR BACON AND FRIAR BUNGAY
Robert Greene
DIRECTOR: Michael Bakewell
ROLE: Lacy, Earl of Lincoln


1960Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Stratford-upon-Avon Open Air Theatre
Lyric Opera House Hammersmith, London


DR FAUSTUS (Cambridge)
Christopher Marlowe
DIRECTOR: Michael Bakewell
ROLE: The Pope/Scholar/Gluttony


1960University Actors
Cambridge Arts Theatre
TWELFTH NIGHT (Cambridge)
William Shakespeare

DIRECTOR: Waris Habibullah (Hussein)
ROLE: Toby Belch


1960University Actors
Cambridge Arts Theatre
THE WILD DUCK
Henrik Ibsen, translated by Una Ellis-Fermor

DIRECTOR: David Reid
ROLE: Hjalmar Ekdal


1960University Actors
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
CARDS OF IDENTITY
Nigel Dennis

DIRECTOR: Corin Redgrave
ROLE: Captain Mallet


1961Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
Harold Pinter
DIRECTOR: David Reid
ROLE: Stanley Webber


1961Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
HENRY VI PARTS 2 AND 3 (Cambridge)
William Shakespeare


DIRECTOR: Corin Redgrave
ROLE: King Henry


1961Amateur Dramatic Club
ADC Theatre
Cambridge
THE COUNTRY WIFE
William Wycherley

DIRECTOR: Tom Bussmann
ROLE: Mr Pinchwife


1961Marlowe Society
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Playhouse Oxford
THE LARK
Jean Anouilh, translated by Christopher Fry

DIRECTOR: Roger Jenkins
ROLE: Warwick


1961University Actors
Playhouse
Oxford
CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA
Bernard Shaw

DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
ROLE: Achillas/Major-Domo


Next:
September 1961 - June 1962
Belgrade Theatre Company, Coventry

Stage Index

Plays by Title

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