A Short Guide to the Theatre Societies of the University of Edinburgh

Another year, another influx of bright-eyed, dewy skinned students descends upon the sandstone spires of Edinburgh. Ready are they to have their sleeping patterns ruined, their home cooked diets trampled and their library hours tripled. Yes we’re talking to you, lucky freshmen – hello! The University of Edinburgh welcomes you with open arms. And though the aforementioned work load is no joke, the Culture section are here to tell you that there are a plethora of well established and highly respected theatre societies to give you some of that much needed work/life balance your mum always bangs on about and, hey, it might even make you one of those “well rounded” individuals you always wanted to be on your CV.

It doesn’t matter what you’re after – there’s bound to be an option for everyone with a penchant for the performing arts and what better place than the world’s leading festival city?

Now we know what you’re thinking. This all sounds great. But which fresher ever had the time to sober up let alone navigate the crowded halls of the daunting activities fair (14th and 15th, 11am-4pm, Teviot and Potterow, you’re welcome)? Fear not. All this talk of first year has got us reminiscing. So here’s a brief hit list of the most prevalent drama societies.

Firstly, we have Theatre Paradok. Founded in 2004, they have a niche in ‘experimental’, often physical theatre. The group vote on a show each year and then the ever-growing team bring it to fruition. They also welcome new writing. You could definitely push yourself as a performer here. Now you’ve missed the first workshop but don’t fret! There’s another on Friday 16th, 3pm-5pm, Chaplaincy, Room 1.

The Shakespeare Company is your one-stop shop for anyone wanting to get their teeth into some heavier texts. With a host of productions under their belt, the most recent being The Merchant of Venice, the team have gone from strength to strength since their conception in 2009. They offer a main show, workshops and opportunity for involvement in all aspects of productions. Auditions are in September so chat to them at the Activities Fair. Alternatively head over to Bedlam Theatre on Friday 16th 3.30pm-5pm to watch the Shakespeare’s Monologues show and their workshop. Look out for the review here next week.

How about any francophone fans? It doesn’t matter whether you speak French or just admire it, Les Escogriffes could be for you. These guys offer a ‘light-hearted’ vibe that welcomes everybody. They’re hosting a workshop at Bedlam on Friday 16th, 2pm-4.30pm. Otherwise you can join them for an informal meet and greet pillow fight at 3pm. No, that wasn’t a joke. Find them at meeting point B.

Looking for a helpful supplement to your other theatre societies? Relief Theatre’s your best bet. This crowd are all about learning theatre techniques rather than putting on shows. Each week focuses on something new and is followed with an informal discussion based social. Sounds pretty ideal.

Now it’s time for the juggernauts.

Fancy yourself as an all singing, all dancing performer? There are two options for you at Edinburgh Footlights and the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG). With a combined age totalling eighty-two years – there’s a wealth of experience and prestige to keep you occupied. The Footlights can boast the biggest production on campus each year as well as a show choir. Glee, eat your heart out. You can find them for a welcome week workshop at 4.30pm on Wednesday 14th at Bedlam Theatre. Don’t forget to sign up for auditions at the Activities Fair. They’ll be held on Friday 16th, 11am-5pm, Pleasance, Highland Room. It’s true they don’t hang about. EUSOG is a great option for those who are highly experienced singers in both classical and contemporary musicals. These guys are all about the voice. So why not audition for one, or both! They also offer options behind the scenes.

Lastly, we simply must mention Bedlam Theatre (EUTC). Founded in 1896 the EUTC put on over 40 high quality shows a year. They’re home to The Improverts – the famous improvised comedy troupe (who incidentally are performing twice at 10.30pm-11.30pm Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th as well as hosting various workshops in both tech and performance). There are so many potential options for involvement, from performing to crew. In fact, the EUTC provide almost every option you might want, from helping new writers to working with classic texts and contemporary lesser-known plays. They’re always looking for fresh talent and host the majority of theatre based fresher events. They offer a whole host of introductory workshops in set and costume (Wednesday 14th 12.30pm-2.30pm), gore (Monday 12th 5pm-7pm), tech (Tuesday 13th and Thursday 15th 12pm-1pm) and auditioning (Tuesday 13th and Thursday 15th 2.30pm-3.30pm). Not bad eh?

Maybe you don’t want to perform at all? Don’t worry – all societies look for people to direct, produce, organise, dress and design their shows. In truth many of the roles available for appointment are brilliantly helpful whether you’re into theatre or not. The transferable skills are vast. If you’re really not sure what you’re after yet, there are plenty of shows, informal tours of Bedlam (Tuesday 13th, Thursday 15th and Friday 16th, 1pm-2pm) as well as a pub quiz (Thursday 15th 8.30pm-11.30pm) and a Theatre Society pub-crawl (Wednesday 14th 9pm-1am, meeting outside Bedlam).

This week’s really the best chance you’ll have all year to give everything a go before you’re thrown into the abyss of reading lists and lecture slides. Plus it would be foolish not to take advantage of the perfectly planned Smörgåsbord of meticulously timed events on offer. If you’re really that keen, and we assume you are if you’re still reading, then why not make a note of all the workshops, performances and tours and then just get to as many as possible before you make a decision. It might be that you only decide which societies you like this week, perhaps you won’t actually sign up to any auditions, but with Bedlam try-outs coming around as frequently as your next trip to Hive, you might find it valuable at some point. Plus it’s a brilliant way to meet new people from other parts of the university who you’d never normally encounter.

So there you go, that’s you covered. We’ll stop before we get knees deep inspirational quotes. Cut this out and fasten it on your new pin board from IKEA. Freshers week is all about enjoying yourself (and making a few mistakes) so why not take the opportunity? And hey, if the limelight’s not your thing and you prefer being a member of the audience, why not pick up a pen and start reviewing shows for us instead?

Photo credit: © Kim Traynor

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The Student Newspaper 2016