Gala events are all too frequently predictably dull affairs – under-rehearsed scenes interspersed with plodding narration or pleas for money. It is all credit to the Oxford University Dramatic Society for putting together a celebration of their 125th anniversary that, on the whole, avoided these pitfalls.
Produced by current students Roland Singer Kingsmith and Emily Precious, and hosted by former OUDS President Diana Quick, the evening was a showcase of current talent and past glories. Of course, some of the excerpts were less successful than others – but some were a proper reflection of the talent that has emerged from Oxford over the past decades and what is about to burst onto the professional scene in coming months and years.
The highlight of the evening was probably a play conceived, written and rehearsed in 24 hours. Ordinarily this format can be rather variable in quality but when you have secured talent like Patrick Marber to write a 10 minute piece – then you can be fairly confident that you might get something special. Add into this established and up-and-coming performers such as Rebecca Front (fresh from her BAFTA triumph) and Matt Lacey (from the recent YouTube viral hit – Gap Yah) and you hit comedy gold. The script will probably never see the light of day again but for those in the audience it was a fitting and appropriate piece celebrating student drama.
Other notable moments came from Frisky and Mannish – two recent graduates who are carving out a name for themselves on the cabaret scene with their witty musical parodies – and Will Cudmore (who has just finished his degree) with a perfectly-delivered monologue from Christopher Hampton’s Total Eclipse.
It would have been wonderful if we had seen more of the 1980 cast of Three Sisters rather than watching a projected image and listening to a confused and confusing soundscape. Lovely as it was to see Imogen Stubbs and her colleagues on stage, it would have been really thrilling to see more of them in action.
The event was sponsored by the Peter Glenville Foundation. Glenville started his career out of Oxford and the Foundation is committed to providing ongoing support to students wishing to seek professional training after they have completed their degree. Given the costs of drama schools, initiatives such as this are even more necessary than they have been in the past.
Oxford has been the starting point of many performers, directors and technicians. This event honoured the past and looked forward to a positive future. Just what you would want from a Gala!