- November 2020
Downing Dramatic Society are excited to announce our second Monologue Clash! As opposed to our inaugural online event, it will be taking place in person in Downing College. Depending on the weather, we would like to present our clash outdoors on a temporary stage erected on The Paddock to adhere with social distancing rules.
For our second event, we will not be asking you to write your own monologues, instead we would like all performers to audition with a contemporary monologue, written from 1950 onwards to the present day.
- October 2020
William Shakespeare's Macbeth
- June 2020
An evening of student written monologues, performed online and presented by DDS.
- March 2020
Grotesque, surreal and absurd!
Meet Sasha and Misha, the Ukrainian soldiers of the Donbas hybrid war. Meet also their dead dogs - Ollie and Boi. All trapped together in a bombed pet shop on the Eastern Front, accompanied by unexpected visitors and smart-ass radio.
In this grotesque and surrealistic story human perspective is mixed with that of animals, the well known world, although under fire, slowly disappears in the fumes of absurdity. Is anthropocentric perspective the legitimate one? Who has the right to decide the fate of other living creatures? What is man capable of and are there any borders?
- March 2020
The theatrical jewel in the DDS crown is its annual Festival of New Writing, established in 2014 and now a central and highly prestigious feature of the Cambridge drama scene.
Students of all disciplines and from every Cambridge college submit one-act plays to be read and assessed over the Christmas holiday and from the wealth of admissions, nine are chosen to be performed over the three nights of the Festival (which also features live music and now includes workshops from professional writers and directors). At the end of each evening, the playwrights are invited to join a panel of top theatre practitioners to discuss their work-in-progress and take questions from the audience. Everyone plays a part.
The Festival brings both dramatic spectacle and a unique learning experience to the Howard stage and DDS is proud of the fact that many FoNW alumni have gone on to forge successful careers in the Performing Arts as actors, writers and directors.
Praise for A Festival of New Writing 2018:
"The future of new writing in Cambridge continues to look pretty bright." ***1/2 (Varsity)
- February 2020
“Them? Call them people? Muck and dregs—that’s what they are! I’m a workman—I’m ashamed even to look at them. I’ve slaved since I was a child. . . . D’you think I shan’t be able to tear myself away from here? I’ll crawl out of here, even if I have to leave my skin behind—but crawl out I will! Just wait . . . my wife’ll die . . . I’ve lived here six months, and it seems like six years.”
The Lower Depths is a 1902 classic of Russian socialist realism. A mismatched crew of social recluses, ex-convicts, alcoholics and paupers live together in a ramshackle boarding house. There, some dream of one day extricating themselves from the “depths”, others reminisce about the days when they were “somebodies”, but, try as they might, they are unable to fight the gravitational pull of circumstance. The inhabitants find their daily lives altered by the appearance of a wanderer called Luka who encourages them to reform and make a new path for themselves in life. For the disillusioned dwellers, there is now a choice: to drink or to dream.
This production is set in 1992, post-collapse of the USSR. The 90s were a tumultuous period for Russia, as economic disaster and social upheaval accompanied rapid Westernisation and sudden cultural autonomy. The golden stars of the Soviet Union now find themselves squatting in a derelict flat and, with their lives turned upside down, they struggle to come to terms with the burden of existence. Darkly humorous “The Lower Depths” is an exposé of the human condition quite unlike any other in theatre.
- November 2019
Trapped within a cubicle, Annie attempts to piece together her memories, yet there are far too many to balance. The closer she gets to reality the less it all seems to make sense, until a visitor arrives. Whether a saviour, captor, or pursuer, only one thing remains the same - a bottle full of pills.
Pills explores the consumption of fact, fiction, and where lines begin to blur as a narrative repeats itself.
- November 2019
Dickens' classic tale of redemption with a Shakespearian twist! Scrooge is a wealthy theatre owner with a stingy heart until he’s visited by his old partner Christopher Marlowe. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future become Puck, Sir John Falstaff and the ghost of King Hamlet. The cast is weaved with familiar characters from the Bard's canon and it's all in iambic pentameter!
All the world's a stage, and Scrooge will learn to play nice.
- October 2019
Hell is empty and all the devils are here. A ship is coming. A storm has been conjured, and nothing is what it seems.
This production of The Tempest foregrounds its treatment of abuse and subjugation, examining the importance of forgiveness to the stories of Caliban, Miranda, Ariel and Prospero, who each must come to terms with its difficulty.
It is particularly important to us that queer and BME-coded characters are represented by queer and BME actors, as their experiences and agency should be at the forefront of the play, and that we evoke the spectacle and grandeur of larger, earlier stagings, but through the emotion of the actors rather than the extravagance of our setpieces and practical effects, as this is where we feel the depth and strength of the story lies and it is an unexplored area.
Join us on the strange isle, where what’s past is prologue…
- August 2019
There are only two remaining vacant graves in the family plot – and Uncle John will not miss out on one. Cue a morbid dogfight with vindaloos, Belgian girlfriends, and handbag-wielding octogenarians.
This piece of new writing by Connor Rowlett treads the line between morbid farce and naked drama as it explores the lives of a Northern Irish family who just can’t seem to change the subject from death.
Here, there’s lots of money to be made in the business of opening graves. I’m serious. Farmers should be forgetting about crops and moving into the graveyard trade. It’s all about prime real estate for the dead nowadays.
- March 2019
The Downing Dramatic Society presents A Festival of New Writing 2019!
Come and join us at the Howard Theatre for three nights of short plays written, directed and performed by Cambridge students. A panel of industry experts will judge each night, providing invaluable feedback for our student writers. It's a festival that promises the very best of original writing that Cambridge theatre has to offer!
The judges A Festival of New Writing 2019 were:
Kate Barton – playwright and actor. Barton's play 'Fast' received rave reviews at Cambridge, Brighton and Edinburgh and is being developed for production at London's Park Theatre.
Alexander Lass – freelance theatre director. Lass has directorial and assistant directorial credits at the RSC Swan Theatre, RADA and Trafalgar Studios. He is an alum of Downing College.
Nicky Bligh – film and television casting director. Bligh has cast for Mrs Brown's Boys, Psychobitches and other hit British productions.
Praise for A Festival of New Writing 2019:
"For £5, the chance to watch the germ of something you might pay upwards of £50 for on the West End in thirty years is unmissable." ***** (The Tab)
"If you want a dizzying variety of up and coming creativity in a short and punchy format, this is exactly the show for you." **** (The Cambridge Student)
- March 2019
This is Aron Linklater’s living history project for school - an attempt to capture some of the Orkney old world before it succumbs to the 21st Century. It’s also a story about his grandfather, a local fisherman, and his conspiracy theories. It’s also a story about Avery, a girl recently displaced from New Mexico who finds herself in Stromness. It’s also a ceilidh. It’s also a poetry recital. It’s Star Jelly.
Debuting at the Downing Festival of New Writing
- February 2019
In his small pub in the northern English town of Oldham, Harry is something of a local celebrity. But what's the second-best hangman in England to do on the day they've abolished hanging?
Amongst the cub reporters and pub regulars dying to hear Harry’s reaction to the news, his old assistant Syd and the peculiar Mooney lurk with very different motives for their visit.
- November 2018
"Under Milk Wood" was Dylan Thomas's last major work. This magically poetic "Play for Voices" records, with humour and pathos, a day in the life of a tiny village fishing community; its dreams, its scandals and its secrets.
Join Captain Cat, the blind sea captain, tormented by his drowned shipmates, who long to enjoy the pleasures of the world again. Share Mog Edwards' and Myfanwy Price's dreams of each other, Mr. Waldo's visions of his childhood and failed marriages, Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard's instructions for her deceased husbands and much more - all with musical accompaniment.
- November 2018
the new experimental journal 'transition' is partnering with Downing Dramatic Society and the Heong Gallery to complement the exhibition 'Halfboy' by Stuart Pearson-Wright.
working from the portraits on the walls and the gallery space as an unusual playing ground, we will present a collection and collage of performances centered around the theme of portraits in the loosest sense...
anyone will be doing anything that could have anything to do with showing, presenting, introducing, describing or exposing ANYONE,
this more unusual venue paired with a more unusual approach to performance is your chance to finally see something different, something you couldn't necessarily call 'theatre'.
- October 2018
You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy.
So you start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for.
Kung Fu Movies
Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.
A beautifully funny play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love.
- June 2018
'If he forsake me not, I never die,
For in his looks I see eternity,
And he'll make me immortal with a kiss.'
Marlowe's visceral, lyrical reworking of Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid breathes new life into this ancient story with the psychological intensity of Elizabethan drama.
Troy has been burned to the ground and Aeneas is a prince turned refugee. He and his men are soon shipwrecked and wash up on the shores of Carthage, home to the powerful Dido. In a world of warring gods and clashing empires, the two plunge into a passionate love affair. But as Aeneas faces mounting pressure to follow his destiny and found a new city on Italian soil, Dido fears she will lose everything and resolves to take drastic action.
- May 2018
It’s summer in Venice, and the Art Biennale is in full swing. At one of the exhibitions, two gallery attendants who start off as strangers soon become like family to one another. Through a series of conversations, they explore their fears about the future, their troubled pasts, and their new adventures in the City of Water.
- May 2018
”Deep Throat IS the future of freedom of speech.”
Star Papazian is having her 40th birthday, finally ready to lose her virginity. However, before she can get down to business she must deal with the past. Moving through her life from late sixties to present day Star recounts the rise and fall of her parents’ porn emporium, Dolls and Stripes. More than just a business, the porn industry is both a family and a cause to the Papazians. Through her growing pains, Star bears witness to how the market takes its toll as what had started from free-love-free-body struggles against the tide. Definitions of private and public, personal and published blur.
Combining documentary and fiction, The History of American Pornography shows how people and their bodies are consumed. No one remains unchanged.
- March 2018
Downing Festival of New Writing is back for the fourth year running! Hosted annually by Downing Dramatic Society. With nine independent, student-written plays running over three nights, come and enjoy one of the biggest new writing events in Cambridge performed in Downing College’s beautiful Howard Theatre.
- February 2018
Think traditional, English ‘whodunnit’, complete with an Agatha Christie style of setting, plot and characters, but with a twist. Characters including an aged rear admiral, a bitchy aristocrat and a doddering old archaeologist along with a butler gather at an old country house for a black-tie dinner during a storm, each of them with archetypical personalities bigger than the last. However, there is blackmailer amongst them, and he systematically reveals the compromising and dark secrets of the guests, before turning up dead. Each of them is suspect, but Whodunnit?
- February 2018
Is it possible to put on a show in 36 hours? We don't know but we sure will try!
Teams of writers, directors and actors must write, rehearse and put on plays on a theme in the space of just 36 hours. This is theatrical collaboration on a scale not seen anywhere else, pushing the whole team to the limit and creating unforgettable performances.
- February 2018
Gérard B. is arrested for the murder of Polonius - a murder he committed in a dream. From reality to absurd, ‘Rêver,Peut-Être’ is a schizophrenic dance into B.’s deepest fears and fantasies.
As part of the Month of International Theatre, the French society will be proposing this original and immersive show - on the brink between typical French absurd and experimental theatre. The play promises to be a visual and aesthetic experience suited for a non-French-speaking audience.
Between dreams and reality all the characters of this sometimes fantastical play coexist, evolve and become obsessive. Rêver Peut-Être is an absurd comedy with a plethora of references to Hamlet: it addresses the unconcious, the desire for revenge, the dangers of arrayed justice, the absence of the father and perhaps more than anything the schizophrenia of the actor.
- November 2017
The Heong Gallery's latest exhibition showcases the life and work of Dame Elisabeth Frink, whose art deals with notions of war, fear, and moral resonpsibility. One series of sculptures, titled: 'In Memoriam', was created by Frink to honour those who have suffered because of their beliefs.
Downing Dramatic Society, in collaboration with The Heong Gallery, presents Arts After Dark: In Memoriam. We have curated a collection of nine short monologues, poems, and performances which higlight the kinds of experiences Frink endeavoured to honour through her art.
The texts have all been sourced from individuals throughout history who have faced such trials: conscientious objectors, prisoners of conscience, activists for civil and human rights. The collection of writers and poets is diverse, ranging from across the many years, many countries, and from the mouths men, women, and children.
The performances will be staged in the gallery, against a backdrop of Frink's own artwork. The evening is free for all to attend, but space in the gallery is limited to make sure you arrive early to secure a seat!
Wine and nibbles will be provided on the night.
- November 2017
'Killing my enemies is easy. The challenge is to control their minds. And I think I controlled yours pretty well. In years to come, I'll be able to say: 'Bulgakov? Yeah, we even trained him. He gave up. He saw the light. We broke him, we can break anybody'. It's man versus monster, Mikhail. And the monster always wins.'
A dangerous place to have a sense of humour; even more so a sense of freedom. Dissident playwright Mikhail Bulgakov has both, despite being stalked by the secret police. Inspired by historical fact, Collaborators embarks on a surreal journey into the fevered imagination of the writer after he’s offered a poisoned chalice in exchange for freedom: write a play glorifying Stalin to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. Help is at hand, however, when the dictator himself decides to help out in the writing of the play – and Bulgakov takes over the running of the Soviet Union!
‘Collaborators’ is both hilarious and surreal, charting an artist’s slow erosion of principle and certainty involved in collaboration as he is confronted with the steamroller of absolute power.
- November 2017
All BME production
A gender-bent twist on one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies - if you didn't think Twelfth Night was confusing enough already! Violo and his twin sister Sebastia are victims of a shipwreck. When Violo washes up on a strange land, alone and desperate, he realises the best way to get work with the Duchess Orsina is to dress as a woman, Cesaria. Orsina, who is madly in love with the Countess Olivia, sends Violo/Cesaria to deliver her love messages to Olivia. Olivia ends up falling for Violo/Cesaria instead, while Violo begins to realise his own budding feelings for Orsina. Further chaos and confusion ensue as Olivia's household staff and relatives hatch a plot to humiliate her stuffy housekeeper, and events come to a head when Sebastia arrives on the island and is mistaken for Cesaria!
Join us for a fun and modern take on Shakespeare's classic!
- November 2017
'Love Letters' was premiered in New York in 1989. After revised by a writer from Taiwan, its first show in Mainland China was in 2005, where thousands of audiences were attracted to the theatre. The drama has only two leading roles, and the transcript is based on their letters in more than forty years.
Downing Dramatic Society and Cambridge University Chinese Drama Society have the pleasure to present Love Letters in November, and sincerely invites you to enjoy this drama with us.
This production will be in Chinese (Mandarin) with English subtitles.
- October 2017
In a time and space where the public house has long since been obviated, the last bar in town is still in business. Unending instalments of diuretic bliss are handed out to the clientele while veteran compere Sydney Diazepam presents a cabaret of things almost forgotten. It's a stable picture, but with the arrival of the enigmatic Viscera Skye those in attendance are dazed and struggle to maintain their own dreary perspectives. Welcome to Mist.
"The ArcSoc of cam theatre" - Saskia Ross
"Is this post-Cambridge Theatre?" - Zoe Black (Fletcher Players President 2017-???)
"Love yourself." - Thomas Warwick
- August 2017
‘These Walls’ is a story of three young women facing walls in their lives. Eden is contained within the walls of expectation: she cannot escape from the image nor stray from the path of perfection which other people draw for her. She is top of her class, captain of the netball team and three-time winner of the British secondary school debating championship. Chrissy is trapped by a lack of expectation. She has only ever been defined as a beauty, a beautiful object. She works as an erotic dancer though no-one ever wants anything more from her than her body. She has been fenced into a lifestyle she loathes. Althea is limited by her love. She loves an unfaithful man but cannot bring herself to leave him. These women find themselves brought together and forced to face their vulnerability, envy and hypocrisy. The walls close in as each woman is physically detained and forced to remember, forced to decide. Will one catalyzing event break down these walls?
- June 2017
CURRICULUM VITAE is looking for two female/nb actors for a one-afternoon-stand at the Downing Dramatic Society garden party on June 16th!
“It’s just the normal worries. Having a stable relationship, kids, cash, comfy house, cushy job...
Sounds fucking terrifying.”
Winner of the Downing Festival of New Writing 2017, CURRICULUM VITAE lasts only 15 minutes, which it turns out is just long enough to franticly run through all the hypothetical outcomes of your life in which you abandon the ideals of your youth in increasingly new and imaginative ways!
Looking to fill the roles of the excitingly named ‘Person’ (the lead) and ‘Woman’, auditions will be held on Wednesday the 14th, 11am – 1pm in ADC dressing room 1, with flexible rehearsals over the following two days. Extracts on the door, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or for a look at the full script :)
(As is true of life in general, northern accents are a bonus but not a must! )
- June 2017
Rights kindly provided by Samuel French.
- March 2017
Downing Festival of New Writing is back for the third year running! Hosted annually by Downing Dramatic Society. With ten independent, student-written plays running over three nights, come and enjoy one of the biggest new writing events in Cambridge performed in Downing College’s beautiful Howard Theatre. At the end of each evening, the writers will receive a live feedback session from a group of industry professionals and experts, following which, at the end of the festival one play will receive a festival prize of £100, along with the promise of further development from the society. Our judges this year include Tanya Ronder (Playwright: RSC, National Theatre); Edward 'Chips' Hardy (Writer & Producer: Taboo BBC One, father of Academy Award nominee Tom Hardy) and David McDermott (Award-winning Screenwriter: BBC, ITV, Channel 4). With scripts which range from verse to black comedy, and a judging panel packed with interesting names, sample some of the best student writing Cambridge has to offer.
This year's selections are as follows:
Curriculum Vitae by Jenny O'Sullivan
Frank and the Baby by Johannes Black
Abba, mamma by Eloïse Poulton
Oedipus Rex by Beatriz Santos
Greater Love Hath No Man Than This by Isaac Jordan
Ava by Maya Yousif
The Stone Cold Loser by Edith Franklin
Waiting by Isla Cowan
Thy Neighbour by Charlotte Cromie
Candy Hymns by Amelie Lasker
- February 2017
Come down and support the Downing freshers in The Importance of Being Earnest! The latest production by the Downing Dramatic Society.
The Importance of Being Earnest is the most renowned of Oscar Wilde’s comedies. The story of two bachelors, John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. They attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men called Ernest. The pair struggle to keep up with their own stories and become tangled in a tale of deception, disguise and misadventure.
- November 2016
An evening of monologues, duologues and poems at the Heong Gallery at Downing College. Inspired by the new exhibition on ‘Portraits of Place’, the performances will bring together a series of thought provoking and humorous passages from 20th century writing. The evening will engage with Richard Long’s photography, Constable’s landscapes, and Winifred Nicholson’s wind-swept sea fronts. This will mark the first event in a new collaboration between Downing Dramatic Society and the Heong Gallery. Admission is free and the performance will start at 6pm.
- November–December 2016
"You're my prize possession, why can't I watch you ?... You're mine"
Nora Helmer years earlier committed a forgery in order to save the life of her dictatorial husband Torvald. Now she is being blackmailed and lives in fear of her husband finding out and of the shame such a revelation would bring to his career. But when the truth comes out, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem. A play that was once banned for daring to depict a woman defying her husband "A Doll's House is considered to be one of the first "feminist" plays, challenging the Victorian ideal of a woman's role in marriage and revolutionising the portrayal of women on the stage.
- October 2016
‘An amateur performance is not teamwork. It is a free-for-all among a dozen egos, and the ego that gets there firstest with the mostest wins.’
For fifty years, Michael Green’s dramatic manual parody 'The Art of Coarse Acting' has been a classic work of comic genius that is all too relatable for anyone involved in amateur theatre. Now, it is being brought into the environment it pokes fun at and lays bare – the stage.
A non-stop, breakneck hour of madcap guidance on how to be the best worst amateur dramatics society you possibly can, dealing with everything from stage deaths to stock characters, from unhelpful prompters to distraught directors to even distraughter writers, from Shakespearian jokes to collapsing scenery to making the most of a non-speaking part.
‘Have you ever seen an entire box set slowly teeter inwards and bury Lady Windermere? I have.’