January 25, 2013, by Malvika Johal
The Postgraduate New Theatre Company
By John Coffield (Eng Lang and Lit 2011) (MA Eng Lit 2012)
The New Theatre is very much in the news at the moment where Impact: The Nottingham Campaign is concerned, being the target of a £270,000 fundraising drive to upgrade its facilities and interior to match its brand new exterior. The only completely student-run theatre in England, it puts on a play roughly every two weeks, providing the university’s thrifty culture vultures with a chance to see top-class theatre at student prices.
Recent plays include Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Charley’s Aunt and the stage version of The 39 Steps, plus several plays written by Nottingham students. The New Theatre also provides a voice for works that are not that well-known, and prides itself on giving its audiences something they haven’t seen before. The main company for the New Theatre recruits largely from the undergraduate body, but what about postgraduates? That’s where I come in.
As a very recent graduate I am a member of the Postgraduate New Theatre Company; formed a few years ago almost as an ‘antidote’ to the fairly intense and large-scale atmosphere of the main company, which often puts on fairly serious works and has hundreds of people auditioning for every production. Each play we put on (one a term usually) has its entire cast and production team comprised entirely of postgraduates and one or two recent alumni, with the occasional acquaintance thrown in. The pool of potential actors and production team members to draw from is much smaller – apart from there being fewer postgrads than undergrads, many of them simply do not have the time for anything other than work on their theses or in the lab – engendering a pleasing sense of a wonderfully close-knit community.
The works we generally put on are also an intrinsic part of our identity as a theatre company; by and large they can be described as big, camp, silly and ridiculous – or all of these qualities. Our last three productions, for instance, were The Libertine (Regency meets Anne Summers), An Ideal Husband (A typical Oscar Wilde romp), and A Flea in Her Ear (We had to build a revolving bed!).
Our current production (at the time of this blog posting I am two nights into a sold-out four-night run) is Chekhov’s The Seagull. It may seem that Russian drama has no place amongst the catalogue of comedy we usually present, but this is not so. Audience members have commented that they’ve never seen Chekhov so funny, and what is comedy if not asking serious questions through laughter? Just because we put on funny plays doesn’t mean we can’t do serious when required.
The joy of the New Theatre is that there really is something for everyone, be they a fan of Coward or Jonson, and the Postgraduate New Theatre Company represents just one aspect of this fantastic student theatre. So next time there’s a show on, be it from the normal company or the postgraduate one, come along and get some culture.