Cuppers is the highlight of Michaelmas term for drama-loving freshers at Oxford. This annual intercollegiate drama competition gives freshers the opportunity to put on a 30-minute play in the Burton Taylor Studio, with just three weeks to prepare.
Eight people have volunteered to act; we have a lighting designer, a script editor, a producer, and I’m directing. It’s the middle of second week and our script editor has floated the idea of adapting Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the story of Nora, a Norwegian housewife in the late 19th century, whose marriage we see crumble. We read through the play, pulling out themes that we want to explore: independence and female emancipation; images of dolls and puppetry; breaking social convention …
The freedom to take this seminal work in any direction, although daunting at first, was an exciting challenge. Four actors played Nora, and two played her husband. We interspersed movement sequences inspired by puppetry with naturalistic interpretations of scenes, and staged a tarantella dance sequence, complete with an accordion player.
The show was performed to 50 people, a sell-out audience of Exeter students, excited to support us. It was a successful performance, and the play was shortlisted for the final by the Oxford University Dramatic Society. We won the ‘best director’ award, a tribute to a group effort and collaborative process.
Describing the experience, actor Arthur Abs (2019, Legal Studies) commented, ‘Cuppers was a unique experience and I’m proud of what we have accomplished as a team in such a short time!’ Cuppers is an incredibly fun opportunity, and we eagerly await the production that the freshers will put on next year.