By Charlie Jacks

Elitism is everywhere, it’s a fundamental in society.  Whether you agree with its presence, or not, it is an undeniable structure that shapes our lives. Even as a child, elitism ruled the playground and as a student at university I’d be hesitant to say this has changed, only the playground has got slightly larger.

The theatre scene is a stellar example of this, it’s a bit like Mean Girls; scandalous reputations proceed the pretty standard middle class lad from Surrey, proving to be nothing but gossip, yet it is the power that comes with this information that fuels the cliquey nature of the theatre circles. It may appear to be jazz hands and ‘oh darling’s’ on the outside but dip a toe into the theatre scene and you’ll soon become part of the spider diagram of drama.


This being said, it’s very much a give and take relationship, once you’re in it, you benefit from it; you meet new people, make great theatre and… don’t get me wrong it’s fantastic. However, before you know it, BAM you’re inside and you’re losing sight of the emergency exit and then elitism’s quieter sibling starts to speak up: nepotism. Whilst this provides great opportunities you can’t help but wonder if this makes you ‘one of them’.  I can confirm, it definitely does.


It’s almost comical the importance of your theatre reputation, with new BNICTs (Big name in Cambridge Theatre –yes, actually a thing) forever popping up or new fresher’s being Shakespeare’s third cousins great great granddaughter once removed, it’s difficult to keep up with the ‘ones to watch’, but then again it’s this attitude, this constant focus on competition, putting people on a pedestal before even meeting them that perpetuates elitism.  


Many a friend has complained about the way of theatre in Cambridge or wanted to ‘get out’.  This seems really odd when taken out of context, surely if you don’t like something, particularly an extra-curricular activity, you simply leave? The problem is there’s no divide between your private life and ‘professional life’, you have ‘theatre friends’, do work in the clubroom and socialise in the ADC bar, this cyclic nature of a day in the life of a thesp is pretty common. Giving up theatre doesn’t just mean not doing shows, it means a total refresh on your daily routine.   


This is propelled by ‘Camdram credits’, kind of like IMBD credits, although in reality they mean nothing and their worth is all psychological. However valueless they may be, these ‘creds’ have turned theatre into a numbers game; the more Camdram creds you have, the more people you’ve worked with, the more people know who you are, the more your reputation matters to other people and elitism continues. The funny thing is, when we leave Cambridge absolutely none of this will matter, it’s all completely arbitrary, yet people put their degrees on the line for theatre. On paper that seems odd but in reality it’s understandable, theatre becomes a lifestyle.


Looking past university, it’s easy to see how Cambridge theatre could be a microcosm of our futures, that this elitism will continue to govern our lives, in the workplace and in our social lives. It will motivate us to network or attend dinners, not for the food but for the business card and this is scary.
I hope that issues such as elitism don’t stop being a topic of discussion, particularly by the elite as I feel the recognition of privilege is the first step toward a solution.


Photography by Celeste Abrahams

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