Bedlam Theatre speaks to theunipod

Bedlam Theatre

By David Nelkin,

Bedlam Theatre is a unique, entirely student-run theatre in the centre of Edinburgh. It is run by the Edinburgh University Theatre Company who put on over 40 shows a year, and workshops and productions alike provide students with a unique opportunity to learn about all aspects of theatre, including lighting design, soundscaping, stage design, producing, directing and acting.

Clearly visible from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the heart of the city, Bedlam is a fully operational 90-seat theatre housed in an imposing neo-gothic church.

theunipod spoke to Celia Dugua, Bedlam’s Marketing Manager.

How and when did Bedlam Theatre start up?
The theatre has transformed from its origin as the New North Free Church in 1849 on the site of the Edinburgh Bedlam Mental Institute. In the 1970s, the Edinburgh Uni Student Association took over the building for their Chaplaincy, and finally, in 1989, it was given to the Edinburgh University Theatre Company, who named the building Bedlam Theatre… and we’ve kept it standing ever since!

How do students, yourself included, find juggling your degree with your role at Beldam?
Being a part of Bedlam is certainly a huge time commitment. Acting in a show means that you can be called for rehearsals four or five times a week. Although the University does not offer a course in drama, we put on a lot shows that tie in with our degree programmes. The Bedlam/academia divide isn’t as clear cut as it might appear!

Two years ago, as part of a dissertation project, a Psychology student put on an experimental play in order to measure how the houselights affected the audience. And last year, the English Literature department funded an original adaptation of The Canterbury Tales.

So Bedlam is an education in itself…
Bedlam is the reason a lot of students choose to come to Edinburgh. It provides a very different type of theatrical education than a student would receive on a drama course, but one with a steep learning curve, and a lot of room for exploration and experimentation.

And do the students at Bedlam take care of all operational and functional roles, such as building the website, marketing and PR?
We are in charge of everything from cleaning the Box Office, to running a ticketing system and all of our online marketing and PR. In fact, two Fresher’s studying Informatics have been coding our new website.

You receive a lot of acclaim and success. What do you think has led to this and the profile of the performances you host?
Being in a venue with so much history pushes our members to think big and be innovative. Rehearsing on a stage where Fringe Firsts are awarded and where comedians and writers start their careers, (Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Kevin McKidd...) gives us the hope that one day our projects will bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre.

As you just touched upon, you are one of the venues for Fringe. You must have had some memorable nights?
The Improverts are the company's improvised comedy troupe, and perform every night of the Fringe. On the last night, the players tend to get particularly inventive with the games they play, and their team of technicians have a tradition of pranking in retaliation. Last Fringe, the tech team dumped 8 sacks of real feathers from the balconies onto the stage as the players introduced the Final game, forming about three inches of feathers on stage. Needless to say, it was a messy get-out.

So want to make it big in the world of film and theatre? Many Bedlamites go on to train at some of the best drama schools in the UK, while others move directly into the professional world – alumni include critically acclaimed playwrights Ella Hickson (Boys, Eight) and Lucy Kirkwood (Hedda, NSFW), actor and comedian Miles Jupp (The Thick of It, Rev), and Fringe comedy favourites, ‘The Penny Dreadfuls’.