I’m sat in Founders south quad on a gorgeous summer day. Across from me are Lewis Mullins, Pippa Gentry and Matt Abrams from the Musical Theatre Society. Lewis is the President, Pippa, President-Elect, and Matt has been Musical Director of various productions including Little Shop of Horrors and Summer Cabaret last year. I feel awkward to have propositioned these people that I barely know to interview them about their past achievements of the year.
And what achievements they are. Lewis dives straight in with the statistics I suspect he’s quoted many times before. Three productions, and the intensive weekend show with twenty musical numbers. Not always easy to remember, Matt cuts in. Imaginably so.
Volunteering has been a massive part of the year, with shows entertaining Melwood Old People’s Home, and a lot of effort put into the Love Campus initiative within RHUL. The thing that Lewis wants to emphasise most, however, is that MTS is an inclusive society. With a member count of one hundred and ten strong, rivalled only by the apocalyptic hordes of Humans vs. Zombies enthusiasts, a feat which was achieved by Inclusion Officer Kath Morris.
It seems quite churlish to ask this, but I do. If you could repeat your year, what would you change? “Interesting,” Lewis muses. “We could probably have got some workshops going”, he says to the apparent agreement of Pippa and Matt. And if they could hire anyone to give them a couple of pointers? “Gavin Creel.” Lewis and Matt reply, almost instantaneously. I have to ask who he is.“He’s from The Book of Mormon”, Lewis replies smilingly.
Quickly searching for him on the internet later reveals that he is an American actor, Broadway alumni, and front man in the ongoing West End production. “Probably a professional choreographer too” Lewis says slowly. There are such a wide variety of skills involved in putting on an MTS production, I’m hardly surprised. Not only are there the actors to consider, but the directors, producers, dancers, technical team, sourcing props, music, publicity, the list goes on. “So many different skills,” says Matt, “and so hard to- mesh.” “Someone to help with auditions, as well” says Pippa. Apparently, once again feeling like a complete musical theatre newb, I learn that the audition is all in the song you choose.
And it’s not just drama students MTS cater for. Not only do they put on productions with students that study the arts most of the time, but future scientists too. As we talk, I once again get the sense of a society that tries its level best not to be exclusive; it’s not just a platform for students to go on to live their dream of show business, but can also be a hobby, a way to meet new people, and try something new.
I feel primed now for my silly questions. “If you could take everyone in your society away, where would you go?”
“Book of Mormon.” Matt and Lewis reply instantly. It’s like tourettes.
This group of people, I admit, I’m more familiar with. They have been my friends for a while, some nearly two years, and sitting down to ask them some serious questions feels, silly.
Biggest achievement? Sophie Harrison, the club’s President, is straight in there. Winning the Careers Award at Colours Ball. It represents recognition of completed aims that she set herself this time last year, and everyone in the club supported. “And now,” she says with a palpable sense of contentment of a mission accomplished, “everyone’s going to get jobs when they leave uni because of Rugby”.
“Not modest, is she? Says Allie Nelkon, President last year, “make sure you put that in there.” Laughter ensues.
Winning the BUCS Conference Cup final is another big one. It was something that this year’s Captain, Chloe Humphreys, will admit to nearly dropping out of, but carried on with at the insistence of new coach, Mark Barry, whose training made a marked improvement on the team’s performance, and discipline. Now the end of the season and Women’s Rugby remain the only sports team at Royal Holloway to have won their Cup final against rival team, Hertfordshire. The club came second overall in their BUCS league, beating Brunel and UCL for the first time in a very long while.
I turn my focus to Letizia Monteleone and Sophie Barnett, incoming President and Captain respectively, and ask them what their plans are for next year. Somewhat tentatively, Sophie says they aim to win the Cup again next year, and recruit new members to replace players graduating this year.
Leti reinforces the need to find new people to join the team, and go on achieving in areas off the pitch, including looking for experience for careers and volunteering. The current President cuts in at this point. You’ve got to make Women’s Rugby about more than just a sport. You have to know your team off the pitch too.
Wise words. I ask what their most memorable moment would be. There’s a bit of a struggle for an answer to this one. Probably the social after the Cup final, says Chloe. Mark made a speech about how “we won because we care, maybe not because we were the fastest, or the most talented sportswomen.” Perhaps they could even describe themselves as the plucky underdogs of the competition. “People don’t expect much of us,” Chloe says, but they won, and that’s the most important part. It all got quite emotional, it seems.
Ever the Queen of languid put-downs this evening, Allie cuts in, “I don’t remember that part very well.”
It’s easy to say that both societies are different in very obvious ways, but one thought sticks in my mind long after my conversations with both are over. There is an enormous amount of time and energy put into these clubs which must be emotionally draining, if anything. Yet there is an underlying sense of passion for what all these people do, and this helped to make our conversations very pleasant. It is also, I suspect, the main reason why Women’s Rugby and Musical Theatre have had such a fantastic year.