Unless you’re a student of (French) literature and history, the poet, duellist and nobleman Cyrano de Bergerac will be amongst the unlikely historical characters that have crossed your path. But fear not: Attending the St. Hilda’s College Drama Society’s production of the homonymous play, translated by the Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, will provide an entertaining (albeit fictionalised) introduction to this peculiar man.
Set in 17th-century France, the plot follows de Bergerac (Douglas Taylor) who, apart from being skilled in his use of words and swords, is as madly in love with his cousin Roxane (Ann-Marie Cross) as he is self-conscious about his protruding nose, in his quest to win her affection. Unaware of his feelings, Roxane asks him to befriend the pretty, yet ineloquent Christian (Charlie MacVicar), Cyrano’s fellow cadet in the Gascony military company and the object of her romantic aspirations. And as if this emerging love triangle wasn’t already complicated enough, Cyrano begins to pen love letters to Roxane on behalf of Christian, creating the seemingly perfect combination of Christian’s good looks with his own volubility and wit. But as they’re both sent to fight in a recently erupted war, the story is changed by a sudden twist…
According to director and native French speaker Callyane Desroches, “the play should move the audience from laughter to tears”. And with the juxtaposition of sophisticated banter, unrequited love and gut-wrenching tragedy, her rendition of Cyrano de Bergerac is an event in Oxford’s theatre calendar not to be missed.
Judging from the three scenes that were on offer for the preview, the production promises to be an equally humorous and dramatic show with a talented cast, carefully-selected props and live music to accompany certain scenes in the intimate atmosphere of the JDP Auditorium. And even if you don’t care for plays from the 19th century, France or romance/drama in any shape or form, perhaps the scene involving authentic 17th century fencing will take your fancy, because – well, how could it not? Everybody loves a good duel.
Cyrano de Bergerac is showing at the Jacqueline du Pré building on the 27th, 29th and 30th November (7th week). It will contain occasional strobe lighting effects. Tickets are £7/£5 for students and can be purchased via the society’s website.
PHOTO/ shot from Stanley Kramer productions, via Wikipedia Commons
Top Scottish law officer Dame Elish Angiolini has been elected the new Principal of St Hugh’s College.
Dame Elish, who served as Scotland’s Lord Advocate from 2006 to 2011, will replace incumbent Andrew Dilnot CBE in September.
Last year she was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List “for services to the administration of justice in Scotland”.
Dame Elish comes from a working class background in Glasgow, and had her and pioneered a victim liason scheme subsequently extended throughout Scotland.
Expressing her delight at her election, she said: “Founded to give an excellent education to women who were otherwise excluded from Oxford, and now providing a focus for learning and scholarship for women and men from all backgrounds, St Hugh’s College has an inspiring history and an exciting future. I am eagerly anticipating joining the College and aim both to support and celebrate its important work.”
Andrew Dilnot, added: “I am delighted that the College has elected such an outstanding figure as Dame Elish as its next principal. Her pioneering achievements will be an inspiration to people both within and outside the College, and I very much look forward to welcoming her to Oxford.”
The 2012 RAG Oxford’s Got Talent finals on Sunday evening were won by Jack and the Beanstalks of St Hilda’s College.
The band’s swaggering performance of the Rolling Stone’s Brown Sugar, bolstered with a passionate saxophone solo, triumphed over the competition on a tough night against Oxford’s finest.
The night started quietly, and the Oxford Union debating chamber was filled with a hushed crowd. They were brought to life by a masterful performance by the Oxford Imps, whose improvised comedy culminated with a power ballad to the tragedy of rough toilet paper.
The night was not short of powerful singers, with St Hugh’s Skippings International belting out Adele’s Rolling in the Deep with floor-shaking power. A more classic-rock approach was adopted by Sam Keeler and Bob Hunt of New College.
More chilled tunes were provided by Ed Crawford of Keble, Joshua Barley of Univ, with a mournful ode to hangovers by Merton’s Alistair Hodgson. However pride of place went to Alex OBT of Worcester, whose piano-based cover of Rhianna’s Umbrella reminisced about nights wasted in Park End. It contained the immortal lines “Once upon a time I knew how to love, now I only know how to shark, Park End has ripped out my heart”.
The judges, made up of Oxford’s Lord Mayor, OUSU Charities VP Dan Stone, and a representative from sponsors Ernst and Young, clearly had a challenging task ahead of them. However the Oxford’s Got Talent plaque was eventually handed to the well-deserved winners, with Laura Jennings taking second and Alex OBT taking third.
Student reactions were largely positive. Sam Prior, a St Anne’s second year, commented that it was “an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish”, despite their being no St Anne’s performers competing. There were, however, a number of complaints about the seating of the Union debating chamber limiting the views spectators could get of performers, especially regarding the tap-dancers.
For many colleges, sixth week marks the end (hopefully) of the ‘Fifth Week Blues’, the beginning of the Varsity mayhem, and the final slide down towards the end of term. At St. Hilda’s, however, there is a rather different focus. Hilary sixth week is here given over to the ‘St. Hilda’s Festival’, a week of events celebrating the college’s feminist heritage and promoting continued gender equality.
St Hilda’s was the last Oxford college to go mixed, opening its doors to men in 2008. The decision, which raised controversy at the time, is now widely held to have been a successful one, but St. Hilda’s says it is keen not to let its history as an early promoter of gender equality be forgotten. The principal, Sheila Forbes, says, “St Hilda’s was founded in 1893 as part of the movement to promote the education of women within Oxford University and we are proud of that achievement and the tradition of excellence in women’s education which it pioneered.”
This year’s Women’s Officer at St. Hilda’s, Lucy Freeland, says “The week has a clear focus – for the promotion and continuation of gender equality – but it is important to make all events widely accessible and as light-hearted as possible within this remit”. The Festival’s line-up as such features a wide range of activities, including ‘Hildalarity’, a evening of gender-equality-focussed stand-up featuring The Imps, Rory and Tim and Chris Turner among others, a concert led by the Oxford Belles, ‘Girl’s Night In’, which aims to combat negative body image among young women, and a student-led debate, “This House believes that Doris Lessing is right, that feminism has been ‘lost in hot air’.”
The highlights of the week, however, promise to be the extensive range of talks from returning alumni. The central point, according to the Women’s Officer, has been on attempting to appeal to as many members of the student body as possible, regardless of gender or subject. The talks thus range from, among others, Sally Jones, the BBC’s first female sports broadcaster, on the difficulties of being female in a ‘male’ workplace”, to Alison Gill, psychologist and triple Olympic rower, on her theories behind the finalist gap (the phenomenon that sees female students consistently outperforming their male counterparts throughout their degrees until Finals, at which point the gender discrepancy between results spikes sharply in the men’s favour) to Victoria Hislop, the bestselling author of The Island (2005), speaking about her career as a writer and journalist. The week culminates with a formal dinner, at which Sally Baxter, a St Hilda’s alumni now working as the editor of the Sunday Time Magazine, will perform the after-dinner speech.
Any and all Oxford students are welcome to the week’s events, Lucy Freeland stresses: “This series of events really is about raising the profile of Hilda’s and highlighting what the college has done, and continues to do, in favour of equality for all”.
Former Oxford tutor Dr Kathleen V. Wilkes has been honoured with the unveiling of a plaque commemorating her actions in Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence.
Revealed on 1st February by the city’s mayor, Andro Vlahušić, the inscription pays tribute to the late tutor’s “longstanding friendship and courageous support during the 1991-5 aggression”. It stands by a memorial to the defenders of Dubrovnik, near to the site where Wilkes’ own ashes were scattered after her death in 2003.
Dubrovnik, described by Wilkes herself as “a city of joy, of light, of culture” was targeted by Serbian forces from late 1991 to 1992 as part of a wider conflict which ended with Croatian independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1995.
Dr Wilkes, a Fellow of St Hilda’s College and lecturer in Philosophy, refused to leave the city during the attacks. She was later made an honorary citizen for her work in alerting the wider world to the plight of Dubrovnik’s population, and for her efforts in providing humanitarian aid, which included driving an ambulance from the UK and supporting the pursuit of knowledge in repressed intellectual circles.
“Above all she was humane, an intellectual, and, of course, a great friend of Dubrovnik,” said Mayor Vlahušić at the ceremony last week. The proposal for the plaque came from several Dubrovnik citizens, including former mayor Pero Poljanić and Berta Dragicević, Executive Secretary of the Inter- University Centre and a war-time friend of Wilkes.
Flora Turner, Chairman of the British Croatian Society, described Dr Wilkes as “an extraordinary, brave and warm person – highly intelligent but very modest.” Having attended the ceremony, she admired “Kathy’s total dedication to the people of Dubrovnik and the need to tell the world the truth about the war.”
Dr Wilkes also focused on less orthodox methods of academic encouragement, holding clandestine seminars, smuggling in banned books and side stepping the secret police. A second year St Hilda’s student commented: “she sounds way more interesting than your average Oxford Fellow. Whilst the tutors at St Hilda’s are amazing, she seems to have led this incredible double life. I wish I had been taught by her – I’m forever trying to avoid secret police and I could do with some tips.”
She was also noted for her academic work behind the Iron Curtain. As Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Inter- University Centre from 1986-96, she helped to create a network of philosophers spanning East and West Europe.
By Tom Ough
The growth of Quidditch at Oxford continued last week as the University Parks played host to a series of inter-collegiate matches. Teddy Hall, Worcester, Univ and St Hilda’s brought full complements for an afternoon of Muggle Quidditch, the rules of which resemble J K Rowling’s original, aside from the use of magic. Without the power of flight, players run with brooms between their legs as they attempt to score points by throwing the Quaffle through their opponents’ hoops. The game ends when the Snitch is caught, although in this case the Snitch is carried by a yellow-clad man released after eight minutes.
Such was the interest surrounding the event that The Guardian was also in attendance to watch Worcester thump Teddy Hall 40-10 and St Hilda’s capitalise on an unathletic Snitch-bearer to claim a 30-10 victory over Univ. The field was then opened up to anyone who wanted to play; ‘the fact that anyone can come and fly means that people don’t need to find full teams’, explained Angus Barry, a Worcester PPE-ist and the driving force behind the rise of Quidditch at Oxford along with Evan Lum, Gemma Newlands, Amy Wipfler and Jack Breur. Barry commented on the ‘friendly atmosphere’, the presence of which was a boon considering that the tackle rules are little more than an injunction to abide by ‘the spirit of the game’. This ambiguity led to some spirited physical challenges, but fortunately there was no need to crack open the Skele-Gro this time.
Students from a variety of colleges watched and later participated as spectators were invited to try their hands at the sport. A strong wind made ball movement less predictable, leading to cries of ‘rogue Bludger!’, but enough onlookers braved the elements for there to be ample replacement for the original participants. Whether they chose to play or not, the audience was vocal and enthusiastic. Stevie Finegan, of the Harry Potter society, called the event ‘A brilliant, if somewhat chilly, opportunity to watch some premier college Quidditch teams go head-to-head, and then get stuck in and have a go ourselves!’ The afternoon concluded with a group photo, taken by the Guardian photographer, and plans for the next broom-based jamboree.
From its origins as a magical fictional sport, Quidditch is fast developing as a global sport, with a World Cup held last year. With similar levels of interest in Cambridge, Barry has his sights set on a Varsity match against the Tabs, and if last week’s success is anything to go by, Quidditch has a bright future at Oxford.