Skip to page contents


Oluwatosin Ajayi

Chemical Engineering, 2000-04
recalls organising his first Dramsoc production...

In early 2007, I thought 'You know what? It’s the Centenary year, we are Imperial College Drama Society and Midsummer is coming up. Let’s put on a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on Midsummer’s Night, June 21st. With flood lights, on the Queen’s Lawn.' Sounded like a good idea at the time, even though midsummer’s night fell in exam term.

AudienceSo, people were convinced/bullied into taking on a role, rehearsal schedules were drawn up around people’s revision and exams, and I found myself in the dual roles of show producer and Lysansder (one of the main protagonists). Only ever having bit parts in two Dramsoc productions before, this was a steep learning curve, during which we had to deal with securing the Queen’s Lawn as a venue, learning Shakespearean language (figuring out what iambic pentatmeter means) and people playing main characters dropping out of the production with two weeks to go.
Photo right: Audience watching the play

The show day coincided with the College open day, as well as the Exhibition Road Music day. We offered to put on a performance earlier in the day to coincide with the open day, and thanks to the Centenary office staff, we got ourselves onto the program for the music day itself.

Come the week of the show, everyone had learned their lines (mostly anyway), we had t-shirts and baseball caps to show we were part of the production, we had most of the costumes and make up sorted the day before our performance, and it seemed all that was left was to religiously check weather forecast and pray it didn’t rain. With about 18 hours to go till curtain up, things were looking good, and I begun to relax… Mistake.

As with all of these things, there is always a last minute issue that blindsides you. There had been a communication break down and I hadn’t been told that we needed access to the Queen’s Tower to set up some lights for the evening showcase performance. So, six hours to the performance, I was phoning the College switchboard trying to find out who could get me access to the Queen’s Tower. Thankfully, being part of the music day opened quite a few doors for us.

The play as seen from the Queen's TowerWe had set up the auditorium so that the steps of the Queen’s Lawn facing the library were the audience seats, and the space between the marquee and the steps was the stage.
Photo left: The play as seen from the Queen's Tower

The afternoon performance went well, we had about 25 – 30 people watch it, and none of them seemed to notice that the set, which had been integrated with the Centenary marquee set up on the lawn, had to be held up by the cast back stage due to some high winds. They all still said they loved it and we were brilliant.

Thankfully, these issues got sorted out for the evening performance, and the audience started arriving about an hour before the 10pm curtain up. With about 15 minutes to go, the steps of the Queen’s Tower were packed, and people were still arriving. There were over 200 people there. And they were brilliant. The best audience I’ve ever had. There was constant laughter throughout, they got all the jokes, including some that we didn’t realise we put in there, and bar the odd person running through the middle of the set oblivious to the fact that a play was taking place, it was going amazingly well.

The final scenes in the marqueeAll summer long, students had complained about the marquee because it had robbed them of about the only place in the College you could sunbathe, but for us, it proved a Godsend. With about 30 minutes of the show left, the British summer hit and we had to move the whole production, audience and all, into the marquee. When we realised that the rain was not going away, we improvised a stage area and continued with the show. This fired the imagination of all involved, especially the technical lighting crew who came up with a whole new lighting plot on the fly.
Photo right: The final scenes in the marquee

The performance finished almost bang on 12 midnight, which we had been aiming for so people could catch the last tube train home, but after we’d finished, the audience hung around for ages congratulating us, saying how much fun they had and loving the fact that we’d provided something to wind down to after exams. We even had some people say “Now I get that play, never understood it before”, and “I never realised Shakespeare was funny” which left us feeling insanely happy.

Even now, months after the actual performance, people still recognise cast members and say what good fun it was, acting as a constant reminder for what was the best night of my Imperial life.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

Past projects
The Centenary Campaign

Through the first decade of the twenty-first century the campaign seeks to philanthropically raise £207 million from Imperial’s alumni, staff and friends, and donations from charitable foundations and industry.

Where your support can make a difference
Give now
Staff & student portraits
Staff and student portraits

Imperial’s Centenary Year provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate members of the Imperial community.

View staff and student portraits