The University of Aberdeen Student Show is unique. A brand new show has been performed every year without fail ever since 1922's 'Stella the Bajanella' began the tradition of the Student Show; indeed, on a couple of occasions there have even been two shows a year! Through the decades, the format of the show has switched between a single locally-themed story (often a pastiche of a well-known movie or play) and a revue format combining a number of shorter sketches. In more recent years, the single-story two act format has been the norm.
Putting the show together is always a momentous task involving a huge amount of work from writers, script editors, producers, choreographers and, of course, an enthusiastic and always extremely talented cast of students. All these people offer their services for free, as the main goal of the show has always been to raise money for charity. Earlier shows featured original music, while more recent efforts tend to rewrite the lyrics to popular songs with Aberdonian lyrics. Shows are always heavily peppered with phrases from the local 'Doric' dialect and generally they are outrageously funny, particularly if you have a good knowledge of the local characters and current affairs that are satirised in the script!
With the Show now in its 95th year (or 96th if you count 1921's Mock Trial, a sort of unofficial Show that led to the first 'proper' one in 1922), many generations of students have taken part in the Student Show through the years. There's a lot of interesting material relating to the Show in past times and we hope to bring you a series of articles about the different eras it has gone through. In our first article Lynsey Casson takes us through a few of her recollections of participating in the Student Shows between 2005 and 2008.
Beginning university at a slightly older age can be daunting, yet that’s exactly what I did in 2004. I began my MA (Hons) in English, Film and Visual Culture and was quickly placed in classes where I felt a little out of place being that I was what felt like an ancient relic at the tender age of 21. That’s not to say that my classmates weren’t interesting and friendly but doing a module in Art History I found myself relating more to the older grimacing wenches in the paintings than the sprightly youthful cherubs. What was I to do? Why, join a university society of course!
I had heard of Student Show, as many of my older school friends who I often worked with in amateur dramatics were Student Show alumni by the time I began University. Student Show came highly recommended to me as a crazy bubble that you entered for a short period of time and left with lifelong friends and the satisfaction that you had both performed on the His Majesty’s Theatre stage and helped raise a huge amount of money for charity.
That is exactly what it is. A bubble. Intensive rehearsal and socialising with your like-minded, enthusiastic and talented peers. It’s awesome. I made lifelong friends; some of them I actually still see in person and not just on Facebook! Some are now married to each other, with kids. Some of them still go back for more Student Show as part of the Production and Admin Teams. You go in green and confused and nervous and come out exhausted but elated. I did four. Four shows. Sure, it means giving up a heck of a lot of time but it’s worth it!
The titles of the Student Show are always good for a chuckle and the first show I was involved in was no exception; it was 2005’s ‘Fittie Woman’ (Editor’s note – for out-of-towners, ‘Fittie’ is how Aberdonians refer to a quaint old part of town more commonly spelt ‘Footdee’). Despite its title referencing a well-known eighties classic film, the storyline was actually much like George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. I was lucky enough to be cast in a lead role and played a ‘Bouley bashing’ car enthusiast called Minnie Cooper (‘Bouley Bashers’ are a certain type of youth who like to tear up and down Aberdeen’s Beach Boulevard in their cars making lots of engine noise and generally behaving anti-socially!). Minnie was plucked from obscurity and made over in order to become a local television personality. Needless to say, with a Svengali-type mentor and his overtly camp assistant at the helm of Minnie’s transformation, hilarity ensured. However, it was the supporting Doric characters, who provided a commentary throughout the production, who really stole the show.
In my opinion the most entertaining parts of Student Shows are the raucous group numbers, which take well-known songs and change the lyrics to suit the production. This brings me to the second show I was involved in, ‘Yokel Hero’ (2006). This was the story of a young loon who leaves his farming teuchter background behind to make it big in Aberdeen City! This show, in my opinion, had one of the best opening numbers, in which the lyrics to Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Gogo were changed to begin with the chant ‘coos and sheep’. I loved this show as I got to take part in the group numbers more often than the previous year. The choreography was awesome, especially when I got to burst out of a filing cabinet during the Katrina and the Waves - Walking on Sunshine number, aptly named ‘Haein’ a Blinder’.
2007 brought a new genre to Student Show with ‘Invasion of the Doric Snatchers’. Trust me, you have not laughed until you have seen elderly bowling-green wifies and mannies transform into gangster rappers. This show took on an unusual format and introduced the Granite City’s first superheroes, Midgie and Colin, a dynamic duo who had to fight the evil villains who were trying to take over the city. This show had one of my favourite posters - you can check out a comprehensive gallery of the posters through the years on the Student Show Archive website. I should also mention that local artist Andy Gaffron always provides a brilliant poster for the Show!
The final show I was involved in was ‘Date Expectations’ (2008) and as you may gather from the title, it was all about looking for love. To be honest this show was bittersweet for me, as I knew it was my last, but as it included one of the most challenging musical numbers I’d ever performed I certainly feel I went out with a bang. We had to perform a number to ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ from the musical 'Hairspray' which involved singing and fast and complicated choreography. Honestly, I didn’t know cardio until I had to perform that number, but with all the hard work of everyone involved it was epic. I should also mention we changed the lyrics to sing about the Scottish Highland - ITV channel. I’ll just leave the channel's name there for you to think about.
Student Show is hard work; you will laugh and cry and not be able to do certain parts of the choreography, but that’s all part of the fun. Show is inclusive and hilarious and, like a degree, something that can never be taken away from you. I enjoyed it so much I also worked as part of the Admin Team for three of the four years, helping with publicity or creating the souvenir program, lovingly nicknamed ‘Souvie’. More than that, I’ve also written lyrics for one of the most recent shows.
The greatest part about Student Show has got to be the local humour. Even if you’re not the performing type, go along and see it. Enter the bubble! Perform, write, engage or even just support and watch; you won’t be disappointed.
Backstage: Lynsey Casson as a 'bam' threatens an 'old lady', played by Lynne Cowie.
"Dressing as bams and old people is classic Student Show!"