Edit: An earlier version of this article claimed that the society failed to adequately sign-post for the use of strobe lighting in its production of Bat-Boy. The editors have now been informed that this was in fact not the case and warning was given in accordance with the Health and Safety Executive's official advice.
One may be forgiven for assuming that, in terms of strangeness, carelessness and vulgarity, the Glasgow University Cecilian Society’s 2016 show Bat Boy could not be, for lack of a better word, topped. When posters for their 2018 offering entitled Urinetown started cropping up around campus, however, that assumption was called into question.
It's important to note that between these two questionable shows was the rather successful All Shook Up in 2017. With its title immediately evocative of one of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, it’s not difficult to work out why this show went down better than shows with titles like Bat Boy or Urinetown. Strange concepts and "hit or miss" nature aside, on hearing about the financial difficulties the society has faced this past academic year, one begins to question the real purpose of the Cecilian Society. Is it an opportunity for students interested in musical theatre to improve their performance skills and connect with like-minded people? If so, does this premise demand the relentless badgering of friends and family to shell out £10-15 on tickets to a show they would never have attended otherwise? Or are the annual performances put on by the Cecilian Society more akin to a vanity project, designed to provide much-craved admiration to a select few of the exhibitionists of our student community?
It is widely known that this year the Cecilian Society has struggled financially. In the weeks running up to the opening night of Urinetown, there was uncertainty as to whether or not they would be able to sell enough tickets to cover the costs of putting on the show. What this would have meant for the funding of future productions is unknown; however, had this situation come to fruition, it would have been an unquestionable blow to the society and its members. However, in the final week leading up to the performance, they managed to sell enough tickets to make a profit on the production. After much hectoring of friends, family and other Cecilians, one imagines.
Perhaps, as is my feeling on the matter, some students are still left with an unsavoury taste in their mouths from Cecilian shows gone by. Bat Boy, for example, contained a rape scene (two if you include the one perpetrated by bats…) with no prior trigger warning.
I will not, from the safety of my bedroom, slate the singing voices or acting skills of the Cecilian Society cast. They are undeniably some of the most musically talented students at our University. Evidently, however, based on the fact that tickets were such a hard sell this year, the Cecilian Society has lost some of its appeal in recent years. If I were to hazard a guess at the reason for this, it would be the shows they are selecting to put on. All Shook Up was a crowd-drawing name; Bat Boy and Urinetown perhaps more eyebrow-raising. I would also seriously recommend trigger warnings where necessary in any future productions - it would be unfortunate were someone to fall ill at an event that is supposed to be a treat.
This society is not beyond salvaging, however, wherein previous years the Cecilian Society’s upcoming show may have been a source of excitement and buzz around campus, in recent years it has fallen flat. Unfortunately, now the annual shows feel more like a vanity project forced on the friends and family of cast members than a cultural event that, as a student community, we all look forward to.
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