In the early nineteenth century a series of University Dramatic Societies existed in Cambridge (e.g. The Garrick Club 1834-42). The Amateur Dramatic Club (ADC) was founded in 1855, making it the oldest University dramatic club in the country, operating the oldest amateur-run theatre. In the first decade of the twentieth century it was still described as ‘confined to members of the University who undertake both male and female parts’.
The club started in two rooms leased at the back of the Hoop Hotel in Jesus Lane. In 1860 a larger set of rooms was hired which were purchased in 1882. Structural improvements were required in 1888 and the gallery (built in 1866) was demolished. In 1933 part of the theatre was burned down and was rebuilt in 1935. At that time the Manchester Guardian wrote: ‘All the seats are good. The bare grey undecorated walls are certainly rather chilly in effect, but these new theatres disdain that cultivation of a jovial atmosphere which was once the first concern of the theatrical architecture’.
The theatre has recently been reseated and recarpeted but it still cannot be described as a particularly warm auditorium. Seating is in a single rake. The forestage lifts off when the orchestra pit is to be used. There is a fly tower with double purchase counterweight lines and a number of hemp lines, the fly gallery being stage left. The large trap in the stage is used only as a get-in for scenery. There are two workshops. The theatre has always been mainly used for student productions. Nowadays they do occasionally book small scale professional shows.
- 1860 : continuing
- Owner/Management: The Amateur Dramatic Club (The ‘ADC’)
- 1860 Design/Construction: a set of rooms in a larger buildingUnknown- Architect
- 1860 Use: continuing
- 1866 Alteration: gallery addedUnknown- Architect
- 1888 Alteration: structural improvements and gallery demolishedUnknown- Architect
- 1935 Alteration: largely rebuilt after fireHarold Tomkinson with W P Dyson- Architect
- 1973 Owner/Management: The University took a lease on the building
- CapacityLaterDescription1935: 200 plus
- ListingNot listed