Comedy of Errors: The Drama Soc Story

If you have a pulse and a Facebook account, you’re probably familiar with those giants of social media, UCLove and UCLoathe. For those still stuck in the Stone Age (looking at you, Men’s Rugby), the basic premise of these pages is that individuals submit anonymous confessions of love or loathing that are then broadcast to a combined audience of just over 7,500 followers. From time to time, the pages feature posts directed not at individuals, but at societies, institutions, or – as in one recent case – cheese-related humorous investigative journals.

Ardent followers of the page will have noticed a recent surge in posts concerning Drama Society. Possibly attracted by the captive audience, members of the society are acting out their squabbles on UCLove and UCLoathe. The gripes all centre on what some are calling the “dictatorship” at the head of the society.

Your favourite gossip girl here wasn’t satisfied with second-hand drama – Soc Bitch went straight to the source, and got members of Drama Society to divulge the whole sorry tale.

Taking No Prisoners

The root of the matter seems to be the President and Treasurer’s distaste for the society’s most recent production, an adaption of Kafka’s In The Penal Colony. In the words of one member of the society, the junta “desperately tried to block” the performance going ahead.

Regular readers will remember that Drama Soc’s productions often run into bureaucratic difficulties – see this column’s thoughts on Rhinoceros of yesteryear – but In The Penal Colony seems to have suffered more than its fair share of Kafkaesque problems. Its production in Term 1 was halted by “rights issues”, and the Penal Colony team were promised a date in Term 2 instead. When Term 2 rolled around, however, the Commandant and Officer conveniently forgot their promise and the Penal Colony team found that they had to compete with a new show, SENSE, for the slot. Some bright spark suggested the productions share a double bill, but the President, concerned that the directors of SENSE would be unhappy with the arrangement, decided to simply award the entire slot to SENSE. A noble act of leadership, marred only slightly by the fact that the directors of SENSE were none other than – you guessed it – the President and Treasurer. Feathers were ruffled as, in the words of one society member, the “committee started to get really unsettled because it was a clear abuse of power”. Soc Bitch can only guess at why Amnesty International didn’t get involved.

Two months later, the Penal Colony team were finally given a performance date: the same date as the Drama Society AGM.

The Penal Colony team received messages from their President telling them to stop promoting their show and to start promoting the AGM; Facebook posts for the show were deleted, and the original Facebook event was wiped. Drama Soc had gone full censorship.

Luckily, the bastion of free speech that is UCLoathe saved the day – a post complaining about the committee’s dictatorial leanings prompted them to cave in, and they eventually changed the date of the AGM.

Annual General Misery

For those unfamiliar with the plot of In The Penal Colony, it concerns a machine that executes prisoners by tattooing them with the law that they’ve broken. Over a period of some hours, they experience agonising pain and eventually succumb to their wounds. This experience, however, sounds preferable to the torturous proceedings that make up the Drama Society AGM.

It lasted for an agonising four-and-a-half hours while the Society debated the President’s rewritten constitution. For comparison, the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 lasted 45 minutes. Countries have been conquered in a sixth of the time it took Drama Society to hold a meeting. But what a constitution! The President’s diktat suggested the committee be split into the “Board” (President, Treasurer, Show Coordinator/Vice President and Head of Production) and the “Representatives” (actors, directors, writers, etc.). The “Board”, however, would also have jurisdiction over the “Representatives”, meaning that the entire process of putting on a show – from the bids to the production – would have been entirely within their power.

Of course, the President and Treasurer had no problem abusing the system in order to produce SENSE: the President’s proposal would simply have legitimised their power struggle as a constitutional right.

After hours of debate and protestations from both society and committee members, a passionate speech from former President Matt Turbett sealed the vote – against the current President’s amendments. This was far from the end of the issue, however: because the entire AGM had been devoted to the constitution debate, the society had neglected to actually elect a new committee – so, in Union terms, didn’t actually hold an AGM at all, and may be punished with disaffiliation.

Soc Bitch loves her drama, as regular readers will know, but this whole fracas has rather spoiled her taste for it. Leave the nightmarish politicising to Kafka, Drama Soc, and get yourselves together for next year’s production – a one-woman show about being UCL’s premier gossip queen.


“…that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”
– Terry Pratchett, Mort

Oh dear oh dear.

A version of this article appeared in CG Issue 61.