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Five minutes with… Sos Eltis

This week, we chat to Sos Eltis, vice principal of Brasenose College and senior member of OUDS

Could you tell us a bit about your position at OUDS?

I’ve been a senior member for Ouds for the last 18 or so years – at first alongside Adam Swift, then with Kirsten Shepherd-Barr and now with Ros Ballaster.

How long have you been working with OUDS for?
At least 18 years – possibly longer, but I can’t remember precisely. I’m finally stepping down this year, as the Proctors have declared that no-one should be a senior member for more than three years – so my retirement is rather overdue.

Were you involved with drama as a student at Oxford?
Not much, sadly. I directed a load of plays at school, but rather lost confidence when faced with the vastness of Oxford drama – I was at Christ Church and there was no low-level way in that I could see. I can’t act to save my life, and taking the leap into directing was too daunting. Then I found rowing, and that was all my spare time for the next decade gone!

What’s your fondest memory of drama at Oxford?
I directed Aphra Behn’s The Rover for the Brasenose Arts Festival and absolutely loved it. It was a complete joy – a really lovely and talented bunch of actors, and incredible fun. The play came together brilliantly in the end. It was an open-air production in the summer. One night was so cold that the audience were freezing but didn’t want to leave. So we found blankets and jackets, and everyone hunkered down to the end.

What’s your favourite play?
Can I have two? The Importance of Being Earnest – I’ve probably read or seen it at least 40 times by now but I love every word of it. W. H. Auden called it “the only purely verbal opera in English” and it’s true – it’s not just brilliantly funny, it’s also has the most perfect rhythms and phrasing. My other favourite has to be Kushner’s Angels in America. It’s angry, urgent and incredibly humane, and still spine-tinglingly innovative.

Do you have any heroes in the world of theatre?
So many! Off the top of my head (and heart): Yael Farber, Athol Fu- gard and Tom Stoppard. Yael Farber for some of the most thrilling, moving and emotionally gruelling experiences I’ve had in theatre. Fugard is an incredible playwright and an extraordinary human being. He made theatre a powerful weapon in the fight against apartheid – a weapon that scared the authorities while expressing the incredible power of man’s humanity. He’s compassionate, wise, open, unbelievably generous and inspiringly open about his flaws. And Tom Stoppard, for giving me more pleasure in the theatre than anyone short of Shakespeare. For the intellectual excitement of his plays, the sheer pleasure of thought and joy in language. For the sheer chutzpah of what attempts and the extraordinary brilliance that he so often carries off.

What advice would you give to those who might be reluctant to get involved with Oxford drama?
Get stuck in. Try anything. And don’t be scared. The joy of Oxford drama is not just the range of talent but also the freedom to make mistakes.

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