Editorial: Popping My Capping Cherry

Editorial: Popping My Capping Cherry

Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve never been to the Capping Show. After talking to cappers for this issue, though, that’s something I really regret. 

The Capping Show has been around for 130 years. It’s soldiered on through world wars, pandemics, and 33 seasons of Shortland Street. Now, “tradition” is a term that people can play pretty fast and loose with. My uncle thought that bringing a lolly salad to Christmas two years in a row constituted a tradition. Breathas will try telling you that vomiting in each other’s mouths during flat initiations is also “tradition” (sources say otherwise) and an integral part of student culture. They’ll wear their reverse mohawks as badges of honour the following day, smug in their belief they’re living the quintessential Dunedin student experience. These are both up for debate. 

When it comes to the history of Otago University, however, I’d argue that there are only two true pillars of student culture: Capping and Critic. They’ve seen it all. There are theses, books, boxes of photos, DVDs, magazines, and a singular floppy disk I found in an office drawer detailing the antics of students over the 155 years that the uni’s been certifying academic weapons. Almost any event relevant to students can be found either in the archives of Critic or in the sketches of Capping. A quick flick through YouTube clips or the boxes of magazines teetering above our heads in the office will bring you anything from toga party riots to commentary on the Springbok protests of ‘81.

Capping is the tweedle to Critic’s dum. If you read Critic (like right now) for content that feels like it’s plucked from your own life in the streets of Dunners, then you’ll be sure to love Capping. If you giggled at the Hayward slander in the hall food review, or sent a snap of Boba Ket’s description of k-holing to a mate captioned “you”, tried out our scenic sadness locations, or mistook the drawing of a sheath for your girlfriend, then you’ll love Capping. I've been told that they study Critic articles to get into the mindset of writing the show.

I blame Covid for my ignorance about Capping until now. My first year at Otago was 2020, and it seems to me that as a cohort we’ve missed out on a lot since then. The first nationwide lockdown was announced four weeks into moving into Knox College (yeah, busted). We were teased with the student culture that allured us to study at Otago – sneaking into Castle St for O-Week as “second-years on Dundas”; bruising our shins on the Zoo seats in a Nitro-fuelled frenzy – only for it to be snatched away. The 80 or so of us who opted to stick around were locked away like some Dunedin parody of Rapunzel. 

In the slump of the pandemic, Otago Uni’s student culture was left in limbo. There’s been debate since about what the “true” student culture of Dunedin is. After talking to cappers and researching the show for this issue, though, I’m convinced that Capping is one of the closest things we have to a “traditional” student culture – other than Critic, of course. 

While Critic survived the pandemic slump by temporarily moving their weekly shitposting online rather than print, Capping wasn’t as lucky. It goes without saying that restrictions on physically being in the same place as others can fuck with not only the organisation of a production, but also with audience’s ability to go. Since then, the show once more synonymous with the student experience than Castle St has suffered. It used to be so successful it funded the construction of buildings. 

Despite the odds, Capping is making a comeback. All it takes is one conversation to convince you it’s worth your while. Talking to a capper about the show is like talking to a runner about runner’s high (or a breatha about MDMA). You never thought it would really be your thing, but there’s just something about the way their eyes gleam when they talk about it that makes you want to give it a go. 

The opening show is this Thursday, May 16th. There’ll be door sales at the College Auditorium, or you can grab tickets online through the QR code on posters all over campus or the ad at the back of the news section. Let’s pop our Capping cherries together.

This article first appeared in Issue 11, 2024.
Posted 4:24pm Saturday 11th May 2024 by Nina Brown.