A Christmas Carol – take two
Published in Majorca Daily Bulletin
Sunday 23rd November 2014
Photographs by Rachel Fox

Last year the Isla Theatre Group delighted the Christmas audiences with their rendition of Dickens Classic tale A Christmas Carol.  They worked with Theatre Sans in Palma and took a piece of classic English literature to the heart of the city.  The theatre was magnificent and supported everything they did, loaned the costumes, manned the bar and applauded their success.  The week of performances were a sell out and as word spread there were disappointed people who could not get in to see the show.  At its heart was Dickens words and sentiments and at its soul were songs, Christmas carols and children’s entertainment.  The Isla Theatre Group learned so much from that experience and are ready to do it all again in a 2014 version.

I caught up with a rehearsal in Fornalutx this week and as the sun shone through the windows of the beautiful house they were using as rehearsal space Christmas seemed a long way away. The Indian summer we are enjoying makes the snow and misery of a poor mans Christmas hard to imagine.  The Isla Theatre Group was born in the Soller Valley and we are all very proud of them round here.   Their vision is of the power of inclusive theatre incorporating language and our unique location.  They have a burning desire to bring Shakespeare to Majorca and make him relevant to all.  They started with a schools production of the Tempest and that was followed by last years Christmas Carol.  Future projects are ambitious with more Shakespeare and other playwrights jostling for position in their busy schedule.

Meanwhile back to the excitement of this year which Isla started planning for in February.  Armed with all they had learned from their experience they knew they had to knock on the door of a supplier of a larger theatre.  They knew too that the production had to held before the school broke up for Christmas and so many people started leaving for the holidays. They plagued the Adjuntement of Palma and successfully achieved a meeting with Fenando Gilet, A director of culture and Sport for Palma .  The negotiations took awhile because of the popular dates they wanted to occupy the theatre for but eventually the red light was given.   The Isla Theatre Group feels honoured and privileged to have been granted the use of the Theatre Municipal Catalina Valls with its size and central Palma location.  Sited a couple of doors away from the Bulletin in Passeig de Mallorca this is a place with easy parking and accessibility. So first hurdle over and a home for Christmas then began the search for the expanded cast.
The cast is the story of this year and all the young people helping backstage.  There are going to be twelve performances including matinees.  This requires double casting of the children so that they don’t miss the entire end of term activities at their schools.  The International Schools have been very supportive in allowing the chosen children to take part.  As soon as the booking dates were open over 1000 seats were reserved for the matinee performances by the schools.  This is such a great opportunity for them to see live English theatre with a traditional twist.   The schools matinee dates are now sold out with other schools begging them to extend their run.

The two groups of children taking part are a very talented crew.  The music and singing is a huge feature with over eleven songs sung throughout the show in harmony.  For those that understand these things it is a fantastic achievement to get ‘small group harmonising’ in children.’ these young voices are a tribute to their singing teachers and the tuition they are getting from the musical director.   The commitment to the rehearsal schedule, learning the lines and practising their music is not for the faint hearted.  This also shows a great commitment by the families who have to get them to and from the extended rehearsals. Palma College have two young people working in professional work experience roles. One is responsible for make up and costumes and the other for props, wardrobe and backstage organisation.  Tiny Tim makes his second appearance in the role – he is still ‘tiny’ but this maybe his last year before he outgrows his name.  He stole the show and the hearts of the audience last year and he is destined to do the same this Christmas.

There are three of the adult cast who performed last year including the fabulous Drew Donovan as Scrooge. The rest of the cast are a mixture of local and imported talent plus one from Stockholm and another from Oregon .  The total cast numbers twenty people and they are working extremely hard to make this a production to remember for 2014.  The stage is set for this show to become the annual tradition for a Majorcan Christmas and this is certainly what they directors of Isla are being urged to consider.
Rachel Fox – the photographer of Soller caught up with yesterday’s rehearsal in the huge space of Earth Yoga in Santa Catalina in Palma .  The six hour rehearsals had everyone in full Christmas Carol mode and the cheerful singing could be heard in the surrounding streets.  Isla have succeeded in creating great interest in this production and it is significant that their posters mention them being sponsored by Palma Pictures and the Adjuntment of Palma.

The language of the theatre is at the heart of Isla’s work and past productions have been in Spanish, German and English.  Indeed the work they offer with schools can be in any one or all of those languages.  The Christmas Carol will be subtitled in Spanish for even in this most classic of English productions the company have respect for the languages spoken in this country.

The Christmas Carol is the showcase of the year for Isla but there ongoing work with groups and schools deserve a mention too.  They have found that the huge cultural mix found on this island often leads children to emphasise the differences they see around them, whether in language, customs or race.  Isla’s objective is to teach children to create awareness of the cultural connections and not the differences.   They aim to teach the children to enjoy understand and have fun with theatre .The education and after school workshops they organise have been highly praised for achieving their aims.  In the end the word they use is inclusivity for all.  Language, colour and creed are no barrier in the theatre world of Isla.

For more information on Isla
For information and booking for’ A Christmas Carol’
Theatre Municipal Catalina Valls
Passeig de Mallorca 9
07011, Palma
971 73 91 48
Ticket prices from 10€ to 15€ with children’s matinees priced at 5€

The countdown has begun, the rehearsals are in full swing, the schools performances are sold out and tickets are now on sale to all for the evening performances.  This is is an unmissable show for the season and because this is a team effort worthy of all our support.
Dickens in Palma for Christmas 2014 – we are very privileged.

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