Gavin Miller and the Isla Theatre Group

Sunday 7th February 2016
Photographs by Rachel Fox
The worlds of North London and Mallorca often collide and there is something in the creativity gene that has an attraction to both places.  Gavin was a Barnet boy and his London childhood took him to illustrious schools and the exciting world of the beautiful game.  His dad was a sports journalist for The Times Newspaper which meant that Gavin saw matches and attended sports events that most boys could only dream of. The beauty of football remains with him to this day and his passion for Barcelona is in tact.  For him it is not about the winning or losing but the style, spirit and message of the game.  This approach to football probably sums up his view of life and the artistic world which he inhabits.

Aged 8, Gavin was taken to see ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’, a play about West Ham United football club, in a pub theatre in London’s East End. Inspired, he got himself the role of the Parrot in Treasure Island, that year’s school production. At university, a decade later, he was part of the Cambridge Footlights team. His path towards writing for the theatre and acting took a diversionary route via a History of Art degree and joining the Brit Art revolution.  He made his living as an artist with a studio in good old Kentish Town.  He painted pictures which sold and some which were even exhibited at the Royal Academy when he lost his interest in commercial art and returned to the ‘Parrot’ of his youth.  Drama school and the burning desire to act and write for the theatre was rekindled and has never left him.

Gavin is an actor with a love of Shakespeare and the theatre of the people. Fringe theatre, upstairs rooms in pubs and small space drama is the heartbeat of the work he performs.  Yes, he has had his West End moments but for him to take the message to people who would not normally go into a theatre is vital. There is no shortage of small space theatre in most major cities and when Gavin relocated to Mallorca he found exactly the same here. He formed a theatre group which performed in Majorcan small spaces island wide.  The plays he wrote for this group were in Spanish and then translated into Catalan for performance which was no mean feat for a London boy. 
Gavin is a playwright and actor that needs to eat and feed his family while is work is considered by others.  This fact of life has given him a separate career for the past twenty years.  He accompanies small groups as they holiday all over Spain and the rest of Europe.  He gives talks and lectures on the sights and ambience of the places he visits with them and in this way takes his theatre to the streets. As he returns from his adventures his brain is always simmering with a new play or story to tell all with a European flavor.

Gavin Miller is a playwright of note and many of his works have been performed and theatre companies are anxious to view his latest writings. The four-piece work entitled One Table, Four Conversations that the Isla Theatre Group have just started performing for him in Palma covers a very contemporary world.
‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Brandishing a Scythe’, were inspired by world news events: the eating of human organs in Syria and the announcement that fully automated cars would soon be the norm. A third piece, ‘Between the Lines’, developed out of hearing a friend being encouraged to have an affair with her best friend’s husband – the best friend being the wife and the one doing the encouraging! ‘Maybe Later’ came out of an interest in writing a short farce in which the ending would not be predictably sweet and the characters’ emotions not left untouched.
The contemporary nature of the subject matter is serviced by the location which is a Cafe in central Palma.  The audience and the cast are very close and the atmosphere is electric. The size of the location means that they are performing twice a night to allow everyone that wants to see these plays the opportunity.
The Isla Theatre Group with their roots in the Soller Valley are the team behind the Christmas performances of the Dickens Christmas Carol and the Soller Train Musical which enchanted us all last year. The collaboration between this very professional group of actors and Gavin miller is an interesting departure and a foretaste of a new theatrical era in Majorca.  
Actors Emma Carter, Jenny Whiffen, Alexandra Wijkman, Drew Donovan, Rob Harvie and dancer Ygraine Zahnke make up the very experienced cast.  Their impressive CV’s read like this

Emma Carter
Trained at LAMDA. Her professional career in London consisted of both theatre and film work, including playing Blanche Sartorius in the National Theatre’s Widowers Houses by George Bernard Shaw directed by Fiona Shaw and working with Emma Thompson on the HBO film Wit. She now enjoys acting and producing with ISLA Theatre Project here in Mallorca when she’s not looking after her husband and 3 children.

Drew Donovan.
Graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse, NYC–BA in Art/Theatre Education, Peru State College, USA.  New York credits: (Off-Broadway) Atrainplays , The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Firebugs, The Grapes of Wrath, Mr. Acularus.  Regional Theatre credits, USA:  Greater Tuna, Moon Over Buffalo, Oklahoma! (Cortland Repertory); Film/Television: Deadline, (Wolf Films); O’Pioneers (Hallmark Hall of Fame), Four Last Songs (BBC Films, Mallorca), Florette Crispy Salad (UK).  Mallorca: A Christmas Carol, Spirit, Beyond Therapy, El Tren de Soller (ISLA Theatre Project).

Rob Harvie.
Rob started acting from a young age and has continued to do so through to university, receiving a Theatre and Dramatic Arts degree from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2010. Rob is also a hobbyist singer/songwriter who also enjoys gardening and working outside on the land when he is not involved in theatre projects with Isla Theatre. Recent credits with Isla include ‘Topper’ in the musical A Christmas Carol and ‘Harrison’ in Rosen’s Son by Joe Pintauro. 

Alexandra Wijkman.
Graduate of The Neighborhood Playhouse, NYC;  Scenstudion with Matthew Allen,  NYC Credits include:  Atrainplays, the Statenislandferry plays, The Madwoman of Chaillot  (Off-Broadway), Mornings of April and May (National Tour) Guys and Dolls (Cortland Rep).   Stage productions in Sweden include: Balm in Gilead, Yerma , Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Mallorca:  A Christmas Carol, Spirit, Beyond Therapy (ISLA Theatre Project).

Jenny Whiffen.
Trained at ALRA and Guildhall – BA English Literature UCL. Theatre credits include UK: Ordinary People (Greenwich), The Rehearsal (Garrick), Huis Clos, Taming of The Shrew (Edinburgh Playhouse) Dr Faustus (Bloomsbury) Dick Whittington (Vienna’s English Theatre) Mallorca: Beyond Therapy, A Christmas Carol, Spirit (ISLA Theatre Project) Film/Television: Headhunters (BBC), Jeeves and Wooster (ITV) The Bill (ITV) Bugs (Carnival Films) Canary Wharf (Live TV) Une Femme d’Exterieur (SMP)Young Catherine (HBO) Almost Home 

Ygraine Miller Zahnke.
Primarily a ballet dancer, Ygraine made her professional debut at last year’s Gala de Ballet, directed by Laura Macias and Gavin de Paor, at the Teatre Principal in Palma. More recently, she danced in the corp de ballet in this year’s production of The Nutcracker, again at the Teatre Principal. Her acting roles include, Gretel, in Hansel and Gretel, and, Alice, in Alice in Wonderland. She attends Francisca Tomàs’ ballet school and The Academy International School.
One Table, Four conversations run for four more performances on 12th and 19th February 2016.  Call 679 518293 for tickets.
English theatre with a group of professional actors written by renowned playwright Gavin Miller is a treat for the theatre loving audience of Majorca.  As the Isla Theatre group continue to grow and expand there is huge appetite for regular performances to be produced in English.  The combination of Isla and Gavin Miller is one to watch.

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