If there is a quaint gem hidden in the hustle and bustle of Fuengirola – the Salón Varietés Theatre is definitely one of them. The theatre was built back in 1925, so this year it is venerable 95 years old, five years short of being a full 100. It started as a theatre, but over the course of the years became a cinema.
In 1985 a group of theatre enthusiasts decided to return the Grand Old Dame back into theatre, and it has been going strong ever since. Currently the Salón Varietés Theatre is the only English speaking theatre in Southern Spain, and their productions range from musicals to drama to mystery to pantomime. In the near future the Salón Varietés Theatre is featuring a famous musical, Evita, as one of their production. For a small theatre, their productions definitely are not.
But what is special of the Salón Varietés Theatre? Is it the seats? Or is the spooky happenings that are bound to happen in a venerable building, especially a venerable theater such as this?
“Of course there are some things that happen”, Jessie says, smiling. “But more than not it is the buzz when you see the audience coming in before the curtain call.”
After a short silence, she continues: “But I wouldn’t be surprised to see extras in the audience every now and again.”
Jessie is the Stage Manager of the Salón Varietés Theatre’s production, The Secret Garden.
Recently, The Two Queens had a pleasure to sit down with her for a brief interview over a glass of wine in the afternoon sun before a day’s rehearsal to enquire about the history of the theatre itself, and also how much time, sweat, and tears are an integral part of the Stage Manager’s job in a production like the Secret Garden.
She was personally asked by the show’s director, mr. Oliver Leiva, to manage the show, as he needed a good person to manage the crew, the actors, the props, and so on.
“Theatre is very universal, very global – it doesn’t limit to just one culture, one language, one ethnicity.”
– Jules, (Mrs. Medlock)
What is the difference with the Stage Manager and the Director in a show? This is a question, we need answering first and foremost.
“Basically”, Jessie tells The Two Queens, “the Director puts the show together, puts it on the stage, and when the technical rehearsals begins, he hands the show to my hands.” Even with all the stress coming from the managing the show, Jessie still remains smiling.
“The best part is starting now, as we are back to rehearsing on the stage with all the costumes, all the props, the lighting – everything. It just makes me happy and content that the show is going on, and the people are going to love it!”
But why Spain? Why make it in Fuengirola?
“There is a huge British community here in Fuengirola area”, Jessie tells us, “and as the story itself is quintessentially British, it also reminds people of home. Besides, the Secret Garden, as a story, is something that every generation knows.”
The story is British, the theatre is English speaking theater, so what is in there for non-British spectators?
“A show that introduces a classic British children’s story is a perfect way to introduce yourself to the English culture – English history”, echoes Jules, who plays the housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock in the play.
“The Secret Garden offers a brilliant window of opportunity to gaze into an era of British history, a period drama if you will, where families were posted abroad, and then if something happened, and the children would be orphaned, what then? How would they cope”, she continues.
“Theatre is very universal, very global – it doesn’t limit to just one culture, one language, one ethnicity. Theatre is for anyone who are theatergoers, anyone who appreciates performing arts”, Jules says.
The Secret Garden – What It Is All About?
For the English people, the story behind the Secret Garden is a familiar one, as it is based directly on the famous book “Secret Garden” (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a Manchesterian lady, who later moved to Tennessee, U.S.A.
The story of Secret Garden takes us back in time to the Victorian era, with our young heroine, Mary Lennox, has to make a journey from India, where she was born, back to England to live with an uncle she has never met in her life. As the setting changes from exotic India to very rural countryside of Yorkshire in England, the life of Mary begins to change as well. Exploring, she finds the walled up garden of her late aunt, and manages to gain entrance to it. She befriends her sickly cousin, and together they find out that they can manage to turn the garden into a real thing of beauty when it is not left locked behind a high wall.
The theme of the story is about growth, and even though it was written back in 1911, it still carries on importance to today’s world and people. The characters change and grow within the show itself. And the show has been adapted to theatre, orchestral version, and even to a silver screen. But still there is a room for a new adaptation, just like Mr. Leiva has done.
“The story has changed with each adaptation to become a bit more modern, but it is still set in the right era, to which it was originally set it”, says Jessie, “But there is still the important message, the meaning, woven into it and it carries all the way to the modern day.”
Is it a story of magic, hope, and friendship as the advert says?
“The other subtext in the story is the belief in yourself”, Jessie says. “But it is also about telling yourself that nothing is impossible, and the belief in magic, and also not to forget the child within yourself.”
But is it easy to bring the magic to the stage?
“Even the slightest bit of costume can change which period you are in”, Jessie says, “and the combination of the costumes with the lighting, sets, and props all do their part in the magic. Also music is one factor on the whole experience.”
Of course there is lots of work hours being put in the production. Not just by Jessie, the Stage Manager, or the leading actors and actresses, but the whole group. Being an amateur group there has been roughly three months of rehearsals – from casting to read throughs, to once weekly rehearsals, and then when the production dates are closing in, the amount of rehearsals in a week pick up as well.
The last two weeks running to the show are the most hectic ones, as the whole production starts to come together; instead of having certain members of the cast practicing together, the whole cast, including the puppeteers are attending the rehearsals, the props are finding their place on the stage, and the dresses are fitted for the first time, and so on.
Even though the troupe might be amateur in name, the show is more professional.
“Everyone who is on the show is either a professional, or aspire to be professional, which means everyone acts professional in the show and also in the backstage. Also, when one person acts professional, the rest automatically follows.”
With a proud smile, Jessie continues: “It is not an amateur production in my eyes because everyone acts so professional in backstage and also on the stage. It is fantastic!”
Drama In The Theatre? Or In The Production?
“We have such a good rapport together with the director and the movement manager, which probably transfers to the whole cast”, Jessie says. “During the rehearsals we have such a good time and a giggle every now and again.”
Drama comes also from pouring one’s soul, tears, and sweat to a show that will be on stage only for a week, from Wednesday to Sunday.
“Of course it is sad to see the curtain fall for the last time, but as it is in all show business – the show must go on”, Jessie says.
There is also a silver lining in this, the cast is able to partake in other productions more frequently and the theatre is able to host more productions as well.
This rapport within the actors will hopefully then be transported to us, the audience, when we see the show between Wednesday the 12th February to Sunday the 16th of February in the Salón Varietés Theatre. It also allows us a wonderful opportunity to be transported into another time and place, enjoying a show filled with magic and sense of friendship.
You can book your tickets here.