English-speaking theatre in Spain.Date: 17 April 2012
British Theatre is alive and well – and living in Spain. When I was planning my Easter holiday in the south of Spain I decided to have a quick check to see what entertainment might be on offer locally. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, right in the heart of the Costa del Sol, the local British community has created its own theatrical home-from-home.
Literally a stone’s throw from the crystal-clear water of the Mediterranean , in a quiet street just off the main square and right in the centre of Fuengirola is the, English-speaking Salon Varietes Theatre. A wonderfully quaint venue that offers a ten-month season of plays, concerts, musicals, tribute acts – and even a good old-fashioned British pantomime.
Once I arrived, I met the theatre’s publicity co-ordinator Lynn Halliday, who talked me through its history. “The building has been a theatre for about 26 years now, but before that it was an open-air cinema. It’s a listed building and part of the agreement to keep the venue going is that it must be used as a place of entertainment. So the ex-pat community raised the money to lease the building from the Spanish family who own it and – here we are!
“As well as plays and some one-night shows, the theatre also puts on two major musicals each year. We’ve just finished a tremendously successful run of The Sound of Music and now we’re looking forward to Guys and Dolls in the autumn. We close in July and August, as it is just too hot to be indoors.
“As well as our amateur dramatic productions, we have just started, in this season, to have one-night professional tribute acts and they are proving very popular. We started with Westlife and Take That shows which played to capacity houses and we’ve had a Rat Pack show here twice – and it sold out both times.”
The theatre was built in 1925 and is a fine example of traditional Spanish architecture. To the front there is an open-air café which, as well as providing a great place to sit in the warm spring sunshine, is also the focal point for the theatre’s social side. Members of the Friends of the Theatre Association can often be found here and are more than happy to sit and chat about their unique theatrical community.
Membership fee is just six euros a year and, unlike some “Friends” groups, they don’t just keep you informed of future events. This association also organises monthly lunches, fashion shows, trips to some of Spain’s famous cities and, this year, they have even organised a seven-day cultural tour of Turkey, which sold out as soon as it was announced.
Behind the café area is the main foyer of the theatre, which is also home to the box office. Their manual ticket system reminded me, all too well, of my own first box office job – some 30 years ago – although their working hours of 10:30am-1:30pm and 7:00pm-8:00pm did make me somewhat jealous!
The first thing I noticed inside the auditorium is that, without windows and with such thick walls, the space is surprisingly cool. The emphasis is certainly on making sure that everyone sees well; to ensure this, the stage is quite high and the floor is steeply raked. It is also great to see that the rows of seats are offset so that the audience are able to look between the people sitting in front and not directly at the back of someone’s head. Upstairs there is also a small balcony area, taking the total capacity to a little over 300 seats.
Sadly, the timing of my holiday is a little out as, by the time of the next production – Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, I will have flown back to the UK. Of course, having now discovered this hidden treasure, I will be keeping an eye on their website – www.salonvarietestheatre.com – to make sure that, should I be lucky enough to come back in the autumn, I can experience the facilities to their full extent. And take in a performance of Guys and Dolls.
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