Friday, 28 April 2023, 11:44
The Costa del Sol has long been admired for its expat amateur dramatics scene, and this is largely due to the determination of several groups and organisations that put on regular shows, which are enjoyed by both the local foreign community and thousands of visiting tourists.
These volunteer-run groups are managed by those who have spent many years working in the theatrical business, and others who simply have a love of performance.
One of these organisations is the International Theatre Studio (ITS), which was formed in 1975 and is the oldest one of its kind on the Costa del Sol.
The company was the brainchild of two foreign residents - one from Chile, and the other Dutch - who set up the group at a time when there was no English-language theatre, and very little in Spanish, in the province. The Cervantes theatre in Malaga had been closed for many years, and did not reopen until 1987; while the Salón Varietés in Fuengirola opened its doors for the first time in 1985.
Paz Dávila Arostegui, who was the daughter of former Chilean President Carlos Dávila, trained for the theatre both in New York and at the Chekov Studio in Connecticut, where one of her fellow students was Yul Brynner. Her partner in the theatre project was Mary Wells, the daughter of a Dutch Admiral who was married to a much-decorated Battle-of-Britain fighter pilot.
Although today the founding members have either died, or returned to the UK, the company enjoys a membership of around 150.
"Being set up in 1975, we don't have any original members, however, some of our current members are the children of those who were there at the inception of the group," the society's president, Martin Curd, told SUR in English.
The ITS's first production in 1975, Noel Coward's Relative Values, was attended by royals, luminaries and celebrities, including Prince and Princess Bismarck, Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe, Sean Connery, Sir Stanley Baker and James Hunt, among others.
During its formative years, the company enjoyed the expertise of several people of distinction from the world of professional theatre and film, such as Broadway actor Sam Bookbinder and Maxwell Setton, the producer whose films include Lawrence of Arabia and the original Casino Royale.
Joyce Kyle was another member whose expertise in directing was particularly important in the early days. As Joyce Blackham, she enjoyed life as an opera singer, performing all over the world with the likes of Plácido Domingo and Montserrat Caballé. She also sang with the English baritone, Peter Glossop, who she would eventually marry.
Even though the ITS began to present what the president describes as the "highest standard of theatre to the English-speaking community", the company has never had its own theatre. Many of the shows have been performed at the Atalaya Park Hotel in Estepona, and, over the years, these have included a plethora of plays, dramas, comedies and thrillers.
"Having lost our original base, we now look at new venues where we can offer theatre. We have our two main productions in May and October each year. These are full-theatre productions and we are currently being hosted in the TRH Paraiso Hotel. This is a great venue with a large auditorium where we can have up to a hundred people in the audience. We are also grateful to Marbella town hall, which allows us to use the El Trapiche theatre in San Pedro," Martin explained.
As part of Marbella's Día de Europa celebrations in 2015, the ITS was honoured by the town hall for its work to help to turn Marbella into a "single, open and multicultural town".
One of the group's most eagerly awaited events is Lark in the Park, a night of open-air theatre that emulates the Glyndebourne format, whereby the audience members bring picnics for consumption during the show's interval.
"Theatre, like any group, has a core number of members who enjoy the camaraderie of being in a club. They love the spirit of the theatrical world, whether they are involved in a production, or come to see some great theatre and be transported for the evening," Martin said.
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