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Dual-language panto breaks down barriers

A bilingual version of The Sleeping Beauty is showing what can be achieved when people who find it difficult speaking French are determined to integrate.

Graham and Rosa Follett retired to Normandy two years ago and, despite regular lessons, struggled to get to grips with the language.

In the UK, they were both involved in community theatre but, due to language issues, cannot yet enjoy watching a play in French, let alone taking part in one. So they missed the theatre.

They did not want to join a uniquely English-speaking group, so about a year ago, Mr Follett hit upon an idea: “I thought it would be nice to do something everyone could enjoy and started to work on doing a pantomime in both French and English with a dual cast and audience.”

And the plan grew - so much so that the show will be staged at the 400-seat theatre in Passais-la-Conception, Orne, on March 15 and 16. It took some time to organise.

“First we got English friends involved and were then lucky with some good French contacts.

“I had about 1,000 flyers printed in both languages, encouraging people to join us, and gradually our numbers swelled.

“We now have more than 50 people involved in our first production.”

He said the group includes 30% French members but the script is 50/50 French-English: “The dual-language delivery is not achieved through simple repetition.

“Instead, the dialogue is an intertwining of conversations between characters, some of whom speak only French, some of whom speak only English, and some of whom speak both. The result is a fast-flowing dialogue that contains enough information in each language to ensure the audience knows what is going on.”

Mr Follett said the idea has captured the imagination of local people and he is hoping to attract an enthusiastic audience to match the performance.

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