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There’s much more to theatre than playing around

As the Vagabond Theatre Company in Gers nears final rehearsals for their next show in September, director Ann Jones offers her experience of putting on plays in France to give pointers to anyone who is thinking of setting up their own company.

She says theatre gives an opportunity for people to do something creative, something they may have never done before and is a good way of integrating into the local community, even though the performances are in English:

“I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of making links with the mairie, other amateur dramatic societies and schools. You will be surprised how willing they all are to help.

“The mairie can find rehearsal rooms and somewhere to perform. Other associations may have props you can borrow and you can lend them yours in return.

“English teachers may include your play in lessons and encourage students to go. We always help the French in the audience with a very detailed resumé of plot and characters so they can follow the action.”

Putting on a play in a public venue with paid-for tickets is very different, she says, from acting for friends in a private place: “You must commit time and energy as there is always more to do than thought. 

“I advise registering as an association. Music copyright rules are very strictly controlled by the Sacem musical rights society, which can fine you for non-declared music. If we are using a published play we pay through an English agency.

“Good publicity and links with the local press can help. It is important to have a strong, committed team to share tasks.”

The right play is vital: “There always seems to be a shortage of men, so this latest play has an all-female cast. It is possible to ‘gender bend’ in a creative way. I spend a great deal of time finding the right play.”

Vagabond’s latest looks at the first actresses allowed to perform on stage after the Restoration, famously including Nell Gwynn. The Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis, is on September 8 and 9 in the Salle de La Comédie, Lectoure.

Twice a week rehearsals over six months “means we have time to allow for absences. Our members are not professionals and they have other commitments.”

The hard work is well worth it, she says: “I love watching the play come together and I like to think we are now part of the cultural life in Lectoure.”

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