Report on the "Primer Festival Internacional de Teatre Infantil i Juvenil de Campalans"
Michael Garry Smout
The festival was organized by Jordi Clotet and Filemon Correa from the Campalans campsite, where it was held, and by the town hall of Borredà, the small, quaint medieval town just up the road. The stage was housed in a stable dating from the 1700s with a large marquee erected to protect the audience from the beating sun. Originally, the idea had been a Festival for Children's Theatre, but as the average age of the groups taking part was around the 15-16 mark the word 'Youth' was added. For the organizers the headache wasn't so much where and how to house and feed the 150-plus people attending (seven groups in competition; one not)-that was neatly dealt with-but with the fact they were, at the same time, also trying to prepare for the August holiday rush, radically altering the site itself: flattening the slopes with huge diggers and rollers, and adding chalet bungalows and custom-made wood-clad mobile homes. Somehow chaos remained at bay but there were a lot of overworked people that weekend.
The festival kicked off proper with a performance by the professional, Madrid-based Amalgama who were there to also be judges and run the workshops, held outside in the meadows by an old mill. They were a little worried as they, too, thought the age group was going to be a bit younger and their choice of play reflected that, but it was loaded with enough enthusiasm that everyone had fun and one of the songs became the unofficial anthem of the weekend.
The first play, in competition, followed. Observador de Tarima's Criatures (Kids) had a strong start and for me the best stage design owing to its simplicity and use of red and black colours in costumes of everyday dress, giving a unified effect. Sadly, three over-long monologues killed the strong beginning; but one, by Ana Cobacho, was powerfully delivered. A flawed but impressive start to the festival.
Of the four shows on Saturday, IES Barri Besòs's El Pèndol ( The Pendulum ) truly stood out. Again, a very good beginning with good use of 'voice off', some fine acting-especially from Miguel Angel Sánchez Bolibar-and a strong plot with a topical theme of school bullying; this was going to take some beating.
Saturday also saw the performance by the Swedish group Triangleteatern, whose presence justified the word 'international,' with their reworking of The Sleeping Beauty. Quite a conventional delivery, in Swedish, relying on many props and costumes, though a background netting was especially well used. A bubbly performance from Kim Robertsson kept things moving along nicely, and Aqua's dreadful 'I'm A Barbie Doll' gave a camp edge to proceedings and also a respite from the language problems.
Of the two Sunday morning shows, the last one of the festival-Malkavian Teatre's Criatures (which for the Swedish had been translated as I Hate My Children ) -was an excellent one to finish on. With parents 'hating' (let's say not really understanding) their offspring and the kids 'hating' their parents or wondering about what it must be like to be grown up, it was quite funny; but what really stood out was the level of acting. All the main players gave a strong delivery, and most importantly, good projection, which had been lacking in most of the other performances except from Ana Cobacho in the very first; credit then must go to director Patricia Egea. Young Roger Lozano was a natural, and two of the girls were going to give Ana a run for her money. Criatures was in danger of picking up three prizes. One fond memory of this final show was seeing most of the audience arrive, including the judges from Amalgama, half-naked and dripping wet from getting as much out of the swimming pool as possible. This is what a theatre festival should be like!
After lunch we judges sat around over cups of coffee worried there were going to be hissy fits and massive disagreement, but it was surprisingly easy; we had all pretty much come to the same conclusions, but debated other names to confirm our thoughts.
So, the result for the 1st Children's and Youth Theatre Festival (Campalans/Borredà)
After the speeches, the prize giving, and a noisy send-off from a drumming group, the sudden silence once the buses had gone was quite a relief. I had certainly heard enough teenage enthusiasm and noise for one year.
Was the festival worth it? Yes. Emily from the Swedish group said that she had never seen people of her own age-outside of her group-act, and I doubt many of the Catalans had either; for that reason alone the festival was not only worth it but gives weight to why it is important and should continue. I got the impression that the Swedes went home rather impressed with the Catalan groups and the way they chose and presented themes, which ranged from trying to get money to go on a school trip to Cuba; to bulimia and unwanted pregnancy; to bullying and children. They were also impressed by the stark and simple method of presentation. In case you are wondering, there was a PowerPoint text display in Swedish giving the basic plot summary of each Catalan play. Sadly, the bright sun played havoc with the image.
The lessons to be learned from this first venture to other future groups are simple: travel light and don't use too many props-the Swedes may well have learned a lesson here-and don't try anything that relies on total darkness-one group unsuccessfully tried back projection to create a shadow play. Most of the acting was quite competent, especially had it been for film or TV where a microphone can pick up the nuances, but theatre needs projection and all the directors should take note of what Patricia Egea's group were doing.
Next year, with the campsite finished, the organizers can give the festival one-hundred percent of their time which would help to clear up little things, such as getting the stage area a bit darker so PowerPoint or any image projection could be used to better advantage. And perhaps the addition of one or two more prizes. TBR editor Jill Adams would like to see one for script, and I would like to see one for stage design, specifically one that covers the use of lighting and visual impact. Apart from the few hiccups, everything ran remarkably well, and the standards of those taking part was far better than I would have imagined.
If you would be interested in taking part in the second festival please click here.
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Issue 55: September- October 2006
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