Monday, 21 December 2009

Lessons from Bielva.

Friday 18th December 2009

Time in the Bielva is flying by now. It's hard to conceive we'll be heading for home in two days, harder still to believe Christmas is a week away. With the show only twenty four hours away the pace is picked up a bit. Chris and Carol run round the village grabbing members of the cast whenever they stop work and rehearsing in their front rooms.

Meanwhile Luis invites the students, Marta and me up to the village primary school. There are only eleven children on the roll, spread across six years. It's clear Luis loves his job and cares for each child with the attention of a gardener nurturing precious seeds. We're all given home made Christmas cards and Zoe leads most of the class in a series of games and songs. Jennie brilliantly mops up a small group of boys who don't want to join in; she gets some pens and paper and everybody draws pictures until, in their own time, one by one, the boys rejoin the main group. It's wonderful to see the St Mary's students working so intelligently and in harmony, not just with each other but these unfamiliar surroundings.

Luis talks about his family who, in the early years of the twentieth century, set up the first newspaper in the valley, which was published and sent to Cantabrians in exile in Cuba, Mexico and other American countries. It was a vital source of information and a plea to those who'd moved away in search of prosperity to remember those left behind. It's yet another strand to the Fausto play.

The dress tonight is a bit all over the place, the cast using hundreds of subtle tactics to hide their nerves. It's also the first time we've had full company and many of the actors seem confused as to the running order and in particular when and where to come on. Carmen thwacks out in all directions. The students, begin to anticpate these problems and working as a brilliant team of stage managers take responsibility for props, exits, entrances and backstage discipline. Things begin to come together.

From rehearsals we return home for an incredible Christmas dinner to thank Spiral for the week. Piles of peas, potatoes, corn fed chicken, gravy, yet more red wine and even Yorkshire puddings are passed round. It's been a mega effort involving the ovens in both houses and some speedy dashes through the slush filled streets to keep the food warm, but it's a wonderful and joyful celebration. Afterwards we sit by the fire and with Danny on guitar the students sing two songs that they've written: one as a thank you to Chris, Marta and Carol and the second for the village which they'll perform after the show tomorrow.

It's very moving. Love spreads around!

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