Photo by Lee Woolcock
We talk to a British theatre entrepreneur who made her way so she could stay in Barcelona
I came to Barcelona in 1998. I’d auditioned in the UK for an acting job that was based here for five months, and got it. Barcelona was very cheap then—it was still pesetas—and it was great weather, so after the job finished, I thought “I shall just stay here, thank you very much.” Then wondered what the hell I was going to do.
I directed my first play the following year. A colleague and I put in a proposal for Northanger Abbey as an ‘off-Grec’ show, and managed to convince the organisers it would be a roaring success. We did three weeks and it was a sell-out, luckily.
I tried English teaching once. It was just one lesson and as soon as the student said: “But why is it do and not make?”, I knew it wasn’t for me. I also did a two-week stint in an Irish pub, where I watched a lot of English, Irish and Scotsmen walk in, get drunk, take their clothes off and fall over. Didn’t take to that either.
I started Blue Mango so I could stay in Barcelona. I’d had experience doing theatre and education, and although I’d never written a play, I decided to have a go. I did 17 shows in my first year, and it just doubled each year after that. This year we are set to do around 500 performances.
Learning English through drama works. When you think about it, drama and theatre are all about communication, as is learning a language, so they are very compatible.
It’s very rewarding, particularly when you’ve put on a show for a group of teenagers who may never have been to a theatre and they come up and ask you how to become an actor afterwards.
Our shows are very interactive. As well as encouraging the students to use English, we are also educating them about issues such as teenage pregnancy, social integration and bullying.
I do a lot of recording work. I am the English voice of Freixenet, the Catalunya Tourist Board, the Maritime Museum, Casa Batlló, and a lot of others. I haven’t done the Barça Museum yet though. I think it’s the only one I’m missing.
I’m a big show off. I have this idea of doing a one-woman show one day where I’ll be singing and dancing and doing all sorts.
I would love to direct a Shakespeare play in Parc Ciutadella. The Barcelona climate and that space would be perfect for outdoor theatre.
The cultural scene in Barcelona is feast or famine. In 2008, the Grec had some incredible theatre—I went to four or five plays, all in English—but last year there was nothing. I see things go to Madrid that don’t come to Barcelona but there are a lot of underground things going on here, which is one of the encantos about Barcelona.
Barcelona is ripe for a more formalised English-speaking theatre space. It’s very multicultural and, as well as being a great resource for the expat communities, it would be great to have a space where children and adults could take part in workshops, watch plays or hear poetry. It would need lots of money though.