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‘Under the Mango Tree’ – Background for Montserrat Reporter

School-Play-St-Patrick-Week-(21)Under the Mango Tree was performed by children on March 16, 2013 as part of the St. Patrick’s week of celebrations. The show was staged late afternoon in a double header at the old Salem primary school and has been talked about ever since.

Sian Wynne provides below a run-down of the organisers and the show highlighting the children as the stars.

In January of this year Alys Jenkins and Rebecca Chalmers decided to combine their skills in both drama and music to work with a group of the island’s children ages 7 – 11. During the eight weeks of workshops they created a 45 minute musical play featuring both original music composed by the group and adaptations of existing recognisable local music. Workshops were held at the Hilltop Coffee House and Family Centre on Saturday afternoons and were attended by 30 children.

After eight weeks of workshops and rehearsals, the final production was performed at the old Salem School on Saturday 16th March as part of the St Patrick’s week of celebrations.  The play was originally scheduled for one performance on Tuesday 12th at 7pm, but when it was realised that this was the Look Out Sports Day, due to finish at 6pm on the same day, the producers knew it would be too much to expect the children to perform after a day of sports.  They also acknowledged that just one show with only 100 seats available would not fulfil demand.  As a result of these two factors, the decision was made to move the show to Saturday afternoon, with two performances.

On the day, the first show had few available seats left and the second show was sold out!  Due to other events on the same day, many people were unable to attend, but since the shows were such a success, word of mouth is now requesting a further performance, which may or may not be possible.

The stage at the Salem School was transformed by Peter & Sian Filleul into a real theatrical space, using stage, lighting and sound equipment loaned from the Cultural Centre and curtains from individuals, tied with string on to bamboo poles!  The set decoration was made using palm leaves and other vegetation from various sources, pieces of string, staples and sellotape.  Costumes were either made on the spot with safety pins or provided by various sources.  It is amazing what a bit of imagination and a lot of commitment can produce.

Whilst it is possible to put on a show like this for little money with so many volunteers offering help with transport, set design, stage and wings construction, the reality is that it takes many hours of hard work – by the children and their parents, the producers and volunteers.  It is not money that prevents productions like this, but commitment, vison, ideas and manpower.  The producers say that all the hard work and hours were worth it when they saw the end result – the joy of the cast and the real appreciation of the audience, including a standing ovation!  Many members of the audience said it was one of the best, original, pieces of children’s theatre they had seen anywhere in the world – the humour came through, the acting, the stage presence and of course, the singing and dancing.School-Play-St-Patrick-Week-(22)

The basic story told in the play was that of two children exploring the island, discovering the story of the Mermaid of Chance’s Peak and that of the King of Redonda.  They travel back in time determined to find the Mermaid of Chances Peak and prove she is real to those who see her as just a fairy tale. Along their journey they meet the Arawaks, Christopher Columbus, African slaves and an Irish girl called Erin (from Montserrat’s Flag!). The do indeed find the Mermaid as well as the Orioles and the fabulous King of Redonda (self prossed King and calypso star!) the story then culminates at Festival 50 where the children see all of the people they have meet along the way.

Throughout the story there are many references that only those on island and familiar with Montserrat would understand:  the repeated digging up of roads, the unreliable ferry, local venues and events, ZJB announcements, radio jingles and even a reference to one of the popular Calypso songs from Festival 50.

The production was very ambitious and right until the final run-through, the producers were not overly confident, but once the first show started, with a real audience and a packed auditorium, the cast simply shone and rose to the occasion.

The children were the stars, the grown-ups were just the facilitators.

Let’s hope this can be the start of many dramatic productions for the children of the island.

It is hoped that a video recording of the play will be made available in the near future for those who missed it, or for those who loved it and want to see it again.

Alys Jenkins is from the UK, in Montserrat with her husband, Matthew, who is on a contract with the Government of Montserrat, and their 3 children.  She has  nearly 20 years experience making theatre with and for children and young people. 

Rebecca Chalmers has been funded by the Montserrat Foundation in the UK to work in Montserrat for one academic year to teach music of all genres to the children of the island.  She is an accomplished musician (flautist & pianist) and a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, UK – which is also where Sir George Martin received his formal music education.

See pics on our facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151378837365852.1073741833.203080105851&type=3

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School-Play-St-Patrick-Week-(21)Under the Mango Tree was performed by children on March 16, 2013 as part of the St. Patrick’s week of celebrations. The show was staged late afternoon in a double header at the old Salem primary school and has been talked about ever since.

Sian Wynne provides below a run-down of the organisers and the show highlighting the children as the stars.

In January of this year Alys Jenkins and Rebecca Chalmers decided to combine their skills in both drama and music to work with a group of the island’s children ages 7 – 11. During the eight weeks of workshops they created a 45 minute musical play featuring both original music composed by the group and adaptations of existing recognisable local music. Workshops were held at the Hilltop Coffee House and Family Centre on Saturday afternoons and were attended by 30 children.

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After eight weeks of workshops and rehearsals, the final production was performed at the old Salem School on Saturday 16th March as part of the St Patrick’s week of celebrations.  The play was originally scheduled for one performance on Tuesday 12th at 7pm, but when it was realised that this was the Look Out Sports Day, due to finish at 6pm on the same day, the producers knew it would be too much to expect the children to perform after a day of sports.  They also acknowledged that just one show with only 100 seats available would not fulfil demand.  As a result of these two factors, the decision was made to move the show to Saturday afternoon, with two performances.

On the day, the first show had few available seats left and the second show was sold out!  Due to other events on the same day, many people were unable to attend, but since the shows were such a success, word of mouth is now requesting a further performance, which may or may not be possible.

The stage at the Salem School was transformed by Peter & Sian Filleul into a real theatrical space, using stage, lighting and sound equipment loaned from the Cultural Centre and curtains from individuals, tied with string on to bamboo poles!  The set decoration was made using palm leaves and other vegetation from various sources, pieces of string, staples and sellotape.  Costumes were either made on the spot with safety pins or provided by various sources.  It is amazing what a bit of imagination and a lot of commitment can produce.

Whilst it is possible to put on a show like this for little money with so many volunteers offering help with transport, set design, stage and wings construction, the reality is that it takes many hours of hard work – by the children and their parents, the producers and volunteers.  It is not money that prevents productions like this, but commitment, vison, ideas and manpower.  The producers say that all the hard work and hours were worth it when they saw the end result – the joy of the cast and the real appreciation of the audience, including a standing ovation!  Many members of the audience said it was one of the best, original, pieces of children’s theatre they had seen anywhere in the world – the humour came through, the acting, the stage presence and of course, the singing and dancing.School-Play-St-Patrick-Week-(22)

The basic story told in the play was that of two children exploring the island, discovering the story of the Mermaid of Chance’s Peak and that of the King of Redonda.  They travel back in time determined to find the Mermaid of Chances Peak and prove she is real to those who see her as just a fairy tale. Along their journey they meet the Arawaks, Christopher Columbus, African slaves and an Irish girl called Erin (from Montserrat’s Flag!). The do indeed find the Mermaid as well as the Orioles and the fabulous King of Redonda (self prossed King and calypso star!) the story then culminates at Festival 50 where the children see all of the people they have meet along the way.

Throughout the story there are many references that only those on island and familiar with Montserrat would understand:  the repeated digging up of roads, the unreliable ferry, local venues and events, ZJB announcements, radio jingles and even a reference to one of the popular Calypso songs from Festival 50.

The production was very ambitious and right until the final run-through, the producers were not overly confident, but once the first show started, with a real audience and a packed auditorium, the cast simply shone and rose to the occasion.

The children were the stars, the grown-ups were just the facilitators.

Let’s hope this can be the start of many dramatic productions for the children of the island.

It is hoped that a video recording of the play will be made available in the near future for those who missed it, or for those who loved it and want to see it again.

Alys Jenkins is from the UK, in Montserrat with her husband, Matthew, who is on a contract with the Government of Montserrat, and their 3 children.  She has  nearly 20 years experience making theatre with and for children and young people. 

Rebecca Chalmers has been funded by the Montserrat Foundation in the UK to work in Montserrat for one academic year to teach music of all genres to the children of the island.  She is an accomplished musician (flautist & pianist) and a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, UK – which is also where Sir George Martin received his formal music education.

See pics on our facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151378837365852.1073741833.203080105851&type=3