Murder, pantomime and farce in Montaigu de Quercy

Visitors often ask me what I do all day now that I have retired here. I used to say “Oh, you know, a bit of this and a bit of that. I do some bricolage (which sounds so much more fun than DIY) and of course our social life is quite full”. To be honest it sounded a bit lazy to admit how easy it is to fill the day doing absolutely nothing.

It was during one leisurely morning coffee session when my wife and I were sitting in the sun outside the Café du Centre in Montcuq, that a passing friend asked if we would be interested in joining an acting group and helping out in their forthcoming pantomime. We didn’t want to be rude so we let her explain that the group consisted mostly of people of our age and that they were going to put on ‘Cinderella’ at the end of January. Sounds more Cinder-wrinkly than Cinderella, I thought. I never liked learning endless lines of poetry at school and never vied for a part in the school play.

Our friend must have been very persuasive though because we found ourselves agreeing to go along and see what it was all about. Had this happened before we came to France neither of us would have given the idea a second thought. We would have turned it down flat. “Am Dram” was a no-no.

But two weeks later there we were joining a group of variously talented individuals starting rehearsals in October for the production which would take place at the end of January – two evening performances and a matinee. We were fully-fledged members of La Troupe d’Acteurs de Quercy, based in Montaigu de Quercy. We were Robin Hood (yes, in Cinderella) and Queen Rat (Rattie to her friends, to this day).

I can’t recall too much of what I had expected but I can say now, after almost three years that it turned out to have been a happy coincidence that we met our friend that day. Since then we have been involved in three pantomimes and a couple of plays. I have even written one of them.

When La Troupe was first formed the founding members were very clear about what they wanted to achieve. The guiding principles decided then still apply. We aim to enjoy ourselves while providing value for money entertainment. In addition we try to involve French people and to create as much of our own material as possible.

Our audience is very loyal and seems to be growing. We had encouraging responses from a questionnaire recently and feedback after the shows tells us that La Troupe is well liked and seems to be a part of life in this area of South West France. They are very complimentary about the stage sets and costumes.

We are lucky to have a wealth of talent among our members and of course many are retired and able to give their time very freely. Not surprisingly, several have acted before in similar productions when they lived in the UK. Some even have a professional background in music, set design and BBC TV productions. Others bring their various skills to each show and above all everyone brings their enthusiasm.

Our most recent pantomime – La Belle au Bois Dormant/The Sleeping Beauty – gave us the opportunity to include more French dialogue than previously. In true panto style a line delivered in one language can be clarified in the other language by adding ‘You don’t mean —-’ so easy! Occasionally we perform a published play such as our latest production ‘Out of Focus’, but generally we try to use our own scripts and songs. In September we will be performing our fourth Murder Mystery play where the audience enjoy a meal before the performance and compete for a prize in identifying the murderer at the end of the evening. La Troupe is planning its first musical in the spring of 2006.

For my wife and I the group has been more than an opportunity to show off on stage. (Perhaps I get a thrill from being stopped in the street by a virtual stranger and complimented on how my legs look in green tights.) But for both of us it is the social aspect of each production which cannot be underestimated – there has to be some benefit to be had from attending twice weekly rehearsals in a freezing cold hall in January. We have made many new friends whose company we expect to enjoy for many years whether we are members of La Troupe or not. And who could ask more than that?

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