My daughters and I have been involved in West Side story since the very first production in 2014. I say we, as A acts and sings, I help with costumes and my eldest daughter has helped with make-up and on this production she sung as well. So, it is very much a family affair for us.
DIY has been particularly special for my family. I lost my husband in October 2013 and DIY has offered us an incredibly creative, inclusive and safe space and we support it and love it.
Our ‘European tour’ with West Side Story begun last year when we travelled to Bonn and had a superb time. This production was part of the celebrations of the 70 years of the Oxford-Bonn twinning. When the opportunity to go to Grenoble came up we did not need much convincing.
Our week in Grenoble was sensational. We were blessed with good weather. The city was lovely, the host families very hospitable and the DIY crew sensational as usual. This time, unlike in Bonn, we performed in 2 different locations, which meant transporting and setting up all the stage props, sound system and lights twice, which was quite an undertaking. Our first night was in a theatre in the centre of town called La Salle Canope. The space on the stage was much smaller than what we expected so the cast had to adapt their performance to fit the new location.
The following morning we worked hard to set the stage and all the necessary equipment for the two Saturday performances. The second and third performances were at the Centre Oecumenique in Malherbe. Both performances were sold out.
This production of West Side Story offered a moving score with tunes such as ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, and the heart wrenching ‘Somewhere’ but also joyful interpretation as in ‘America’ and ‘I feel pretty’. The acting and singing was remarkable and I found myself reaching for the handkerchief more than once and so did many in the audience.
All this was possible because of the close connection that Oxford and Grenoble have through their twinning and the tireless work of the Oxford Grenoble Association chair, Mel Houldershaw, who has built a strong network of friends with the Grenoble choir.
Written by a parent of the DIY cast. DIY Theatre took their production of West Side Story to Bonn in August 2017, and to Grenoble in April 2018, as part of the twinning connection between Oxford and these cities. Their visits were supported by the Oxford Grenoble Association and Oxford International Links.