Books of the Month author Rosanna Ley writes about her favourite theatres and why she chose to set her book The Little Theatre by the Sea in sunny Sardinia.
I’ve always loved the atmosphere in theatres. One of my favourites is the Theatre Royal in Brighton which is over two hundred years old and was built for the then Prince Regent (later King George IV). I first visited the Theatre Royal as a child and it had a profound effect on me – which is why I gave Faye in Little Theatre by the Sea this same memory…
I‘d also like to visit the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, though I haven’t got there yet. Open-air theatre is wonderful because it takes on the atmosphere of the light and landscape too (unfortunately in the case of the UK it will take on the weather as well!).
I studied drama at college many moons ago but chose to write about a theatre this time because I wanted to explore ‘transformation’ and ‘unmasking’ and how people are not always what they pretend to be. In this case the theatre was symbolic of this concept for me.
But where should my theatre be located? I love Italy and have visited many times. And there are some very special theatres – such as the Colosseum in Rome. My favourite Italian theatre though is an ancient amphitheatre I visited in Sicily when researching for The Villa. It was a magical experience just standing there and imagining all that history – so I decided to make it special by having my character Tonino spontaneously sing an aria in it!
When I first went to Sardinia I fell in love with the landscape. It seemed relatively unspoilt – at least on the west coast – and has so much to offer. I liked the fact that you could literally discover ‘secret beaches’, which no one seemed to know about. It was the perfect setting for Little Theatre by the Sea – which is a novel about secrets. As for Sardinian theatres, there are plenty to choose from, including the Roman amphitheatre at Nora on the south coast of the island.
We travelled around Sardinia in our motorhome to explore and research and I discovered the charming town of Bosa, which became my town of Deriu in The Little Theatre by the Sea. It’s near a beach, it has a fascinating history – it was my kind of place. And it didn’t have a theatre… Which sounds contradictory, but it would have been tricky to write about an existing theatre – it had to be one which I had made up and therefore could own!