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France's theatre scene heads underground

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The theatre will literally be performed underground. Photo: Festival de Caves
13:13 CEST+02:00
From next month and to late June, France will be hosting a festival that is literally "underground": a series of stage shows where private cellars become confidential theatres.
The Festival des Caves, as it is called ("cave" is French for cellar), will pop up -- or is that down? -- in 75 towns and villages across the country in a decade-old tradition sponsored by a growing number of municipalities.
   
Nearly 300 shows will be put on during the May 1-June 26 festival, with each evening being particularly intimate. Because of safety rules, a maximum of only 19 audience members at a time can watch.
   
"The public is really into it. There isn't a single mobile phone that rings," the festival's founder, Guillaume Dujardin, told a news conference on Wednesday.
   
"Mayors from the smallest villages are inviting us in, and some of them never go to the theatre," he added.
   
Last year attracted 4,465 people to some 240 shows. Each person, who signed up beforehand, was called on the eve of the play and told where to go. Ticket prices are 10 or 12 euros ($11 or $13).
   
Many private hosts have returned to lend their underground spaces to the initiative. Others are recruited through a curious-sounding local newspaper ad saying "festival seeks cellar for theatre play".
   
Georges, who owns a concrete cellar/garage in the north of Paris, said he was "impressed by the professionalism and inventiveness of the shows I
hosted". He even offers drinks after the show in his small garden.

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The line-up of plays is eclectic, though organisers said many dug deep into the subject of identity.
   
Some, naturally, are about figures imprisoned in small, windowless spaces -- including one about the famous Marquis de Sade to be put on under the Cheateau de Vincennes in the east of Paris, where the sex-obsessed aristocrat was locked up between 1777 and 1784.

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