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'Paris needs a home for English-language theatre'

Oliver Gee · 26 Feb 2015, 15:45

Published: 26 Feb 2015 15:45 GMT+01:00

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Starting on Friday, fans of English-language theatre are in for a treat as the folks from UK-based company Bred in the Bone put on "Dreams Before Dawn - A Festival of British Theatre" in Paris. 
It will mark the first time the troupe performs the shows in Paris, with the Artistic Director Matthieu Bellon promising a "new generation" of theatre - including fresh takes on classics like Orpheus and Beowulf.
"This is the sort of thing you'd see at a very good fringe festival, a new generation of actors fresh from the best drama schools. A lot of writing from young people. And it's very much in English - it's our attempt to bring English theatre to French audiences," he told The Local.
The Parisian has spent the past 15 to 20 years working across the UK and in Europe, and says it's time for the French to appreciate what English theatre has to offer - even though it's of a different breed to what's available in France. 

(Scenes from one of the shows. Photo: Bred in the Bone)
"There's a certain fear among the French that they won't be able to appreciate theatre in English. In fact, the French are quite closed to anything that's not in French. But they're curious. They want to know what's going on across the channel. Even though sometimes it feels more like an ocean than a channel."
If all goes well with the show, Bellon hopes that within a few years it could result in a permanent fixture - in English - on the French theatre scene. 
English-speaking theatre-lovers have little choice in Paris besides the French shows featuring English surtitles, a concept The Local featured in its "Les entrepreneurs" series last week. 
Rose Romain, a British theatre producer in Paris, is another one who's calling for a permanent venue for English-language theatre. 

(Scenes from one of the shows. Photo: Bred in the Bone)
She queries why a city like Paris, which has the third biggest theatre scene in the world after New York and London, can't have permanent English language offerings like they have in Vienna and Frankfurt.
"The English-theatre scene in Paris has an almost elite feel to it. There's no venue exploring younger people's voices like you'd find on the fringe scene in London. It means there's a whole generation of theatre that's slightly dying," she tells The Local.  
"I feel like not enough people are creating the kind of work that brings in a younger generation of audience... the work I've seen here is often things like Shakespeare - the classics - not new work from edgy writers. And it's a shame, it's not bringing up the standard."
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And she thinks the French audience could just lap it up too.
"People who've been here longer than me tell me that the French people only want to see the old texts, but I don't know if they've been given the opportunity to enjoy it on a different level," she says.
"To be honest, I think it's exciting that we're even having a conversation about it. A lot of people think it wouldn't work, but you never know. When a conversation starts bubbling, then there can be a future for English theatre in Paris."
"Dreams Before Dawn" will run at the Theatre de Menimontant, in the 20th arrondissment, from Friday February 27th to Sunday March 1st. Tickets are available here.
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