We spent five out of the eight evenings of our Parisian vacation at the theater. Paris is of course a city of great tradition on this respect, with tens of options every evening and the problem for the occasional visitor is to find the good performances and then to find tickets. We tried to see plays both in larger and smaller theaters, and mix commercial with more experimental shows, drama and comedy. One common trait that I can identify from start – all five performances were extremely well acted. It may be chance or it may be a trend or a school of theater issue, but acting seems to be on the focus of French theater and to a large extent all the performances we saw relied on fine acting.


The first performance was an experience at one of the established comedy theaters on Champs Elysees. La Comedie des Champs Elysees is located at 15 avenue Montaigne and is directed since 1994 by Bucharest-born director Michel Fagadau. The theater itself will celebrate its centenary in 2013 and the hall is quite impressing if you survive the climbing of the three levels.


(video source TeleramaVidcast)


The performance was of Jean Anhouil’s last play Le Nombril (The Umbilicus) – the story of an egocentric aging writer who is assaulted by all his family and by his friends who try to use his money and influence. It was a nice and well paced comedy performance with a great comedian named Francis Perrin in the main role. Michel Fagadau was the director.


The second evening led us to a very different kind of experience, although at best quality as well. Espace Marais is one of the several theaters in Paris who continue the tradition and the name of the commediens du roi at the Theatre du Marais founded in 1634. Located at the extremity of the Marais district close to Place de la Bastille, the 80 seats hall hosts nowadays two companies with impressing repertories.  It’s a small theater, the director is also selling tickets and there were no more than 15 people in the small theater, but it was again a good performance.


The company of Sissia Buggy was in charge with the performance that evening, and they played with respect and sensitivity an adaptation of the novella The Chess Player by Stefan Zweig – a study in sanity and madness under a repressive regime.


The next theater event was exaggerated by our friends in Paris. Despite living a couple of kilometers from Le Theatre de la Huchette they had never seen the legendary performances of Ionesco’s plays, on the repertory for more than 50 years. To our surprise the theater was full to the last seat, with the combination of tourists (it is located in the heart of the Cartier Latin) and the high-school students (for which Ionesco is a subject in the French literature program) making most if not all the audience.


(video source cap24paris)

La Cantatrice Chauve which we saw that evening keeps the original direction of Nicolas Bataille. 17000 performances were acted since the 50s, generations of actors took over and passed the torch to other generations and Ionesco’s line still sound as absurd, as comical, as fresh and sharp as at the night of the premiere.


Our next theater experience in Paris took place at the theater that inherited the Theatre de Marais name on rue Volta.

source http://www.theatre-du-marais.com/theatre-du-marais-programmation--FRANCAIS,m,210


Russian authors seem to be one of the preferences of this troupe and the performance of the evening was an adaptation after Anton Tchekhov’s stories titled Sourpriz Kakoi! Director Delphine Piard understood well the mix of sarcasm and tenderness of Tchekhov towards his characters and what resulted was an excellent comedy evening. Acting was against perfect with a young actress named Sophie Staub shining even more than her two colleagues.


We did not have any booking for the last evening, so we decided at the last moment to go to Le Theatre du Splendid located on rue Faubourg Saint Martin, an area that looks more like a banlieu although it is not that remotely located from the center of Paris.


(video source camilleazzoug)

The play we saw that night was Mission Florimont, kind of  Monty Pyton medieval comedy a la francaise – taken over at this more peripheral theater from a successful run at Theatre Tristan Bernard. It was probably the one performance we could have given up, yet the theater was full on a Friday evening and the attendance (many of them young) was enjoying the show and the genre, so we ended by entering the atmosphere having a good time as well.