Home > Personal Posts, Theatre > A season at the theatre : 2021/2022

A season at the theatre : 2021/2022

I had planned to write this billet in June and well, life happened, I didn’t have time for it.

Now that the new theatre season starts, I still want to have a wrap-up billet about the 2021/2022 one. I have a subscription at one of the theatres in Lyon. I’ve seen the plays I’ve picked when I booked my subscription and a few others in Paris.

Théâtre des Célestins. (from grainsdesel.com)

Theatre is still a living art in France, even if theatres struggle to find their public again after the COVID crisis. I don’t know exactly how many theatres there are in the Lyon metropolis (1.7 million inhabitants) but it’s more than forty, according to the Yellow Pages. A lot of theatres receive public funding to keep culture affordable. In France, included in Paris, you can see a play for 30-35 euros, just to give you an idea. After this “fun facts” interlude, the plays!

September: Skylight by David Hare, translated by Dominique Hollier and directed by Claudia Stavisky

The season opened by Skylight by David Hare, a British playwright. Kyra lives in a poor neighborhood in London. She’s a teacher at a local school and barely makes ends meet. Her former lover, a rich self-made man comes to visit her. Their love wasn’t enough to keep them together when their definitions of a purposeful and well-lived life differ so much.

A very powerful direction with exceptional actors. My billet is here.

September: The Island of Slaves by Marivaux, directed by Didier Long

This is a classic play written by Pierre de Marivaux in 1725. After a shipwreck, noblemen and their servants arrive on an island where masters and servants switch their places, so that masters experience how it feels to be a servant.

This play is often on the syllabus of French classes in middle-school. My billet is here.

October: The Earth Rebels by Guillaume Clayssen, Sara Llorca and Omar Youssef Souleimane, directed by Sara Llorca.

It’s a contemporary play, the child of a meeting between Sara Llorca and the Syrian poet Omar Youssef Souleimane. I don’t remember much about this play as I didn’t like it. Sorry. It’s bound to happen when you have a subscription.

October: Love written and directed by Alexander Zaldin.

This play was broadcasted in English and we weren’t light on our feet when we left the theatre. It’s set in a British shelter run by the social services. People have private rooms but share the kitchen.

They are waiting for permanent council flats and are ill, old or unemployed. A very poignant play about poor people who don’t have a voice and are sometimes accused of being responsible for their poverty. Bleak but necessary. Billet available here.

November: Heaven in Nantes written and directed by Christophe Honoré.

You may know Christophe Honoré as a film director. Le ciel de Nantes is his first play and it’s based on his family’s life. I loved it.

The text is powerful and the direction original. The setting was an old movie theatre where Christophe (Honoré), now a filmmaker, reunites his family to talk about their past. The grandfather was a drunkard and violence tainted the relationships of his children and made his wife’s life a living hell. The family’s hard story unfolds under our eyes. It’s fun, sad, violent and unique and universal as it makes references to France in the last decades.

All the actors were excellent and rang true. The public was immersed in their life stories, singular and at the same time common with French people of Christophe’s age.

To readers who live in France: if this play comes to your theatre, go and see it.

November: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, directed by Arnaud Denis and translated by Pierre Arcan.

It was a wonderful time at the theatre. Wilde’s play is funny in itself but the direction and the actors were perfect. This is a play for theatre newbies. It’s got rhythm, great costumes, excellent acting and simply makes you happy. My billet is available here. It’s is on at the Théâtre Hébertot in Paris.

December: Fracasse based upon the novel by Théophile Gautier and directed by J-C Hembert.

Le Capitaine Fracasse is a novel I never finished because I found Gautier’s prose heavy. Even Proust says it in Days of Reading.

Made into a play, Le Capitaine Fracasse comes alive and sheds the complicated words nobody uses anymore to keep the fun of the plot. We had a wonderful time and it’s also one to see with teenagers.

December: I Have Doubts by François Morel

François Morel is a French actor and columnist who write thoughtful and poetic billets. Here, he made a show out of texts by the late humorist Raymond Devos.

Devos had the knack to write timeless and poetic sketches where he plays on words and points out daily absurdities. It’s delightful but not easy to say and François Morel is up to the challenge.

February: Gulliver’s Travels based upon Swift, directed Christian Hecq and Valérie Lesort

This was such a pleasure to watch.

I have never read the original by Swift but this adaptation into a play was playful and imaginative. The play was centered around the travel to Lilliput. The Lilliputians were played by actors who had their hands playing their feet.

Look at the costumes! We exited the theatre with a big grin on our faces and the urge to recommend this play to everyone. Another great play for children and teenager to show them that plays are not boring. We have to pass our love of theatre to the younger generation.

March: Eve of Retirement by Thomas Bernhard

A horrifying play by Thomas Berhnard about an ex(?)-Nazi officer who bullies his sisters and enjoys celebrating Himmler’s birthday. A terrifying moment based on the true story of man who concealed his past in the SS and spent a quiet life somewhere in Germany. We got out of the theatre feeling terrible and I wrote a billet about this play here.

April: An I and Silence by Naomi Wallace, translated by Dominique Hollier and directed by René Loyon.

I expected better out of this play. We’re in the USA in the 1950s, Jamie and Dee meet in prison. Jamie is white and Deet is black. They decide to stick together when they go out. The play is about their attempt at living a “normal” life after imprisonment and the difficulties they meet due to their social and/or the color of their skin.

Something was off in this play, even if the text was good. It wasn’t my favorite one.

April: I Live Here written and directed by Jean-Michel Ribes.

Jean-Michel Ribes is an excellent playwright. I Live Here features an apartment complex and twelve characters, including the famous French concierge. They meet briefly as they go in and out of the building. It’s not a brand-new concept but it still makes a great play.

April : The Wild Imaginings of a Man Suddenly Touched by Grace by Edouard Baer, directed by Edouard Baer and Isabelle Nanty.

The original French title of this play is Les élucubrations d’un homme touché par la grâce. Edouard Baer is a man of many talents.

In this play, he was alone on stage, playing an actor who escaped from the show he was supposed to do. And he talks about anything and everything, taking the public with him in the meanders of his mind. He ends up quoting his favorite writers and since Romain Gary is among them, I was conquered.

A lovely, erudite-but-not-too-much, poetic and fun evening.

May: The Bourgeois Gentleman by Molière, directed by Jérôme Deschamps

No need to introduce Molière or his Bourgeois Gentleman.

I’d already seen this play but not in its original form. It’s a comédie-ballet, a play intermingled with music, dance and singing. Lully composed the music and Pierre Beauchamp did the choreography.

This time, for the fourth centenary of Molière’s birth, the show was as imagined by Molière. An orchestra was there to play Lully’s music and dancers did the ballet interludes.

Jérôme Deschamps did a wonderful version of this comedy with quirky costumes. Excellent actors served Molière’s prose and it was a pleasure to see this comedy again.

June: Berlin, Berlin by Patrick Hautdecoeur and Gérald Sibleyras, directed by José Paul

Back to Paris and off to see a play which won a Molière, the Goncourt of theatre plays. Berlin, Berlin is set in East Berlin in the late 1980s.

Emma and Ludwig want to go and live in West Germany. They’ve heard that there are tunnels in the basement of a building in East Berlin. An old lady living there is in need of a nurse. Emma is hired to take care of her and soon discovers that the lady’s son is a high rank Stasi officer…It’s a wonderful comedy with lots of twists and turns and quiproquos. Very funny.

All in all, I had an excellent season and I hope the 2022/2023 one will be just as good. Stay tuned!

  1. October 2, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    What a wonderful range of plays, Emma – I salute you!

    Like

    • October 2, 2022 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks! More theatre to come! I hope I’ll have time to write about each play.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. October 2, 2022 at 3:24 pm

    So envious of your theatre-going… most if not all of your experiences seem to habe been very positive, fun or thought-provoking! As you know, I love theatre too but have not felt safe enough to go back as frequently as I used to (and I’m less frequently in London). I think I’ve only seen three plays and a ballet over the past year.

    Like

    • October 2, 2022 at 9:38 pm

      I was really in hurry to go back to the theatre.
      I’m happy with what I’ve seen because of the various genres.
      I hope you’ll be able to go back to the theatre more often, it’s such a pleasure!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. October 2, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Sounds like a really good set of plays and I hope you’re as lucky with the next season.
    Did you manage to read a Tokarczuk?

    Like

    • October 2, 2022 at 6:02 pm

      Really great year, much appreciated, especially after covid.
      I have a Tokarczuk on the October TBR. (Sur les ossements des morts)

      Like

      • October 2, 2022 at 9:41 pm

        ok, there’ll be a lecture commune this week but I look forward to your review!

        Like

        • October 2, 2022 at 9:44 pm

          Ok. I need to go back to your blog, I don’t remember the rules of the readalong.

          Like

          • October 2, 2022 at 9:53 pm

            There isn’t a rule – just a date and none of us has stuck to it! Two of us will publish on Tuesday, one more person by the end of this week, and then you can join when you’re ready?

            Like

            • October 2, 2022 at 9:57 pm

              Perfect, let’s do that.

              Like

  4. Susan Kavanagh
    October 2, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    What a great post! Quite an education on French theatre for an American.

    Like

    • October 2, 2022 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It always seems a bit self centered to write that kind of post but I wanted to keep a trace of what I’d seen.
      I’m already two plays into the 2022/2023 season!

      Like

  5. October 3, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    The Importance of Being Earnest is such a great introduction to live theatre. I’ve seen it a few times now, but my favourite production was an open air one by a local amateur dramatics company – I think it’s the type of play that can be done really well without too much difficulty. Lots of the others are completely new to me as a Brit, but it sounds like you’ve had a great time at the theatre.

    Like

    • October 4, 2022 at 6:02 am

      I totally agree with you about The Importance of Being Earnest.
      The plays Love and Skylight are both British and were successful in London, I think

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 3, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, thank you Emma. Theatre is one of my great loves but I’m not back to attending at anything like the frequency I was before the pandemic. I would like to go more and I’ll look into some performances – although I wish it was 30-35 euros here, that’s wonderful to hear.

    Like

    • October 4, 2022 at 6:07 am

      Theatres struggle and haven’t recovered from Covid. Like you their public isn’t fully back.

      Let’s hope we never cut public funding for culture. Put any extreme right party in power and I expect these to drop.

      Have you seen Skylight and Love, the two British plays of my list?

      Like

  7. October 5, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Sounds like a wonderful season, Emma! I haven’t been to the theatre for ages, not just because of Covid but also because I’ve spent so long living and travelling in countries where I don’t speak the language well enough to follow a play.

    I do love opera, though, and I find that with the music and the more obvious storylines, it doesn’t matter so much if I don’t understand all the dialogue. Plus it was wonderful visiting opera houses all over Europe, from Naples to Kyiv to Baku! Théâtre des Célestins looks like a beauty 🙂

    Like

  8. October 5, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Bourgeois Gentleman…such a funny play!
    Seems to be overshadowed on reading lists by Tartuffe and L’avare!
    Love reading about your theatre experiences!

    Like

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