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Paris: Theatre for all
You don't need to speak French
If you speak, or rather, can understand French reasonably fluently, Paris has, as one might expect, a varied and vibrant Theatre landscape.
But if you're not fluent, are there any nights at the theatre in Paris for you?
Surprisingly, there are performances in English available, although they tend to be of familiar favourites like Shakespeare and Pinter. English director Peter Brook (previously of the Royal Shakespeare Company etc.) has an experimental theatre company at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, but it is closed for the summer for repairs, opening on September 1st, 2006. He often puts on English performances.
It's the great experience that counts
But some plays and shows can be great experiences even when you don't know the language, and with some of the classics why not read a translation or plot summary before you go? Molière's marvellous satirical comedies are great candidates for this approach, and of course many of the theatre buildings are an experience in themselves!
Special theatre events also take place during the Festival d’Automne, so if you're in Paris at that time be sure to check out what's available.
Here are a few ideas:
The Comédie Française dates back to 1680 and is France’s oldest and most important national theatre, specializing in classical French plays by Corneille, Racine, Molière, and similar legends of French literature. Their productions in period costume are sensational and not to be missed, especially if you remember the plays from school!
The company of actors is the oldest in the western world. It also dates back to 1680, when it grew out of the merging of Molière's company of actors, which performed at the Hôtel de Guénégaud, and the company that performed at the Hôtel de Bourgogne.
You can now reserve seats on the internet from 2 months prior to 15 days before the performance.After that, you can either reserve seats in person or by telephone, or turn up an hour before curtain and wait in line for cancellations.
When you go, look for Moliere's chair, he died in it during his fourth perfomance of Le Malade Imaginaire (Imaginary Invalid) and it's displayed in a glass case in the galleries at the Salle Richelieu. What an artist, ironic to the last!
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
Peter Brook’s experimental theatre, often in English. Closed for the summer but opening on September 1st, 2006 for the new season. In the past, he's done amazing stagings and spectacular lighting, worth going just to see what he does next...
Théâtre de la Huchette
The Théâtre de la Huchette may be small (it only holds 90) but it's a highlight for Ionesco admirers. Nicolas Bataille’s production of Ionesco’s la Cantatrice chauve (The Bald Primadonna) and la Leçon(The Lesson) are performed every night, as well as other works by Ionesco. Shown here together for the first time in 1957, and on every night since, in May 2000 the Théâtre de la Huchette was awarded an Honorary Molière for having continuously played la Cantatrice chauve for 50, and la Leçon for 48 years!
While the main theatre on the Boulevard des Batignolles features popular boulevard comedies, the Petit Hébertot, its smaller and separate stage in a tiny street behind the big theatre, often puts on English productions. Opened in October 2003, and with just 102 seats, the Petit Hébertot one of the few Paris theatres which puts on shows in English as well as French. Tickets are sold at the building one hour before the show.
Théâtre National de Chaillot
Atmospheric 1930s theatre at the Trocadéro running interesting plays and dance performances, and even opera. Worth checking out.
MC93 Bobigny, in a suburb northeast of Paris, often stages English and American productions.
On from 1 May to 1 October. Hidden within the tree-lined Pré Catelan in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne is a real treasure: the Jardin Shakespeare, or Shakespeare Gardens. Every spring it is transformed into an open-air theatre, with lush green lawns for spectators to sit on.
Buying your ticket
The music and theatre season in Paris runs from September to June; in summer, most productions move to various festivals around the country and abroad, although there are still things to see in the capital.
If you want to be sure of tickets, you have to buy them well in advance because shows often sell out. Your best bet is to go directly to the actual venue to purchase tickets, or you can try the FNAC bookstore or the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysées.
Half-price tickets for many same-day theatre performances are available from the Kiosques Théâtre's locations:
You have to pay a €2.44 commission per ticket and stand in line - and the line can be long, so plan accordingly!
You can also get half-price tickets in many private theatres during the first week of each new show (when everyone else is waiting for reviews!).