English Story, French Theatre, & 1 American

  • 08, Jul 2015
  • Parisian theatre
  • Lauren Seitz

As a lover of all things theatrical, I was more than thrilled when I received tickets to see one of Paris' up-and-coming shows, 'Voyages avec ma Tante.' Originally based on the English book 'Travels with my Aunt' by Graham Greene and judging from the lack of empty seats when I arrived to the show, this translated adaptation, which has been playing since January 2015, is already a hit with the Parisians.

Despite anticipating being lost while attempting to find the theatre, Google Maps didn't steer me wrong and I arrived fairly early, only to join the queue of the other early arrivals. I felt a bit out of place, not only because my colleague and I were seemingly the only non-French people there, but also because most of the rest of the audience seemed to be at least 30 years older than us.

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The Théâtre La Pépinière is situated in a bustling area, about a three minute walk from the Opéra metro stop. From the outside, it would be easy to pass by without realizing the talent within the walls, save for the red neon sign that spells "THEATRE", but once inside, it's easier to get the feel of a real French venue. The show I went to was almost completely sold out, with my seat being one that folded out into the aisle once everyone else had taken their seats. 

"Comment allez-vous?" 
"Comment allez-vous?"
Without the grand gesture of a rising curtain, the play began, as each of the four actors came onto the stage, asking each other the same single question over and over: "How are you?" Perhaps this play wouldn't be so difficult to be understand after all...

Nope. 

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Despite getting the overall gist of the story that unfolded over the following hour and a half, I definitely could have used the help of English surtitles to better understand this play! The format of the show proved challenging for my French skills, as the four actors constantly changed between playing 20 different characters. And here's the craziest part: all four of them played the main character Henry. Talk about confusing! As they switched in and out of various accents, genders, and species (Yes, there were some animals involved) and gallivanted around the world, the scenery and props onstage remained unchanged, staying perfectly in sync with the simplicity of the theatre.
 

Though it took a lot of concentration on my part to understand what was happening onstage, I loved being able to laugh alongside the French who were sitting to my right. Theatre has a way of bringing people together, and as I watched the performance that night, I finally didn't feel like some American outsider: I was just a normal French theatre-goer.