Few travellers would argue Paris lacks enough attractions to create that uplifting joie de vivre feeling, with one stark exception for English-language speakers – its theater. There is a dire lack of such theater in the City of Light, even though most foreign visitors speak English. That is changing, however, thanks to the efforts of ‘Theatre in Paris,’ a company that provides English translation on a digital screen above stages.
Such is the case, for example, at the Edward the Seventh Theatre and its hosting of ‘A Farewell Dinner’ written by Alexandre de la Patelliere and Mattheu Delaporte, two French writers who have collaborated together for over 20 years including their original play, ‘Le Prenom’ and its movie adaptation which won two Cezar awards, and the award-winning and Oscar-nominated movie, “Renaissance.’
Directed by Bernard Murat who has been manager of the theatre since 2011, ‘A Farewell Dinner’ features three actors, two men and a woman – Lionel Abelanski, Guillaume De Tonquedec and Lysiane Meis. It is a light-hearted romp focusing on a dinner party organised specifically to cut off a a long-running friendship that has gone stale, with the action taking place in a living-room of the house and the hosts’ intentions meeting some unforeseen difficulties.
Not only does ‘Theatre in Paris’ provide fine translation, it also publishes a full-color programme about the play, its background and that of the actors, and even of the theatre itself. In addition, guests gather 30 minutes before the play starts in a side room where company representative, Ellen Woods, hosts a short, informative talk on what they are about to see as well as well-known actors, directors and plays that have been hosted at the theatre, including Orson Welles. Seats chosen by the company for their guests offered were comfortable central ones on the upper balcony with clear views of the translation screen.
Overall response to the evening from some American visitors was positive.
Sandra Katz, a retired doctor from Kansas City who spends three months every year in Paris, said, “Thanks to English subtitles, non-French speakers are fortunate to have this excellent theater experience in Paris. What do you get when you mix human emotions, human relationships, French actors and English subtitles in a gorgeous early 20th century grand theater? An enjoyable, uplifting evening, the play leaving one with some questions about one’s own ‘farewell dinners.’ The actors, timing and set were superb.”
Added Diane, a former sports instructor and television hostess who lives in Tucson, Arizona, “For theater lovers who may feel a drought when they’re in Paris due to the language barrier, the Theatre Edouard VII will quench your thirst. ‘A Farewell Dinner’ raises the question many of us ask of our so-called friends or acquaintances. Are they worth the time we spend having dinner with them? Are they boring? Do we really enjoy their company or do we dread those dinner parties? This play takes this to the extreme of French humor, while at the same time dealing with universal human emotions.”
Carl de Poncins at ‘Theatre in Paris,’ said he is “delighted to be able to share some of the fine performances of French theatre with visitors to Paris and create an enjoyable overall experience.” His colleague, Christophe Plotard, said the company had provided its services to 15 theatres this year and has already hosted people of more than 50 nationalities.