English-language theater in Paris thrives with new shows

by Sean Hillen

Appearing with a flourish on stage in a black and white striped shirt and a red beret, a shopping cart and bag in hand, actress Julie Collas hurls herself energetically into a fast-moving, humor-filled show that races from one simulated Parisian scene to another with valuable social advice for foreigners visiting the City of Light.

Hosted at the intimate Théâtre Bo Saint-Martin, this one-woman, English-language show, entitled “Oh My God She’s Parisian,’ is one of the performances for which tickets can be purchased through ‘Theatre in Paris,’ a group that organizes diverse English-language theater outings.

Oh my god she's a parisian, theater in paris

Such subjects as dog poo on the streets (which Collas says leads to what she calls the ‘dog-shit syndrome’), nuisance pigeons, the challenge of finding street parking, dealing with haughty Parisian waiters and traveling on the subway, all create the raw ingredients for amusing on-stage re-enactments.

Throughout the one-hour show, Collas plays a host of colorful characters, including French President Emmanuel Macron himself – in a rather indiscreet embrace. Her ‘slow-motion’ scene linked to parents and schoolchildren is a hilarious parody of French people in an everyday situation.

Julie Collas shows, what to see in Paris, theater in paris

Interestingly, Collas, a born-and-bred Parisian who spent some years in the US, is not formally trained as an actress. Standing outside the theater after one of her shows, she told me, “I was a lawyer but found it rather boring so decided on a career change. I’d never been on a stage before but friends and family had always said I’d be a natural, so I decided to take the plunge and do it, and here we are, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience.”

Théâtre Bo St Martin was created by two television professionals who wanted to start their own live show and is now a place to discover new comedians in the city’s theatre scene.

Another comedy performance, with English-language sub-titles, also offered by ‘Theatre in Paris,’ is the farce, ‘The Art of Breaking Up,’ set in the glamorous 1950s, the height of the Parisian cabarets. It focuses on the clumsy efforts of a man to break-up with his mistress, a nightclub singer, on the very day he’s marrying a wealthy French heiress.

Written by French playwright Georges Feydeau more than a century ago (1894), the play – which was transformed into a movie – revolves around a web of white lies told by main character, caddish lothario Fernand de Bois D’Enghein, that lead to comical situations including being challenged to a duel by a lovelorn Spanish general and being locked outside his own apartment in his underwear.

With a simple set and innovative use of a video backdrop, the play’s overall merriment in the circles of Parisian high society is enhanced by a furious flurry of entrances, exits and mistaken identities.

Classified as a historical monument, Théâtre Montparnasse, hosting this play, was designed and constructed at the end of the nineteenth century by an architect who was also involved in the Statue of Liberty project. It is now under the guidance of Comédie Française member Myriam Feune de Colombi who has added a restaurant and second smaller theater to the venue.

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