The region’s leading theatres – TNN, Anthéa, TDG, and TFG – have radically different programmes in store this year, with their directors’ signature clearly legible on each one.
Curtain up for a new, exciting, and busy theatre season: Théâtre National de Nice, anthéa Antipolis Théâtre d’Antibes, Théâtre de Grasse, and Théâtre Francis Gag have presented their programmes, and they could not be more different. TNN plays the youth card with a side of hippie nostalgia, anthéa features big brand names, and lots of them, TDG is taking the show on the road, and Théâtre Francis Gag stays true to its Niçois roots as the original popular theatre in town – that is in essence this year’s flavour. And yet, a red thread runs runs through them all – a call to kindness and tolerance in a confusing world… a shared theme presented with humour and wit.
Théâtre National de Nice
Ever since Irina Brook got on board in 2014 to steer the TNN ship, the course has changed, and this reflects in its annual programme. Restrained the first year, more marked the second, a bold statement the third year. But in this fourth season under her command, it is clear: concessions are no longer an option, and the renewal of her mandate in May 2017 for another three years can only mean that things are now going the Irina Brook way for good. And her way is young, hip, way left of centre, and always poetic. “After three years of rehearsing, I am now ready to perform”, is her allegorical message. In Nice, the globetrotting Bohemian has found a place to call home, geographically and artistically – a first in her life.
The 2017 Brook programme is announced fashionably late, as every year now. Conforming to how things are generally done here just isn’t her style. And the playbill is testimony to that rebel spirit. It meanders from classical inspiration, mostly in the form of her beloved Shakespeare, to discoveries, foreign cultures, family-friendly shows, and on to now-established réveillons-nous and Shake Nice festivals.
The artistic smorgasbord Irina Brook serves is based on her idealistic agenda of changing the world one Monsanto-free bite at a time, cooked with thought-provoking exotic ingredients and a few theatrical main staples revisited, and she rounds it out with a twist of rocker chick flavour, and a splash of May of ‘68 sauce. All in all, a recipe for success. The “têtes grises” (the typical bourgeois theatre goer, usually older) that she lamented about upon her arrival, have since changed locales, making room for families with kids, for those who would not typically be seen anywhere near a theatre, and for die-hard Brook fans of her own generation coming up in the swinging ‘60s and the groovy ’70s. who recognize themselves in her and her anti-establishmentarian streak and wouldn’t mind following her to the Burning Man festival.
It is certainly a varied programme, with an emphasis on dance, and sadly we have to make do with only a few highlights. Reaching deep into the classics archives, we find the uber-talented Sam Chariéras in the highly demanding and sophisticated solo role of Maupassant’s Le Horla, an adaptation which he self-directs in collaboration with his father Paul Chariéras, one of France’s finest actors. A red circle date for sure.. Hôtel Feydeau is a round-up of five Feydeau plays in one, which should make for exceptional entertainment. In a second collaboration with the TNN, the Monte-Carlo Ballet presents LAC, based on Tchaikovky’s Swan Lake, and a scenography signé none other than the great Ernest Pignon Ernest. And an assortment of Everyone’s Favorite Bard’s writs is on tap during the fourth edition of the Shake Nice festival – Tim Crouch’s Moi Malvolio is a fresh take on Twelfth Night, and Guy Pierre Couleau’s widely acclaimed adaptation of Le Songe d’Une Nuit d’Ete (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Lots of armchair travel is also ahead, with a distinct theme of Southern European and Middle Eastern cultures, inviting patrons to go on a discovery tour of soulful gypsy guitars, breathtaking Armenian folklore, two plays from the Palestinian National Theatre’s impressive repertory, and two of famed Georgian theatre director and playwright’s Rezo Gabriadze’s poetic puppet plays. And festivals galore, of course, including two new ones this season: Génération Z beckons the youngest ones to discover the fascinating world of theatre through child- and teen-friendly workshops and events, and Les Utopies Culturelles: Mai 68/Mai 18 celebrate the 50th anniversary of the milestone year that would forever change social and cultural parameters.
Several shows directed by Irina Brook herself that already were a hit in previous seasons are on tap again, notably her signature play Peer Gynt and the incredibly popular Dom Juan et les Clowns with local company Miranda from Théâtre de la Cité. Tempête and Point d’Interrogation have also made it back on the playbill, performed by the young and talented TNN house company Les Eclaireurs. For the annual Irina Brook-directed opera she will be tackling Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and this time she is not taking off to a foreign stage but stays in town, mounting it at Opéra de Nice.
For the first time though, no (currently announced) visit by Peter Brook this season – pardonable at his advanced age of ninety-something, but he surely will be missed. But who knows, the TNN is always good for a last-minute surprise, and it’s a good idea to always keep an eye on its Facebook wall…
Ticket sales are now open; check the TNN website for further information about the process and tiered timing. For kids up to age 11, admission to all shows is only €8.
If you wonder where all those têtes grises from the TNN went… look no further. Here is where theatre is still made the way that pleases the Molière-loving crowd. But that’s absolutely not all there is! In his fifth season now, Daniel Benoin has turned the new complex into an artistic landmark with a reputation and quality that easily stands up to any leading Parisian theatre. And the headliners from national and international stages or movie sets keep flocking to Antibes. Benoin has a sixth sense for the perfect mix between popular and trendy, entertaining and thought-provoking, and this is reflected in the numbers: with over 12,000 season tickets sold and 120,000 visitors in the 2016/’17 season, anthéa is the most successful theatre in the Paca region. Yes, its programme is sensational, but much credit also goes to the astounding professionalism with which anthéa is operated, not least thanks to the incredibly competent and efficient general manager Vincent Brochier.
anthéa is first and foremost a theatre that creates and produces rather than presents, and this year is no exception. And what a lineup! Again, this can only be a tiny glimpse at a dense programme but it has to begin with Collectif 8, one of the most original and prolific contemporary companies in France, and specialists of a new paradigm: cinéâtre, fusing stage and videography. This November they treat us to an intriguing new creation, Marivaux’ L’Île des Esclaves, which examines the philosophical question if we are all born to live free and equal. Later in the season, take a trip back to the crime scene of the Double Assassinat dans la rue Morge, the Edgar Allen Poe classic. After reaping every accolade thinkable since its 2012 creation, the play has recently undergone a face lift and was one of the super hits at Avignon 2017 under its alias Marginalia.
The Riviera’s other gold standard company, Collectif La Machine, also creates an unmissable play: Dracula, taking a critical look at the cynical engine that makes traders and financiers go round. Again, a critical look at society and an appeal to do better through the medium of theatre.
Lots more theatrical jewels of course, some of them directed by Maestro Benoin himself, and an exuberant, eclectic mix of music, dance, and the performing arts… some of the best artists that France has given the world – Fanny Ardant, Fabrice Luchini, Julien Cerc, Juliette Binoche, Michel Jonasz, or Laetitia Casta for starters – but also the world visiting Antibes, including Angélique Kidjo, the musical sensation from Benin…. All in all, 63 sensational shows. The artistic equivalent of fine dining, with a philosophical bend. We confidently predict this will be anthéa’s best season yet, and one that sets the bar impossibly high.
Season tickets can be purchased online and at the theatre, individual ticket sale starts Saturday, 23 September.
Théâtre de Grasse
TDG has quite a moving season in stall, and that goes beyond the programme. Major renovation of the building is due, but instead of closing down for 6 months, Jean Flores and his team take the show on the road, much to the delight of the smaller communities in the region, but also of Cannes where some of the most noteworthy shows will be performed. That is an ambitious endeavour, artistically and logistically, especially because the 2017/18 season is again of trademark TDG quality. As every year, it is an exuberant, joyous, festive, colourful celebration of stage arts, and of humanity.
Jean Flores was born in Oran, Algeria, hails from a Spanish family, and is an educator and mediator at heart. This is important to know to properly decipher his artistic signature. His programme is a reaction to the rising danger from the far right, and chock-a-block packed with themes around tolerance, inclusion, humanitarianism. The message is love and brotherhood, kindness and solidarity, at the crossroads of the spiritual and the mundane – but not once will you find a finger wagging…. instead, his pedagogic are all packed in humour, gentleness, and lighthearted fun. In this he has been consistent for very many years, and has made it the TDG trademark. This is where the cultures of the world meet, where new talent is catapulted into the limelight, and where the audience is challenged to overcome boundaries. Less intellectual than anthéa, less edgy than TNN… but no less demanding and sophisticated. A kinder, gentler theatre.
Hard to pick out favourites from such a rich, dense programme, but some of the shows we think you might love best include saxophonist Paul Mancini’s homage to Charlie Chaplin’s life and work through the comedian’s greatest film music. An adaptation of Bizet’s opera, Une Carmen en Turakie is the delightful hybrid between Bizet’s opera, theatre, puppets, and humour, where the title heroine is Breton, and the story has a happy end, is also sure to be a great success…Or laugh with Michalak l’Ethiopien as the young and talented standup comedien chats about this parcours from his distant homeland to this stage, enjoy Monsieur Mouche’s hit show in best Mr. Bean style. Discover Kintsugi’s eclectic musical style between Old World and ultra modernity, or let H.Echos’ magical and poetic circus enchant you….
Another unmissable date is the one with Carmina Burana. Although in the TDG programme, it is actually presented by Cannes, but because of the strong partnerships Jean Flores has forged over the past years, the TDG audience is shuttled to the Palais des Festivals on this occasion. A shining example of cultural exchange and collaboration, but not just on this level but also on stage: this Carl Orff opera is adapted as a breathtaking ballet by world class choreographer Claude Brumachon, performed by the ballet of Le Grand Théâtre de Genève, and musically accompanied by the Orchestre de Cannes alongside the Choirs of the Opéra de Nice.
A heady cocktail of performing arts, and no less ambitious than in any other season, as TDG is taking its shop on the road for the next six months. A logistic challenge, certainly, but if one can do it – and do it well – it’s Jean Flores and his team.
See the TDG website for ticket purchase information and further details on its programme and venues.
Théâtre Francis Gag, Nice
A fixture for generations, and as authentically Niçois as socca and the noon boom, the TFG has always been a rock in the cultural landscape of Nissa la Bella. Here, humanitarianism is not a fancy motto but a reality that is lived and practised day in and day out.. it is what its namesake, the illustrious Francis Gag had intended, and what his son Pierre-Louis and his grandson Jean-Luc have since continued in countless activities in and outside the theatre. And Pierre Ballay (pictured left), the TFG’s director for close to 30 years, joins them in this mission. As always, the TFG programme is presented in digestible bites of three trimesters, this one covering September through December.
As a municipal theatre, the TFG is not only committed to preserving the nation’s great classics but also to promoting contemporary creation with an accent on home-grown talent. It therefore gladly welcomes the beneficiaries of a new sponsored residence programme for local artists and companies, which mayor Christian Estrosi has instituted in his ongoing effort to make Nice a true theatre city. Among other fine productions to fall into this category, Corou de Berra, the region’s extraordinary polyphonic quartet – an event you will not want to miss for anything. Garibaldi, connais pas, explores the tales and legends surrounding the Nice-born global revolutionary and is accompanied by a puppet play written and performed by Serge Dotti and Aurélie Péglion. A true cultural treasure and a treat for the senses.
Speaking of Jean-Luc Gag, he wears a lot of hats, including that of city councillor in charge of theatre and heritage, among other ressorts. It is therefore no surprise that the TFG is also a key venue for major festivals and events, such as the third edition of Quinzaine des Théâtres and the 34th Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, the European Heritage Days. During the two-week theatre festival, the theatre hosts Collectif 8, who are stopping over on a rare visit to present Alice, their must-see magical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s piece. This will be the only performance, and to miss it is entirely inexcusable. And during the upcoming Heritage Days, Christophe Turgie, arguably the biggest star among local artists, animates an atelier bridging the world of patrimony and culture.
Local and regional culture is front and center at TFG, by defintion. The 20th edition of the Fèsta d’Occitània is a feast for lovers of local folklore, music, and dance. Plays in Nissart language get their rightful place in the limelight, including a repeat of the wildly successful Victorine et Titoun mai aquì!, written by none other than the multi-talented Jean-Luc Gag. But apart from the focus on local themes, there is no shortage of national and international culture. Eric Assous, the most Parisian of contemporary author, finds his place on the playbill with L’Illusion Conjugale just like the great classics of the order of Camus, Proust, Musset, Molière, Proust and Dickens. But TFG is about popular theatre, not highbrow education, so fear ye not – everything is accessible, entertaining, and lighthearted. As an insider tip, we recommend Myriam Grélard’s creation Guele d’Amour, Gainsbourg Forever pays tribute to the French icon of the French musical scene of the 2th century. And as stated, this immense lineup is only the first part of the new season, from September of December….
The full TFG programme (September – December) and ticket information is available on the theatre website.
An incredibly rich season awaits theatrophiles in Nice, Antibes, Grasse, Cannes, and beyond. Not to forget of course also the countless medium sized and smaller stages, and the Quinzaine des Théâtres, the now firmly established two week festival, which is taking place this year from 16 – 29 October.
Theatre serves a purpose, as Irina Brook said. And if it serves to hold up a mirror to society and help us see what good is left, what hope is still there, then it is the best weapon we can equip ourselves with as we go forward in an evermore complex world.
– Shakespeare (As you like It, Act IV, Scene I)
Lead image by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash; Festival Shake Nice and Géneration Z posters © Gaelle-Simon, courtesy TNN