The Comédie Française returns to the British stage

“’Tis a rock! …a peak! …a cape! A cape, forsooth? ’Tis a peninsular!” The famous nose speech in Cyrano de Bergerac will soon be resonating within the walls of the Ciné Lumière.

It’s a delicious foretaste of what awaits London next June: the Comédie Française’s return to the British stage, after a 19-year absence. From 19 to 25 June 2019, the Barbican stage will play host to Les Damnés (after Visconti’s screenplay), a play that made a deep impression last season by showing mankind’s hideous capacity for barbarism. Directed by Ivo van Hove, Les Damnés is a sharply-drawn chronicle of a family of industrialists during the 1933 Nazi seizure of power in Germany. The audience is struck by the ideological depravity of a company ready to forge the most poisonous alliances solely for its economic interests. By blending archive footage and on-the-spot recordings, Ivo van Hove manages to give this 20th-century drama a painful contemporary resonance.

To celebrate this return, the Institut Français is preparing to screen a series of six famous plays at the Ciné Lumière over the coming months, performed by the Maison de Molière theatre company. From October 2018 to June 2019, Edmond Rostand’s classic play will rub shoulders with Britannicus (Jean Racine), Lucrezia Borgia (Victor Hugo), The Misanthrope (Molière), Twelfth Night (Shakespeare) and Electra (Euripides). These plays will be shown in French with English subtitles, and introduced by artists from the Comédie Française.

The Comédie Française is France’s most famous theatre. Founded in 1680 by Louis XIV, it was here that Molière staged, among other things, The Hypochondriac. Continuing the work and legacy of the greatest French playwright, the Comédie Française, nicknamed “le Français”, has already put on more than 3,000 different plays, mixing classical, modern and contemporary styles. A veritable Parisian institution, the Comédie Française has already given many performances worldwide, the first of these being in London in 1867! Over 150 years later, the tradition continues.

To kick off this new Comédie Française season, from Thursday 11 October the Institut Français will host the exhibition Cabu, the spectacular spectator. It will present a selection of drawings by the famous French cartoonist depicting the actors and plays of the Comédie Française.

For further information, please visit the Institut Français website, where you’ll find all the screening dates and can book tickets.

Published on 17/10/2019

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