New & Une Cerise Noire

February 7, 2010By Pierre TranArchive

Camping It Up in Improv’ and
Genre-Bending Slapstick

Paris-Update new improv

Cast members of the New improv’ company singing their hearts out.

For fans of the anything-but-the-proscenium arch, the improvising New company is offering a musical on the hoof at the Theatre de la Reine Blanche, with each performance based on a title suggested by a member of the audience. On the night we attended, artistic director Florian Bartsch pulled the existential “Ronflements et Papillons” (“Snores and Butterflies”) from the dozens of prospective titles on slips of paper in a glass bowl.

The title inspired an hour and a half of light-hearted drama set on a luxury yacht and at a café, complete with singing, dancing and accompaniment on guitar, percussion, piano, saxophone and accordion. Adding to the improv’ feel, a graphic artist sitting onstage sketched out impromptu drawings, which were projected onto the backdrop in real time, to comment on the action.

The story line, such as it was, served as a showcase for the talents and great enthusiasm of the six accomplished young performers who belted out the songs, danced their hearts out and delivered sexy scenes with humor. The audience loved all the in-your-face humor.

This would do well at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with lots of audience participation as Bartsch calls for suggestions from the public. As talented as the cast is, however, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and the evening eventually seemed rather long.

It is heartening to see skilled artists throwing themselves into the thing they love, and loving it. That is unless they were merely acting their enjoyment, in which case they are actors of truly Shakespearean quality, improv’ nothwithstanding. The troupe also does a version for children.

Théâtre de la Reine Blanche: 2 bis passage Ruelle, 75018 Paris. Métro: Gare du Nord or La Chapelle. Reservation: 01 40 05 06 96 or

Paris Update une-cerise noire DChauvin

“Une Cerise Noire” has it all: tough private dick, scheming femme fatale, bumbling cop, plain-Jane secretary, etc. Photo: D. GauvinIf you like hyperactive, interactive, slapstick theater with busy sets, the mixed-media, postmodern staging of Une Cerise Noire, a sub-Sam Spade private eye comedy thriller by the company La Française de Comptages, will likely please. But if you like your film noir straight like Marlowe’s bourbon, take a hike.

Producer Genoit Afnaim has written and staged a hybrid piece for theater and television, although the staging harks back to the golden days of Hollywood movies when producers brandished cigars, directors shouted into megaphones and actors were exploited.

The story is secondary; this homage to the private detective genre – with salutes to the war film, Cold War spy drama and musical – is pegged to the stock characters. They are all there: the gumshoe detective and adoring plain Jane secretary in glasses, smooth-talking villain, femme fatale in a black dress, and dumb cops in chase cars. But this is also a parody, so there is a frying pan for a prop.

The show’s clever staging is part of a complicated, carefully choreographed production involving several sets, dollies, cranes and TV cameras, with the audience providing the crowd scenes. The simultaneous action on several fronts at once is often difficult to absorb, but the audience in Pantin liked the eccentric show, complete with sliding doors in the Vaudeville tradition.

Who knows, maybe the production might induce one or two of them to pick up a copy of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye. Then they can walk those mean streets with the enigmatic Marlowe, a man who is not mean. If ever there was an urban anti-hero trying to do the decent thing, it is Marlowe private eye.

Michel Risse scored the original music.

Une Cerise Noire will be performed in Bois d’Arcy, near Versailles, on June 29, and is touring France this summer. Click here for details.

Pierre Tran



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