See Pauline Calmé unleash the beast at the Butterfly Club in March

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Pauline Calmé will “Unleash the beast” in her solo improvised show “La bête de scène” which will be performed at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne in March. She speaks to us about the show and about improv.



Tell us about your show “La bête de scène” (Unleash the beast).

“La bête de scène” (Unleash the beast) is an entirely improvised one-woman show. I will perform from 9 to 14 March 2020 in Melbourne, at the Butterfly Club (Carson Place), at 7pm. The shows on 11 and 12 March will be in French, and those of 9, 13, 14 March, in English. In improvisation jargon “La bête de scène” (Unleash the beast) belongs to “free form” shows, that is shows that do not have pre-established structures that set out the way in which the show will unfold. I called it “La bête de scène” (Unleash the beast) because it is a good way of representing the spirit’s state. To be an animal: instinctive, corporal and in the present moment; to be a beast: to play, to play, to not understand, to accept the mistake and to amuse oneself with it. To unleash the beast: the audience can relax, I will manage!


La bête de scène (Unleash the beast) is your third solo show. How is it different from your other shows?

The first one “Correspondances Unilatérales” was a solo performance based on 50 or so letters that I had written when I lived in Paris between 2015 and 2016. The show was directed by Matthieu Loos from the company Combats Absurdes. It’s the story of a woman who writes to a man who never responds to her. We don’t know if this man is the fruit of her imagination, or if he is dead, or if he broke up with her a long time ago.


The second one “Paulin.e.s” is an ensemble of sketches sometimes poetic, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic. I also provided the musical accompaniment or pre-recorded parts with my computer. It was a show which allowed me to return to my musical past, and my infinity for transversality of the living arts. 


As for Unleash the beast, it is entirely improvised. I don’t have anything planned in advance. The show is based on my capacity of being in the here and now, in the presence of the audience. I am not going to tell a story, I come to play with what is already there. As I don’t have a set, the principal inspiration is my body. It’s a show which is a lot more physical than the two others. In general, I finish in a sweat!


The other source of inspiration is my interaction with the audience. Each night is different because each person is different. Each time that I perform this show, I am excited asking myself “how is the audience going to be tonight?”. Sometimes I natter with someone, sometimes the whole audience is involved, sometimes someone gets up on stage and performs with me, it all depends on the mood in the moment!



What inspired you for this show?

When I was little, I watched Michel Courtemanche, a Quebecois comedian’s show over and over. His facial expressions made me laugh a lot. And then there were Florence Foresti and Gad Elmaleh who impressed me a lot with their ease on stage. I said to myself “How can someone come on stage alone, without anything, in front of a crowd of people and make everyone laugh?” I thought that a large part of what they were doing was improvised. I wanted to do the same thing: to make everyone laugh! It was later on that I learned that every line had been written in advance. 

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by improv. I found a medium which allowed me to make people laugh. It’s crazy, it’s magical! People laugh when I am 100% myself, 100% present, 100% in the here and now. So I said to myself, why not have an improvised one-woman show? After all, it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was little… 


Since when and what triggered you interest in theatre and why improvisation in particular?

I started theatre in high school when I was 15. A friend of mine was too shy to go to the try-out alone, so I accompanied him. And since then I’ve never stopped. In my very first theatre show, I delivered a monologue extracted from the book “Les fourmis” (The ants) by Bernard Werber, which talks about how humans live, produce excrement, die, are eaten and become excrement themselves. At the same time that I was reciting this text, I escaped from an imaginary glass cage, like the mime Marceau. In the same show, I also played a sea lion, I had to lie on the audience’s knees, I had an absurd Tardieu dialogue where nobody finished their sentences, it was hilarious…in short, it was all already there: the clown, the interactivity, the comedy… and incarnating animals. This drama teacher was amazing, thanks to her I had a wonderful first experience. 


As for improv, I started on a misunderstanding. When I left Bordeaux to go to Paris in 2011, my friend worked in a large business. Two of his colleagues did improv. He spoke to them about me saying that I had already done some (which was not really the case) and that I was looking to join a group (which was true!). They invited me to do a try-out. The story goes that, because the group thought that I had already done improv and that I thought they knew that I had never done it, we liked each other straight away. It’s great, it’s easier than theatre, because you don’t need to learn lines. Since then I’ve never stopped and it became my profession.


And you’ve also done theatre studies? Tell us about that. 

Yes, lots! I will continue to train myself until I die.


Firstly, I went to a theatre school in Paris led by Armel Veilhan for two years. There, I learned the fundamentals about acting. Stanislavsky, les grands auteurs (Molière, Shakespeare, Becket, and all the others that I have already forgotten), how to walk on stage, what it means “to be natural”, to be in the present even when you’ve said the same line 40 times, to invoke emotions, etc. These two years were very intense and not without pain. They transformed me and opened me up to new perspectives on acting.


Then I continued my training in participating in intensive one or two week courses. I met Ira Seidenstein, creator of the International School of Acting And Creativity (I.S.A.A.C in Brisbane). It became my new theatre, clowning and creativity school. I also did a course in mask techniques with Mark Jane and Steve Jarand in France and with Matteo Destro in Italy, and a lot of improv courses.


My five years as part of the troupe “Smoking Sofa” and my role as artistic director for the show “Le fauteuil d’orchestre taught me a lot. You learn quickly on the ground, faster than at school. When you have to perform an improvised show 4 nights a week, you have to learn to renew yourself and to move away from your acting habits! In Paris, the art of improvisation is very popular. So many people do improv! I feel lucky to have been able to learn and perform alongside the big Parisian names. There is a collective emulation in this city. All international artists come to Paris at one time or another. It’s a cultural platform which allowed me to meet the best, to see them perform, and even to sometimes perform with them.



Anything else?

Yes! In addition to performing on stage, I also give improv classes in Melbourne under the happy name “The Joyful school“. If readers are interested, I invite them to follow the news on my facebook page or on the Meetup website.


I also use improvisation as communication tools and in the development of “soft skills” in business. More information on that here.


Also keep an eye on The French Loop which does improv in French in Melbourne. We may cross paths there!


You can see “La bête de scène” (Unleash the beast) at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne from 9 to 14 March (except for 10 March 2020).


Note that Wednesday and Thursday’s performances will be in French. Monday, Friday and Saturday’s performances will be in English.


Tickets can be purchased here:


Do you like improv?



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Siobhan Stagg sings French songs in an Adelaide Festival recital

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Siobhan Stagg is a highly regarded soprano who will perform French songs as part of a recial at Adelaide Festival. We had a chat to Siobhan Stagg about the composers whose songs she will sing as well as singing generally.

Siobhan Stagg
Image: Todd Rosenberg


On 7 March 2020 as part of the Adelaide Festival, you will be singing four love songs by three French composers, namely: 


  • Poulenc: Fiançailles pour rire, 
  • Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi,
  • Debussy: Ariettes oubliées, and
  • Poulenc: Les chemins de l’amour.


Of these songs which is your favourite and why?

These are actually larger song cycles, ie. sets of songs grouped by the specific composers. Altogether it’s around 22 individual songs. I love all of them but would probably cite the Debussy Ariettes Oubliées as my favourites, simply because I’ve been singing them the longest; they’ve travelled with me from my student days and in various different incarnations. I recently recorded them on CD with the Noga String Quartet, and performed a version with full orchestra in Lyon, arranged by the composer Brett Dean. It’ll be nice to come back to them in their original form with piano for this recital at the Adelaide Festival. 


How do these songs differ from each other?

They are very different in mood and style. Poulenc’s Fiançailles pour rire comprises six quirky, humorous or touching descriptions of love in all its forms. Poèmes pour Mi is a set of songs which Olivier Messiaen wrote for his first wife, four years into their marriage. Her pet name was ‘Mi’. They are an affirmation of marital and religious devotion, and quite musically challenging and thus less often performed. I’ve been singing Debussy’s Ariettes Oubliées for over ten years now; they are an example of masterful word-painting. The Poulenc Chemins de l’amour is a lovely party piece to end – it’s a waltz with slightly melancholy lyrics about lost love, and  is sure to send everyone out humming. 


What are the challenges in singing in a language which is not your mother tongue?

Thankfully I’ve always loved studying foreign languages; it’s part and parcel of being a classical singer. French is my favourite language to sing; the nasal vowels lend themselves nicely to healthy vocal resonance. The challenges are that you have to invest many hours getting to know the text, and when it’s a complex poem by someone like Paul Verlaine, you have to not only translate the words and pronounce them authentically, but dig deep to discover the true meaning behind each phrase. By the time you perform the songs, you want it to feel like second nature, and be thinking the words as if they are your own thoughts.  


Where did your love of singing come from and what drew you towards the classical music and opera world?

I always loved to sing from when I was a child growing up in Mildura in country Victoria. I would sing and dance along with Julie Andrews, Disney films and pop songs on the radio. My discovery of classical music and opera came later, when I moved to Melbourne for University. I love the expressive power of classical music. You can listen to the same symphony or opera over and over and never stop noticing new details in these richly beautiful pieces of music.


Has the language in which we sing about love changed much since these composers wrote these songs?

I suppose popular love songs these days have simpler tunes, designed to be catchy, sometimes with very few words. But the essence remains the same; they are all intended to move us and celebrate all it means to feel “in love”.


Who is your favourite French composer?

Oh that’s a difficult question. I love Ravel, Poulenc, Fauré, Massenet, Edith Piaf…  but my favourite has to be Debussy. He wrote the opera Pelléas et Mélisande, which completely changed the history of French music. The role of Mélisande has brought me success in both Australia and in France, and allowed me to learn the language in a deeper way.  It’s a masterpiece. 


What has been your favourite recital to date?

Pure recitals (where I sing a full solo program with a pianist) are a less frequent part of my schedule than fully-staged operas and symphonic concerts with orchestra. An absolute performance highlight to date was playing Cinderella (in Massenet’s Cendrillon) for my American debut in Chicago. It was a stunning production by the amazing French stage director, Laurent Pelly, and was an absolute dream come true.  


Apart from Australia, you’ve sung in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England and the United States. Where and for whom would be your dream performance?

Any performance of great music, with an engaged audience and supportive and talented colleagues is a joy. I like how the French and Swiss audiences do the synchronised unison clap when they really like something. it’s such a buzz. 


Who is the recital best appreciated by?

This recital will appeal to anyone who appreciates classical music and singing, or who has an interest in French poetry. The pianist, Timothy Young, is truly exceptional! We’ve included repertoire which is elegant and charming, and some which is more sophisticated, so there should be something for everyone. 


Do people need to understand French to attend the recital?

It’s not necessary to understand French to attend the recital, though if you understand the poems it might enhance your experience. Often translations are provided in the program, or I will say a few words in an introduction, so you won’t be left in the dark. Personally I find the music beautiful on its own, even without the words. You can just close your eyes and be swept away by the harmonies. 


Anything else you’d like to add?

Feel free to follow me on social media:ánStagg

or at my website:


Siobhan Stagg will perform as part of Adelaide Festival at 5pm on Saturday 7 March 2020 at the UKARIA Cultural Centre in Mount Barker. Tickets cost $59 and there are discounts available for Friends of the Adelaide Festival and concession card holders.


Buy your tickets here:


Who is your favourite French composer? Have you ever seen Siobhan Stagg perform?


You may also like to read our interviews with other Adelaide Festival artists:

Christophe Bricheteau from Compagnie Carabosse about Fire Gardens

Julie Tenret from Focus Cie about Dimanche

Compagnie Chaliwaté about Dimanche

Nick Power about Two Crews and Between Tiny Cities 



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