Le Petit Theatre Sydney will present 8 Femmes this May

8 Femmes
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Le Petit Theatre Sydney, a Sydney-based French-language theatre, will present 8 Femmes this May. It’s a play by Robert Thomas, which you may know from the film written and directed by François Ozon. We talk to Anna Jahjah, the play’s director.

8 Femmes

Bonjour Anna, we last spoke at the end of 2022 when Théâtre Excentrique staged the Quebecois play Littoral (Tideline in English). This time, with Le Petit Théâtre Sydney, you are preparing to stage the French play 8 Femmes. Tell us about this play.

8 Femmes is the story of a family of 6 women and two servants trapped by the snow in their big house. The only man in the house, the father, has been murdered. The women lead the investigation…


8 Femmes will be performed in French with English surtitles. What are the challenges of presenting a play in French in a predominantly English-speaking country?

There aren’t that many. The French-speaking public is quite large, whether it’s French people living locally, or English speakers interested in the French language and/or culture, including French teachers and their students. There’s a constant demand for French cultural products (just look at the success of the French Film Festival), so the demand is there.


How do you ensure that non-French-speaking audiences don’t miss the action on stage by reading the surtitles, or vice versa?

The surtitles are placed just above the stage, and summarise the dialogue rather than translating it word by word. So it’s very easy to read quickly to get the spirit of the text while watching what’s happening. It’s exactly the same as watching a film with subtitles.


The play Tideline was presented by your company Théâtre Excentrique. This one will be presented by Le Petit Theatre Sydney. Are they the same company?

Tideline was staged by my own theatre company, Théâtre Excentrique, and performed in English. For Tideline, it was me and my theatre company who chose the play, produced it (i.e. put up the money), did the marketing and so on.


This time it’s different. 8 Femmes is a play chosen by Le Petit Theatre and performed in French. Le Petit Theatre hired me to stage the play, so I’m only in charge of directing.


You adapted the play for these shows. What were the challenges in adapting it?

First of all, we had to shorten the play, which lasted around 2 hours 30 minutes, which was far too long. It also needed to be modernised. The play dates from 1958 and some of the expressions, even the ways of thinking, were very dated. But it was a very interesting and funny challenge to take up.


So 8 Femmes was firstly a play, written in 1958 by Robert Thomas, before becoming a film written and directed by François Ozon, which was released in 2002. Did you work from the film’s text or the original play?

From the play. The film completely changed the characters’ motives, while keeping a lot of the dialogue, but it still departed quite a bit from the original. We wanted to use the play as a starting point for our own interpretation, even if it meant changing the motives and even the ending of the play ourselves.


Are you presenting 8 Femmes as a musical? Will your actresses sing?

No, not quite. There will be music, but the vocals will be pretty limited. That was the idea at the start, but as the rehearsals went on, I realised that it wasn’t going to work that well. And I think it’s better to give up on a good idea than to get bogged down in it. But we’ve kept the joyful side of a musical with a slightly zany set, and very lively music, involving mambo, rumba and jazz, so it’s still very light and very beautiful visually and musically speaking.


Will audiences recognise the actors and actresses from your other productions?

Yes, a lot of the actresses have been in other shows put on by Le Petit Théâtre, either short 10/15 minute plays based on the same theme  (ex. Bon Voyage, On n’est pas ici pour être là etc… or longer plays like Le Nombril by Jean Anouilh, Marius by Marcel Pagnol, etc.)


Why should people come and see 8 Femmes?

First and foremost, it’s a pleasure to be together in the same venue, especially after COVID and the restrictions. And that’s precious. Secondly, it’s a crime comedy, and audiences generally love that. And culturally speaking, it’s good to see a French-language play! As for the acting, the actresses are all impressive, it’s semi-professional level, and that’s a pleasure to see. They have a lot of fun on stage and their enthusiasm is infectious.


D’autres choses à partager avec nous ?

It’s 1 hour 15 of of infectious pleasure.

We thank Anna for this interview.



WHAT: The play 8 Femmes presented in French with surtitres in English

WHEN: 1-4, 7-11 May at  7:30pm

WHERE: Chippen Street Theatre, CHIPPENDALE

HOW : Buy your tickets via this link

HOW MUCH: The tickets cost $40 + reservation fees.


Do you know the play or film 8 Femmes


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