Perth French Theatre is a Francophone theatre troupe which presents plays in French with English surtitles in Perth. Stella Sulak, director of the Perth French Theatre speaks to us about the theatre and their upcoming play “Le cercle des illusionnistes”.
Bonjour Stella, tell us a little about the next show for Perth French Theatre, Le cercle des illusionnistes?
Le Cercle des Illusionnistes is a play by Alexis Michalik which received 3 Molières in 2014 (like all of Michalik’s plays actually).
While France’s football team is playing in the Euro 84, April’s bag is stolen in the metro by December. But the young man finds the girl pretty, so he decides to give it back! Destiny is on the march. Both will follow in the footsteps of Robert-Houdin, inventor of modern magic, and Georges Méliès, the great figure of cinema. The times, places and passions strangely correspond to each other. While life plays tricks, will love triumph over illusions?
Why did you choose this play?
Because it’s a play that is light and profound at the same time. Because it makes us travel through time in the blink of an eye. Because it’s a play of hope. Also because it tells us about these flamboyant men without forgetting the women who made them exist thanks to their love, their intelligence and the strength of their belief. It is a play that highlights the magic of life.
In these times, questioning fate seems rather appropriate, doesn’t it? As Michalik says in his book Loin: “As long as there is someone to question, humanity will live, move forward, move backward, collapse, rise from its ashes.”
The question of the magic of art in our lives seems to me to be particularly important at the moment. What can artists, poets, dreamers, illusionists and magicians bring to our lives, can they open up other ways in this changing world?
This piece takes us beyond reality, beyond time, it opens the doors to an infinite number of possibilities. It is a captivating waltz without beginning or end. It invites us to turn and turn as the earth turns on itself and around the sun. It invites us to enter the dance and to believe!
What is your role in the play?
I am the director of Perth French Theatre, I train the actors and I direct the play, entoured by a technical team.
Have you already staged a Alexis Michalik play?
Yes, in 2017 we also staged Le Porteur d’histoire at the Dolphin Theatre. It was also an unbelievable play that was very successful for both the actors and the audience. Some of the actors from Le Cercle des Illusionnistes also played in Le Porteur d’histoire. I am really excited to be able to bring Le Cercle des Illusionnistes to the public.
How do you choose the plays usually?
I choose the plays according to my group of students. Depending on the number of people, the personalities and also I think my mood at the time.
What do you look for in a play to stage?
I look for themes that entertain but also make us ask questions. In plays, I like to be told a story or stories, I like to learn things, I like it to give hope, to open doors…
How many plays do you stage per year?
It depends on the year. In 2017 for example we put on 3. This will be my ninth play since 2015. I have planned to do two in 2022 but nothing ever goes according to plan, so who knows what the future holds!
Who is your audience?
It’s a very mixed audience and I love it. It’s important to me that the plays chosen appeal to a diverse audience from children to grandparents and from the French community to English speakers. The goal is to connect people and share our culture. I know that French speakers are really happy to see a play in their language, especially here in Perth at the moment. And English speakers appreciate being able to hear the language with the support of surtitles.
How long have you been involved with Perth French Theatre?
I established Perth French Theatre in 2015 shortly after I arrived in Australia.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do for a living apart from Perth French Theatre?
I must admit that Perth French Theatre takes up a lot of my life. There’s the training and the plays, but also the summer camps for the kids. And then, when COVID locked us up at home, I discovered sculpture and that gives me a lot of pleasure… I would love to be able to develop this activity… but in connection with what I already do… I love to interweave, create, mix, explore…
My family is also very important in my life and I am very happy to be able to work on Le Cercle des Illusionnistes with my three daughters and my son. My three daughters are all part of the technical team and my son will be on stage 😉
How many people are in the play? Are they all native French speakers?
There are 21 actors on stage, some Francophones and some Anglophones, some young and some not so young, some who have been with my group since 2015 and some who have never done theatre before. As I said before, I love mixing, meeting and connecting and I must say that this group is really a great group. It’s made up of different people but they work really well together…
If someone wants to perform in a future Perth French Theatre play, how do they go about it?
After this play we will open a new group to prepare for our next play in 2022. If you would like to be part of this new group:
You can come and try the first session for free and then decide whether or not to join in 😉
How long has Perth French Theatre been around?
Perth French Theatre exists since 2015.
Are there still members who were originally part of the troupe who are still part of it?
Yes, there are. But a lot of them have left Perth. I’m still in touch with some of them and even work with others from a distance. Theatre creates strong bonds.
You also offer acting workshops for adults and children. Tell us a bit about these.
Wow, you are well informed! Indeed, I organise a programme during the school holidays for French-speaking children aged 5 to 14. These programs are very popular. Our little bilinguals find themselves completely immersed in the language and culture for a week, surrounded by other children like themselves, with the same problems: developing and enriching this second language which is often their mother tongue but which sometimes has difficulty in becoming established. Practice through play is an excellent way.
Each programme is different and we try to choose a variety of themes that awaken the children to French culture. Our next programme will be on the La Fontaine’s fables (Les Fables de la Fontaine).
For 2022, we are preparing holiday camps for young English speakers who are learning French…
In July, we organised a week-long holiday camp in Fairbridge with 123 Soleil for about 20 teenagers aged 15-17. This programme was very successful.
We would like to organise workshops and weekends for adults as well but unfortunately we don’t have enough time… maybe one day!
Who is your show “Le cercle des illusionnistes” for?
For everyone who believes in magic! For all those who want to discover a play in French, for all those who want to travel in time, for all those who like intrigue, for all those who like love stories, for all those who ask themselves questions… In short, for everyone and also for all those who want to support Perth French Theatre!
What is your favourite French-language play?
I don’t have ONE favourite play. Too hard to choose. There is one play I’ve always dreamed of doing but I’ve never done it yet, it’s a monologue by Jean-Pierre Simeon called Stabat Mater Furiosa. I also really like Calderon but oops, he’s Spanish 😉 I would also like to do a play by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt one day… and maybe other classics like Camus or Musset… in short there are too many, I wouldn’t have enough in one lifetime 😉
We thank Stella Sulak from Perth French Theatre for this interview.
KEY INFO FOR LE CERCLE DES ILLUSIONNISTES
WHAT: Le cercle des illusionnistes, a play in French, sur-titled in English
WHO: Perth French Theatre
WHERE: Victoria Hall, 179 High St, Fremantle, Perth
WHEN: 20 to 23 octobre 2021
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adults (General Admission) $37.74 ;
- Students and concession $27.24
- Children aged 12 to 17
- Free for children 8 to 11
HOW: Buy your tickets on Eventbrite via the following link:
Are you interested in Francophone theatre troupes in Australia? Read our interview with Isabelle, director of the Brisbane French Theatre about their upcoming play Les uns contre les autres (Us and Them).
For other events happening in October, check out what’s on in October.