“The Candidate” is the new show from Melbourne French Theatre, the oldest francophone theatre troupe in Australia. Michael Bula, Executive Producer of Melbourne French Theatre, chats to us about their upcoming show “The Candidate”
Tell us a little about your next show “La Candidate“?
The Candidate is the sequel to Panique au Ministère by Mélanie and Franco. MFT is very proud to have obtained the copyright to present the play. Amanda Lear made the 2 plays famous – the latter of which was released in 2016 – so it’s a very modern play – a romantic and political comedy with points of slapstick, quick and funny lines – a real gem.
Do you have to know the play or have attended the show Panic hits the Ministry to understand what happens in The Candidate?
Not at all, because the programme provides an excellent summary of the play. The play is written in such a way that it explains the background.
Who is your show ‘La Candidate’ for?
The Candidate is for schools – more so years 11 and 12 and all members of the public – the same people who would attend for example the French Film Festival or like to hear the living French language expressed by an established acting company.
Do you think there are parts of the play that can be seen in Australian or French politics?
Obviously, there are some rather French political references. There is, however, the theme of unknown candidates becoming president or prime minister, almost impossible couples in politics etc.
Why did you choose these two plays?
To continue the tradition of the MFT’s policy of presenting plays never before seen in Australia as well as the classics or the much loved ones. Indeed, it is a divergence because these plays are modern and of a genre quite rare in Australia. And above all it is a play in French with English surtitles (by Powerpoint). Either there is a translation available or I translate it myself.
How does Melbourne French Theatre choose the plays it will perform?
Firstly, take a look at the website for the coming plays: https://melbournefrenchtheatre.org.au/play-selection/ and those already performed: https://melbournefrenchtheatre.org.au/past-shows/
I am the main person who selects of plays because of my atypical knowledge of French theatrical literature due to my university studies in French, Italian and law. Often our board of directors proposes plays, sometimes the actors or members of the MFT as well, whose criteria must be in line with the requirements of the Australian public, composed of French and Francophones of course, as well as schools and universities or simply Francophiles.
What do you look for in plays?
We look for economic profitability as we have rarely have subsidies. Apart from this inevitable consideration – the variety of plays from all eras are presented to offer what no other theatre company in Australia offers – French authors in French with English surtitles – thus promoting French theatre culture. We are often influenced by the AvantScène publication in our choice of plays.
What is your role in this play? If you are the director, do you also act sometimes?
For this play, I’m a producer and I have a micro role – walkietalkie man – I’ve been training as an actor since I was 15, I act in some plays. I’ve directed about 15 plays as well as school touring productions, Le Petit Prince, Le Petit Nicholas and Courtelignes by Courteline – which I’ve designed, directed and acted in. I co-founded the Melbourne French Theatre in 1977 – 44 years ago – which makes the MFT the most established and serious French language theatre in this country.
How many people are in the play? Are they all native French speakers?
There are 2 men and 4 women. They are not all native French speakers. That is the trick and the secret of this theatre which is the true marriage between Australian and French culture. Two of the 6 actors are native French speakers and the other 4 are of Italian, Greek, Anglo-Saxon etc. origin. – the true United Nations…
Who is your audience?
Although I answered this question above – an audience of 8 to 80 years old – mostly Francophiles – thanks to the accessibility of the English supertitles. We target schools, which make up a third of our audience, to quote a statistic.
I’ll give you the current statistics –
44 years, 105 productions, more than 54 different authors, sometimes represented in several plays, 770 actors, 67 directors, 4,850 members of the production team and an audience of over 70,000 [including some 26,000 school and university students and teachers and lecturers].
Apart from your involvement in theatre, what do you do for a living? How long have you been in Australia?
I am a lawyer-notary accredited to the diplomatic and consular posts of France and other embassies as well. I am a professional NAATI translator and Honorary Consul General of Senegal. I have been in Australia since my birth to Italian parents.
How many plays does Melbourne French Theatre present per year? Normally, when there is no COVID and confinements?
Normally one main play a year for a week or two, accompanied by tours to schools of the above plays.
And how long in rehearsals? Does it depend on the play?
It takes 3 rehearsals a week of about 2 to 3 hours each over a 2 month period for a standard production.
How long has Melbourne French Theatre been in existence?
Since March 1977 founded at the University of Melbourne within the then French Department.
Are there still members who were part of original troupe who are still part of the troupe?
Me and two or three others.
If someone wants to perform in one of your plays, how do they go about it?
All our auditions are open to the public. You need to go to the website and register on the database to receive our newsletters and audition invitations.
What is your favourite French play?
Unfair question! There are dozens. If I must commit myself – Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard by Marivaux.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Come and see the play – details can be found at https://melbournefrenchtheatre.org.au/current-show/
KEY INFO FOR “THE CANDIDATE”
WHAT: “The Candidate”, a play in French (with surtitles in English) by Melbourne French Theatre
WHEN: 7 – 11 December 2021
WHERE: The Meeting [“Meating”] Room | Meat Market
3 Blackwood Street [corner Courtney Street],
Ticket prices are as follows:
- $41 Public
- $36 Concessions : pensioners, seniors, unemployed, UFE, FACCI, AFAS, AFTV, Alliance Française, MEAA, Groupe Romand [Swiss], l’Ecole Française de Melbourne, French Journey, Cassis, Melbourne Accueil, MyFrenchLife and French Australian Lawyers Society.
- $32 MFT Members + Docklands Residents [bring utilities bills as proof otherwise full price applies!]
- $22 Full-Time Students [Proof of concession required or full price must be paid]
*Prices include French wine and cheese 30 minutes before the show.
*$2.00 booking fee per ticket applies covering credit card and administration fees.
HOW: Buy your tickets to The Candidate” via this link
What’s your favourite French play?