Bonjour, my name is Michelle and I love everything French. It seems that in Brisbane I am not alone. There is the popular French Film Festival, South Bank’s Le Festival, new French restaurants are popping up all over Brisbane and now we have our very own Brisbane French Theatre Company (BFT). I spoke to the BFT President- Celine Kaissaris to find out about their new French play, French culture and why Brisbane people are embracing all things French like never before.
Celine says their new play ‘The Student and Mr Henri’ will appeal to a broad cross section of people, “French people will come because they are familiar with this play and many people, both French and Australian, may have seen the movie, which did very well at last year’s French Film Festival. We are expecting about a 50/ 50 mix of French people and local Brisbane people. The play is a comedy drama with a broad appeal and is very easy for people to understand. It would be a great ladies night out or couples can come along and enjoy a French food and wine package together.”
What happens when a lonely, grumpy old man accepts to share his Paris apartment with a bubbly, scatterbrained female student- on the condition she tries to ruin his son’s marriage? At once funny and touching, this comedy – drama brings a fresh perspective to universal themes like ageing, handling one’s family and learning to accept others as they are. Celine says, “This theme resonates with many French people because apartments are expensive and nowadays many young students are sharing with older people in order to be able to rent. The play explores universal issues that all people can relate to.”
If you’ve seen any of the other French plays performed in Brisbane, which were staged through Growl Theatre, you might recognise a few of the actors. The play’s cast are all native French speakers hailing from France, Canada and Belgium. Hugues Girod plays the lead- Henri with Alice Milton as the student, Constance. Thomas Smith is Paul and the lovely Isabelle Johnson plays the role of Valerie.
They perform the play entirely in French with English subtitles projected on a wide screen above. Celine agrees, “ The actors have been working hard since mid -April and are now rehearsing three times a week.”
Celine is originally from the alpine area – Grenoble so she misses the snow, alps and skiing. In Brisbane her favourite authentic French meals can be found at Eiffel Restaurant, Fortitude Valley.Celine said, “This restaurant reminds me so much of home. It is run by a husband and wife team who use the freshest seasonal produce. It is good French home style cooking at its best and it is also very affordable.” Sounds like I’ll have to plan a visit … soon!
I asked Celine why she thinks there is such a fascination in Brisbane for all things French.
“It is hard for me as a French person to know, perhaps curiosity and a fascination with our culture and lifestyle.”
The numbers prove it. There were 40 000 visitors to the French Film Festival in 2016 and there are 5000 French speaking households in Brisbane.
The play ‘The Student and Mr Henri’ is on at the Queensland Multicultural Centre, Kangaroo Point on the 13, 21 and 22 July at 7:30. Tickets can be purchased here or contact [email protected] for group rates.
For a little bit of French culture on a winter’s night, a great ladies night out or a date with French flair look no further than this BFT production. Merci!