Culture: Théâtre de la Huchette in Real Danger of Closure

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World-famous theatre may fall victim to economic realities without urgent assistance, warns director

Paris has a vibrant and creative theatre scene and there are over 50 theatres in the city. Most of them you may not have heard of unless they produce something that gets translated into English and finds its way onto an Irish stage, but one theatre that features in virtually every guide book of Paris is the Théâtre de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter.

From the outside, it looks like a curiosity from another era; one that should have closed down many years ago. In some ways, that’s true and the danger now is that it may be forced to closed down.

The Exterior of the Théâtre de la Huchette: the same two plays in their original format have been running with interruption since 1957

Since 1957, the little theatre has been running the same two Eugène Ionesco plays in their original format; namely The Bald Soprano (La Cantatrice Chauve) and The Lesson (La Leçon). This unique feature alone has put the theatre on the world stage, even earning it a listing in the Guinness Book of Records.

Current director Jean-Noël Hazemann is proud of the important cultural role that the theatre plays in the life of Paris and in the life of France:

“Generations of students keep coming back here again and again, with their children and their grandchildren.”

But the mythical theatre which has just 90 seats is going through a difficult time. A recent rise in rental charges has, according to Hazemann, put the meeting of its financial obligations beyond reach.

“We almost got put out on the street and we’re still in danger of suffering that fate.”

Hazemann is referring to a scenario that played out only a few weeks ago, when the closure of the theatre was only avoided thanks to donations coming particularly from 200 members of the Amis de la Huchette, as well as from show-biz personalities such as Alain Decaux and Jeanne Moreau.

“This mobilisation allowed us to save the theatre for now,” says Amis de la Huchette member Gonzague Phélip. “Our appeals to the national institutions and the Ministry of Culture have so far yielded no reply.”

In parallel to the marathon Ionesco plays, the theatre also showcases contemporary dramas.

“Today, we don’t to increase the ticket prices and we can’t increase the number of seats. The fact of the matter is though, that €70,000 will be required every year in order to keep the theatre alive.”

It might be a good time to book a seat the next time you’re in town. Even if you don’t understand French, the opportunity to say that you went to a Ionesco play in the Théâtre de la Huchette may not be around for much longer.

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