STEP recently met with one its newest partners, Echange Theatre Company. There, we talked with Fanny Dulin, who is administrative director for the company, as well as being an actress and running a host of drama workshops.
Echange Theatre Company started in 2006 with 'The Exchange' by Paul Claudel, and it was from this production that the company got its name. The show was about mixing cultures and languages, which also helped to inspire the company's artistic style.
Since then, the company has taken to staging and translating French plays, including works from well-known writers such as Satre. "We've always found the plays we want to do are very well-known in France, but not at all here in England" says Fanny. "When you go to France, you will get a lot of Shakespeare, Pinter, Stoppard... they know those writers back to front. Here in England, they don't [know French writers]."
It was from this that the education side of the company emerged. "We thought we could try to teach French to people." This is what Fanny does when she leads a workshop. "I teach French, as well as Drama for French-speaking kids. We also run drama classes for adults."
Valuable work like this has earned Echange Theatre residency with the French Institute in London, where they perform a new show "about once a month."
All of these shows are bi-lingual, performed in a mix of French and English. For example, their most recent performance, a storytelling version of one of Gautier's works, Gautier himself appears and speaks only in French, while the two other actors speak English.
"It's not about making educational shows, because we don't intend to 'teach' French, that's not the point," Fanny continues. "It is just about switching languages all the time, which works pretty well and they quite like it. The audience understands everything we say, which is brilliant."
"There was another show we did about Jules Vernes and there were only two actors on stage; one would speak French and the other English. Obviously, the French-speaking guy spoke English as well, but the other one couldn't speak French. But still, he managed to understand everything. I think that's how our idea works best, just two different characters, two different languages."
Fanny also runs different groups for a wide range of ages. She runs a projects such as 'French for Kids', which is aimed at nursery-age children and teaches French through games, up to a bespoke workshop for a college group studying towards an A-Level in French, who were looking at L'Etranger (the Stranger) by Albert Camus. Fanny helped the group to take the book and turn it into a play, which the class later performed in French. She says "They were really impressed with themselves as they didn't know how much they could do! Mixing drama and language... well, it makes you forget you're speaking another language."
Echange Theatre's next production will be held during Bastille Week, running from the 8th-15th July, which will feature six different performances. For more information about Bastille Week or Echange Theatre Company, click HERE