Who we are
Exchange Theatre is an international company established in 2006, in London, in order to translate and produce unknown or rare French-speaking plays in English. With the use of a strong visual imagery, live music and multilingualism, Exchange Theatre’s productions offer a true sensorial experience. Led by David Furlong and Fanny Dulin, the company translated for the first time plays from major French playwrights like Paul Claudel, Georges Feydeau and Xavier Durringer (London and off Broadway, 2006 to 2010) before being resident at the French Institute (2011 to 2013). Since then, the company has brought to the stage ambitious double productions off west end (the shows are both shown in English and French: Un Air de Famille, The Doctor in Spite of Himself, The Misanthrope). Beside the professional company, Exchange Theatre created the first amateur drama class in French for French speaking people living in London. The company also gives languages and educational workshops through drama for children. We work from our studio space in London Bridge at the heart of London.
The exchange: “towards the reunion of the world” (Paul Claudel)
Our three values
Theatre for the present
Our theatre is popular and always relevant in the actual context, it is spontaneous and makes our choice of classic or modern translations accessible for a 21st century audience, going beyond conservatism.
Diversity and interbreeding
Our theatre is international and outside any boxes, crossing the borders of cultures and traditions, and creating a cocktail of western pop-culture and non western influences.
A sensorial experience
We offer an experience that goes beyond theatre, reaching the public on emotional level, stimulating our audience on multiple levels of sensations.
“In 20th century western culture, theatre is primarily visual entertainment. We see it with our eyes but do not experience it and learn from it.” Jean-Paul Sartre
What we do
Theatrical creation, research and development of a theatre for the present.
Exchange Theatre’s work is connected to the contemporary world. With a highly visual work and sonic or musical creations, using multimedia and multilingualism, our theatre must be both a technical achievement and a sensorial experience in order to create a feeling level.
Bridge between cultures and times
Our primary objective is to make unknown or rare texts discovered. The process implies either new translations of plays, or the production of our own new plays. Beyond the mere discovery, the aim is to make those plays accessible to a 21st century audience.
A bridge of transmission: the workshops to transmit and wake the will to play.
Amateur theatre for adults: Workshops for adults to practice theatre in their native language.
Theatre for children: Unique workshops to familiarise francophone children with theatre.
Languages to young people: Workshops to learn languages through drama. On a regular basis in schools from primary to A-levels.
What we do artistically
Our work originally started from a statement: French theatre was not known enough in the UK and was given a wrong image. We started translating and producing works from a French speaking background. We wanted and still want to create a popular theatre that carries spontaneity and goes beyond conservatism in the tradition of Jean Vilar’s idea of the TNP (National Popular Theatre). Having also worked with East Asian techniques and Mauritian writings as well as music and videos in the first three years, we have now broaden our aim.
There are criterias corresponding to the “ethos” of the company. The plays we choose always incorporate ideas related to exile and unrootedness. We want to create multi-cultural work, or even multi-lingual. For example, The Exchange, our first show, which gave its name to the company, was a bilingual show. In the Flies, there wasn’t an actor with the same accent; the cast included two Greek, a Japanese, an Israeli, two French, three British and five Mauritian actors.
The projects always come from an obvious relevance at a certain point in time. Then, the play text is the basis of the work because we want to make the audience discover rare or unknown texts, primarily. Devised work also happens but the body of work of a writer is always at the root of the work.
The company is called Exchange because that’s what we’re interested in, at many different levels: in cultures but also practically in artistic forms. We have a will to explore various techniques and backgrounds. In The Flies, co-produced with Myriad productions, Kevin Rowntree, their artistic director, brought his strong influences of non-western techniques from Japan or India. In The Exchange, it was the native American world that nourished the production. Whereas other shows were fed by references that are closer to us, more familiar and contemporary, like cinema, literature or music. Overall, a cocktail of western pop culture and non western influences.
Music always holds a special place in the shows, fully integrated as a design element, such as video. It’s a part of the company’s work that includes research on these forms. Original songs were composed for The Exchange, followed by a musician integrated in Bal Trap, until a full live-rock band in The Flies. Regarding the video side: a television set was in The Exchange, there were seven in The Flies, a projector was used in Business, four were used in Square(d). Future projects include the shooting of a short film to be integrated in a theatrical show. This is about pushing the borders between disciplines. All these inventions are all to serve the understanding of the play, the original text is at the heart of the work but those tools can make it more accessible. The aim, beyond mere discovery, is to make the plays accessible to a 21st century audience.
This myriad of influences and diversity at the heart of our creative work defines Exchange Theatre and imposes us, in order to be coherent, the need to think outside the box and get out of any define box, breaking molds and borders between cultures and traditions.
David Furlong, artistic director