Who we are
Exchange Theatre is an international company established in 2006 in London. Since its creation, unknown or rare French-speaking plays were imported, translated and produced by the company. With the use of a strong visual imagery, live music and multilingualism, Exchange Theatre’s productions offer you the opportunity to share 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 before being resident at the French Institute for two years. Since then, the company has brought to the stage ambitious double productions off west end: shows such as A Family Affair, The Doctor in Spite of Himself, The Misanthrope were alternately played in English and French.
Not only does Exchange Theatre’s team practice their passion, but they also want to share it. 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.
At the heart of the British society, we work from our studio space in London Bridge, at the centre of London.
Over 10 years, the company has been focusing its work towards exchange, or as Paul Claudel says, “towards the reunion of the world”. At Exchange Theatre, we are convinced that in order to promote the Francophone culture, it has to be reclaimed, adapted and reinvented every day: it is a true community that we strive to create around this great purpose.
One of the first things which hold the Exchange’s community together, it is the common values:
Making theatre accessible to the greatest number of people
Beyond conservatism, our theatre is popular, in the current context and always relevant to its audience. It is spontaneous, it makes our choice of classic or modern translations accessible to all and strives to share a genuine vision of the modern society with as many people as possible.
Diversity and interbreeding: a bridge between cultures
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. The work we choose always incorporate ideas related to exile. We like to consider our work an actual bridge that connects people to each other and that uses theatre to fix what unrootedness had broken.
A sensorial experience
“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
The company refuses to see its audience as a silent, passive and purely observing entity. On the contrary, we try to reach our public on an emotional level by offering a work you can actually experience and feel, significant and challenging stories that go beyond mere visual representation.
Teaching: transmission and benevolence
A bridge of transmission: the workshops to introduce theatre 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 broadened our aim.
There are criteria 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, we consider the play text the basis of the work because we want to make the audience discover rare or unknown texts, primarily.
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, 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. 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 and its relevance regarding a 21st century audience. The aim, beyond mere discovery, is to make the plays accessible to the greatest number of people.
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, breaking moulds and borders between cultures and traditions.
David Furlong, artistic director