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Unexpected: Theatre Antoine, Paris


I've walked its street many times, down Boulevard Strasbourg in the 10e, but my eyes had always been somewhere else before, so until last fall I had never noticed the Theatre Antoine.


And it wasn't until I was long home and sorting pictures that it became anything more than a few images of 19th-century facade decoration in my mind.


But it didn't take long to discover that not only is it still operating (gates covered the front when I passed) but is still, as it has been for most of its 150-year history, a venue for experimental and avant-garde theatre. In the 1940s, it saw the premieres of most of Jean-Paul Sartre's plays.

Antoine interior (2)Screenshot 2022-02-01 132355

Other notable names that have had connections over the years include Albert Camus, Jean Cocteau and Arthur Miller; directors who have worked there include Peter Brook, Sacha Guitry and Simone Berriau who ran the theatre for many years. Isabelle Huppert, Anouk Aimee, Jeanne Moreau Gerard Depardieu and Jean-Louis Trintignant are among those who've performed there.


It's passed through several sets of hands, of course, since Andre Antoine was forced to sell it in 1994 when he ran out of money. But then, it had already had a number of names when he bought it in 1888. It was built in 1866 as the Theatre des Menus-Plaisirs, and was later Theatre des Arts, Opera-Bouffe and Comedie-Parisienne. The street decorations, dated 1880 and 1881 are probably the Comedie's additions.


Antoine's theatre company, the 'Free Theatre' or Theatre Libre only lasted eight years, but it was a pioneering presenter of naturalistic theatre and had a long influence on other companies.


Images (7)
  • Antoine interior (2)
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  • P1180257-001
  • Screenshot 2022-02-01 132355

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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