Now a reality: Sunderland the play, Saint-Etienne the film

Sunderland the play

If only to reassure everyone we are still here, why not reproduce something posted over at the original, non-football Salut! site?

It has SAFC connections, albeit more detached as the story proceeds. Monsieur Salut saw the play in Paris but cannot properly remember at which point the male lead – you see him pictured, in one of our tops – slagging off Newcastle (in French of course). It happened, though.

Sunderland, as you shall soon realise if you didn’t read it here the first time, has become Saint-Etienne in the film version: our links include coalmining, Steeeeeed (all of one appearance for them) and Patrice Carteron (120 – and while with us, he scored against the Mags; he’s now head coach of the Congolese club TP Mazembe).

As for the film, pretty good reviews here and there though I did see a tweet saying it had opened to empty houses in Lyon …

Spot the difference.
Above you see, and may recall from these pages, the set of a play called Sunderland, a dark social comedy written by a Frenchman, Clément Koch, who had studied and worked in the North East of England and decided to set it there. Below, you see what it’s become on the big screen. It’s now about the French city, Saint-Etienne, and it has just been released.

Qui c'est le plus fort

The play took Paris theatreland by storm, selling out night after night at Le Petit Théâtre de Paris, albeit as smallish a venue as its name suggests.

I believe I was first with news of that for the British media, publishing it initially at Salut! Sunderland and then telling the BBC about it, though it was from a journalist friend working in Paris that I had heard about it.

I was certainly first to report that the playwright had sold film rights to a French producer, Richard Pezet, who told me he had decided to relocate the story to the French city of Saint-Etienne, nearly as football-mad as Sunderland and also having a troubled recent industrial history, including significant past reliance on coal mining. Read

Enter the director Charlotte de Turckheim and filming of Qui c’est les plus forts? – who’s the strongest? – was soon enough under way. It came out in France on Wednesday after useful press an TV publicity build-up and stars Alice Pol, Audrey Lamy and Bruno Sanches.

I have not yet seen it or early audience figures but suspect this will be one for Francophone countries, with possible art-house interest from Britain.

Turckheim and Koch, who co-wrote the screenplay, found they shared a liking for “taking frivolously about serious matters and gravely about frivolity”.

This is from the piece to which I link above, written after I saw the play in Paris:

And the play itself? One hell of a challenge for my French. Slang is liberally used in Clément Koch’s script and this makes it hard for someone with decent conversational and reading skills but not using the language daily. An English friend who has lived in Paris for 40 years saw the play with me and made me feel a lot better by finding it hard to follow at times, too. What I did get I liked; of course it is stereotypical but the the warmth of Koch’s characters rises about the clichés about unemployment, booze and football to make them appealing. La grandeur des Humbles, as one review headline had it.

The story is simple if contrived: a young woman fights to keep custody of her teenage autistic sister after their mother commits suicide. She turns to surrogate motherhood for a pair of gays in order to raise the money she needs; her boyfriend drifts in and out of the plot, always wearing his Tombola red and white top and always ready to talk about how the Lads are doing and have done in the past. There’s also a housemate who is an expert in what the French call the téléphonie rose, which is to say she talks dirty to paying callers.

That is the play, from which the film is “adapted”, though I believe much of the storyline remains.

I hope the film prospers even I wish it had still been about Sunderland.

2 thoughts on “Now a reality: Sunderland the play, Saint-Etienne the film”

  1. Hopefully it will come to the Tyneside Cinema, a beautiful venue even if it is in the heart of darkness. Would have been even more enjoyable if about Sunderland but I shall try to catch it.

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