Taking Paris by storm: Sunderland, the play

Images: V Tonelli

Now if only it could be Sunderland’s play taking Paris by storm. That for all their Qatari gold, we’d gone to the Parc des Princes and walloped Paris Saint-German 3-0 to proceed still further in the Champions’ League.

There’s the fantasy. Here’s the reality, or Sunderland as presented on the Parisian stage.

Sunderland is the title of a play running just now at the Petit Théâtre de Paris in rue Blanche (9th arrondissement).

It sounds as if it might be something Molière would have come up with if given some old Likely Lads scripts and asked to portray life in a northern English town dominated by rain, factory closures, bird flu (bit out of date there, mind) … and the shortcomings of the football team.

A comedy à l’anglaise where emotion and laughter constantly intermingle, according to the blurb.

But so far as I could tell, it was not a translation from a British play but a piece written by a Frenchman, Clément Koch. And I have just this minute confirmed that to be the case.

The online comments from Parisian threatregoers suggest a great night provided you speak the lingo, French that is not Mackem.

“A lovely piece of theatre,” wrote “yannorangebleue”, awarding five stars, “between emotion, belly laughts and love, carried off by a uniformly strong cast. No overacting and we are drawn into the story as in a film.”

And “Claudia65” wrote: “Loved it, a beautiful production that really makes you believe you’re in the north of England. Very well written, lots of emotion and tenderness and sometimes some laughter. Excellent actors. We had a great time.”

More? Let’s hear from two other amateur critics giving it five stars: “Olga2000” found the play “pure happiness” while “Enico” overcame initial reluctance – he didn’t care for the poster and modern theatre sometimes leaves him cold – to be “totally impressed”.

To the proper critics, the play is – as the French love to say – so British.

The writer from L’Express confused football and rugby but liked it a lot, marvelling at the writer’s ability to produce comedy from a series of characters that include a woman bringing up her autistic younger sister after the child’s mother hangs herself, a lovestruck, spurned male friend, a flatmate who earns a living spouting telephone porn and “as the icing on the cake, two gays in search of the uterus”. “With all that, and the lovely presence of Elodie Navarre, the director Stéphane Hillel sweep us off our feet. Bravo!”

I thought I needed to know more and put in a call to Pierre Cordier, the man handling publicity.

But he was walking along the boulevards and told me to ring later. When I did, Pierre’s colleague answered a little breathlessly as if he, too, were pounding along sur le trottoir; he was so, so Parisian, namely too busy to talk beyond confirming that it was an original French work by the said M Koch. They clearly don’t expect to sell many tickets – I have seen prices varying between 21 and 39.50 euros – via Salut! Sunderland. Book here.

As for M Koch, a spot of Maigret-style – or was it Clouseau-style? – detective work by M Salut now establishes that he is bilingual, studied at Durham Uni, plays guitar and prefers ice hockey and tennis to football.

Monsieur Salut

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2 thoughts on “Taking Paris by storm: Sunderland, the play”

  1. the guy in the photograph looks suspiciously like a shirt-wearer snapped outside the Pope’s place in Rome (St Peter’s Square?) a couple of years back by a friend

  2. I remember seeing Peter Terson’s play “Zigger Zagger “performed at the Empire in the late 60’s. A young defender called Bob Lunn played the footballer in it. It was a good play and Terson was riding high at the time. He wrote the one about the 3 Yorkshire miners on a fishing trip at Whitby.
    Mind you, this one sounds more like life in the depths of Middlesbrough or Byker rather than in the glorious sunlit uplands of Pennywell.

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