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Films ‘Shock Corridor’ and ‘Day of the Outlaw’ adapted on stage

By Rosslyn Hyams

At the National Drama Centre in Montreuil, a suburb east of Paris, director Mathieu Bauer's double-bill Nuit Américaine adapts two US movies for the stage. Bauer says it's like "diving into the history of cinema and of the US" at the same time.

Click on the arrow in the top right-hand of the photo to listen to the RFI English Culture in France broadcast on 17 October 2018, and hear actors Clément Barthelet and Rémi Fortin talk about their experiences in the plays.

Plays and literature are more often adapted to the screen rather than vice versa. French director Mathieu Bauer thinks differently. He draws all the elements of stage, not least of all illusion, to pull off an entertaining and thought-provoking double-bill.

He began with Samuel Fuller's 1963 Shock Corridor, set in a mental hospital, as a project for the students of the National Theatre School in Strasbourg (TNS) and which has matured naturally over the past three years.

The same crew work with Bauer, and his accomplices/musicians Sylvain Cartigny and Joseph Dahan, on the second show, Western. It’s an almost word-for-word adaptation of the 1959 script for The Day of the Outlaw set in the 19th century. The music score changes somewhat.

Exploited women in a saloon scene from Mathieu Bauer's play 'Western', adapted from the film, The Day of the Outlaw, by André de Toth Jean-Louis Fernandez

Together, the André de Toth-inspired work and Shock Corridor span almost a century of American history. Bauer chose these films for their focus on certain American social and political issues which were red hot at the time, or are still burning and simmering today. The young French actors embrace aspects of the American “un-dream” with energy and imagination, and carry spectators away with them and their youthful enthusiasm.

La Nuit Américaine, Bauer's double-bill, is going on tour in France after their last night in Montreuil on 26 October 2018. At the time of writing neither play has subtitles.

Here are the dates so far:

9 November 2018 Scène nationale de Sète et du bassin de Thau

19 January 2019 Théâtre du Gymnase, Marseille

24 - 26 January 2019 Théâtre de La Croix-Rousse, Lyon

1 February 2019 Le Granit, Scène nationale, Belfort

12 & 13 March 2019 La Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand

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