Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lights go up again on Lauzun stage

After around 50 years of being in the dark, the lights go up on Lauzun’s newly renovated theater stage. Well, the lights don’t actually go up until about 10 minutes into the play, as Theatre de Lauzun presents the well-loved farce “Black Comedy.” The play, written by Peter Shaffer, begins in the dark, although for the characters on stage, it’s light. Later, when the electricity goes out, the characters are in the dark, although the stage is lit. The title of the play is a pun. Get it?

The cast of “Black Comedy” rehearses the week before the curtain rises
on the newly renovated theater in Lauzun.

When “Black Comedy” opened at the Old Vic Theatre in London in 1965, the cast included Maggie Smith, Albert Finney and Derek Jacobi. Two years later on Broadway, Michael Crawford, Lynn Redgrave and Geraldine Page starred.

Despite its success, the director and star of the Lauzun production, Martin Smith, had never heard of “Black Comedy” until he picked up a copy of the play in a secondhand bookstore four years ago.

“I read it and I loved it,” Smith, 64, says. “Many plays seem to fizzle out, but this one holds its appeal and is funny from beginning to end.”

'Black Comedy' cast members Bob Orwin, Teresa Magill and
Jill Richards rehearse the week before the inaugural performance
of the Theatre de Lauzun.

Cast members George Birnie and Martin Smith rehearse for
'Black Comedy,' Theatre de Lauzun’s inaugural production.

It took a few years and a touch of serendipity for Smith to bring “Black Comedy” to the local stage. John Paul Barjou, proprietor of Café des Sports in Lauzun, decided to renovate the old theater located behind his establishment. Barjou’s father had been a crew member for the last play performed at the theater a half century ago. For several years afterward, dances were held in the space, but that was long ago and the theater needed extensive work. So just as Smith was considering forming a theater troupe, the venue was taking shape. Timing, as they say, is everything.

Martin Smith is a founding member
of Theatre de Lauzun.
Smith is in awe of the amount of community support the newly formed Theatre de Lauzun has garnered in and around this small village on the northern edge of the Lot-et-Garonne department.

“Many theater groups have to recruit support, but soon after our group was formed, people were volunteering to help,” Smith says. “I’d say we have 17 or so people helping out behind the scenes on this production, and at least 10 are from right here in the village.”

Smith and his wife Tessa are familiar figures in the Lauzun area. They sing with the Folk Forum 47 group North-South Divide, as well as with the Cantabile choir in Eymet. He is a past-president of Eymet’s cricket club too. But Smith says he never sang or acted (or played cricket, for that matter) until he moved to France 26 years ago. It’s been quite a lifestyle change for this former firefighter. When he isn’t performing or cheering on Club Eymetois de Cricket, he works in construction and is a chimney sweep.

“Black Comedy” is the first play Smith has directed, and he already is planning for the next.

“Theatre de Lauzun hopes to produce two plays each year,” Smith says. “Next summer’s production will be an original work written by Ann-Mary Stanton, one of our members.”

“Black Comedy” is being performed at 8 p.m. on Oct. 13, 14 and 15 in Lauzun. Tickets are nearly sold out. To inquire about availability or to put your name on the Theatre de Lauzun mailing list, email or call

No comments:

Post a Comment