The French Institute in London today (7 January 2009) launched Paris Calling, the first ever Franco-British season dedicated to performing arts, which will present a wide array of contemporary drama, circus and dance productions at over 20 UK venues over the next seven months.

The project follows a lengthy period of cross-channel consultations, during which artistic directors from venues including the Young Vic, Sadler\'s Wells, Northern Stage and the Traverse Theatre travelled to France to “hand-pick” the companies and productions they wished to work with. Speaking at the launch at the French Institute in Kensington today, French Embassy cultural counsellor Laurence Auer described the season as an attempt to address the “cultural uncertainty” between Britain and France, hoping that Paris Calling will open the door for “more regular bi-lateral collaborations”.

The season includes over ten world and UK premieres, with productions of works by leading French writers including Xavier Le Roy and Jérôme Bel. Speaking at the launch, Sadler\'s Wells artistic director Alistair Spalding described his decision to present these writers as an attempt to “play catch-up” and help them establish a \"greater presence on British stages\".

Laurence Auer cited Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan\'s recent dance project in-i as an example of the kind of collaboration she was hoping to spark. Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Auer said: “When I approached Juliette to be a patron of the initiative, she was very keen, and agreed that when in-i visits Leicester\'s new Curve venue from 5 to 7 February 2009, it will be as part of Paris Calling.”

In an introduction to the season programme, Binoche says: “For the first time, Paris Calling is celebrating the collaborations in dance, theatre, circus and more, between England and France … A great range of actors, companies, artists, directors and emerging talents will be part of the programme … I hope it will inspire other artistic collaborations across the world.”

Best of French new writing

As part of Paris Calling, from February to June 2009, the Hampstead, Soho, Young Vic, Northern Stage and Bush theatres will host a series of staged readings “presenting the best of French new writing in translation”. And, on 23 April, the National’s Cottesloe plays host to readings of extracts from three newly translated contemporary French plays, directed by Marianne Badrichani. Speaking today, Badrichani expressed her hope that the works would arouse interest amongst “both audience members and professionals”, emphasising the aim is for them to “have life after Paris Calling”.

Paris Calling is funded by the French Embassy and the British Council, with Auer revealing today that the budget for the management and organisation of the scheme has already reached £200,000. Maurice Gourbault-Montagne, the French Ambassador, described the season of works as a “British vision of the French performing arts scene which seeks to convey both the richness and creativity of both countries”. It will be a one-off, however, with no plans at this stage to make it an annual event.

The full list of venues taking part in Paris Calling is: Sadler\'s Wells, Barbican, Southbank Centre, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Royal Opera House, Leicester Curve, Tate Modern, Silk Street theatre, Nuffield Southampton, Northern Stage, Traverse, Oxford Playhouse, Cambridge Arts, Warwick Arts Centre, Artsadmin, Young Vic, Derby Assembly Rooms, Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, South London Gallery, Theatre Royal Margate, Bush, Soho, Hampstead and the National Theatre. Full details of the programme will soon be available at www.pariscalling.org.uk.

- by Theo Bosanquet