Passion in Paris at the heart of new production

Therese Raquin

Therese Raquin - Credit: Archant

Thérèse Raquin director Terry Prince has gone the extra mile for the Company of Ten’s next production which opens at the Abbey Theatre Studio tomorrow. (16) He has visited the medieval Parisian district where the explosive psychological thriller, adapted by Nicholas Wright from Emile Zola’s 1867 novel, is set.

The play centres on the tragic consequences of a young woman’s passionate affair and is set in a single room above a Parisian haberdashery shop.

According to Terry, the apartment’s location in the narrow, dark Passage du Pont-Neuf – a real passageway linking two thoroughfares in the city’s medieval 4th arrondissement (district) – would have lent it an oppressive quality that both reflected and exacerbated the characters’ frustrated emotions.

He explained: “In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was undergoing massive renovation works – with the demolition of unhealthy, cramped neighbourhoods and the building of wide avenues, parks and squares – so it’s significant that in this newly emerging ‘City of Light’, it was in one of the last unreconstructed corners that Zola set his story.

“Although the Passage du Pont-Neuf was demolished over 100 years ago, the other warren-like streets and tall, crowded houses detailed by Zola are still there today, and give a good indication of what living in those conditions might have been like.”


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He went on: “The opening pages of the novel leave us in no doubt as to the depressing location, which is described by one of the characters as ‘sad, dark, damp… like living in a freshly dug grave’, and is in stark contrast to the open fields of rural Normandy from where Thérèse and her family have relocated.

“Zola was a great believer in the influence of milieu on character. These people feel trapped by their environment, and the walls of the apartment soon start to close in on them.”

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Terry added: “A studio space is the perfect place to recreate that intense, oppressive atmosphere, and we hope our audiences will really feel as if they are in the room with these characters.”

A selection of photos showing 19th-century Paris before the renovation of the city will be on display in the foyer of the Abbey Theatre Studio during the run of the show.

Performances are at 8pm tomorrow and on Saturday and from next Tuesday, January 20, to Saturday, January 24. There is also a matinee at 2.30pm this Sunday, January 18. To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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