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Theatres and cinemas in the suburbs

Théâtre Jean Vilar

Created in the 1970s in grey, suburban Vitry-sur-Seine, the Théâtre Jean Vilar isn’t pretty.  But what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for ten-fold on the stage, with top-class, wide-ranging programmes of contemporary dance, classical music, theatre, stand-up comedy and pop concerts - so you don’t necessarily need to speak French, to enjoy a night out or a matinee performance here.

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Théâtre Gérard Philipe

This town hall has quite a history. It was built in the early 1900s when it was used for a variety of purposes – prize-givings, political meetings and dances, as well as theatre productions. Jean Vilar and his troupe did a stint here in the 40s, albeit without much success. In 1960 the theatre was christened Gerard Philipe after the famous French comedian who’d passed away the year before. Gradually the place made a name for itself in Ile-de-France’s theatre scene and was eventually made a National Centre for the Creation and Dissemination of Dramatics (Centre dramatique national de création et de diffusion dramatiques). As well as staging musical performances...

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Centre National de la Danse

This centre first opened its door in 2004, with the mission to bridge the divide between stage and spectator. It invites audiences to its quarterly 'Grandes leçons de danse', contemporary dance master classes. It also offers an expertly curated selection of performances presented in the studios, exhibitions, and a phenomenal archive of films and choreographic material.

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North of the centre

Théâtre de Gennevilliers

Trying to find the Théâtre de Gennevilliers? Just follow the arrows. Dreamed up by conceptual artist Daniel Buren, these red and white panels will lead you from the metro station all the way to the venue's front door. They're a suitably playful preview of the torrent of creative activity that awaits you inside: the centre's 'contemporary art' remit takes in everything from cutting-edge theatre and opera (think Oscar Bianchi and Joël Pommerat) to fine art, cinema, literature and even philosophy seminars. A valuable addition to the city's art scene, unfairly overlooked by tourists on account of its banlieue address.

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Théâtre des Quartiers d'Ivry

Set in Paris’ Ivry suburb, the Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry is one of Greater Paris’ most exciting theatres, covering everything from works by new authors, to Goldoni, Moliere and Chekhov. There’s also an emphasis on plays by international theatre troupes – especially those from the Middle East and South America, with an excellent spring festival (March to April) dedicated to non-French works. The theatre is split between three buildings: Théâtre d’Ivry Antoine Vitez, the main building, set in a former salt warehouse; the nearby Studio Casanova (69 rue Danielle Casanova, 94200 Ivry-sur-Seine) and the Auditorium Antonin Artaud (just up the road from the Studio at N° 152).

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Théâtre 71

As the name suggests, the Théâtre 71 opened its doors in 1971 in Paris's southern suburbs, though it had to wait another two decades before receiving government endorsement as a forum for contemporary performance arts. It hasn't let up since, filling its programme with some of the most innovative and downright bonkers events this side of the Périphérique. A calendar highlight is the Jazzamalak jazz season, which runs throughout most of the year.

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Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil

Housed in a heavy steel and concrete edifice on the site of the old Théâtre des Jeunes Spectateurs, the no less literally named Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil widens the remit of its predecessor with a programme that includes theatre, music and dance for all ages. Recent shows have tackled such heavyweight themes as generational conflict, punk music and gender identity. The theatre combines this with a strong pedagogic thrust, whereby members of the public are encouraged to attend (free) workshops on the performing arts, or even take on work placements behind the scenes. A very valuable venue, worth the trip beyond the Périph'.

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Cinéma Le Trianon

Worth the trip to its far-flung location in the suburb of Noisy-le-Sec, Le Trianon (not to be confused with the ritzy concert venue in Rochechouart) is that rare thing: a cinema that puts on a passionately curated programme of arthouse and world films, and lets you watch them for pittance (€6 for a full-price ticket, down to as little as €3.50 for special screenings). The latest independent fare from France and elsewhere is complemented by regular themed events, such as an Ozu retrospective or the yearly Frano-Arab film festival. A gem.

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East of the centre

Ciné 104

Displaying the kind of community spirit (not to mention prices) that has been all but snuffed out in the city centre, Le Ciné 104 is a heartwarming reminder of what cinemas once were – and can still be. It’s a genuinely popular place, its diverse programme of new releases, second-run films and hidden gems (many from the Maghreb) attracting the Pantin banlieusards in droves. The personable staff are clearly committed to the locals, ensuring that ticket prices stay at the €4-6 mark, and putting on various events targeted at special groups: Q&A sessions for students, screenings of local artists’ work, even film classes for kids. It may be a trek from central Paris, but this cinema is worth every minute...

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More from our guide to the suburbs

Galleries

Those who don't believe that contemporary art (think 'pretentious, highbrow, trendy, urban') and the suburbs ('rough, dodgy, uncultured, rude') could ever go hand in hand should pop over to the other side of the périphérique from time to time. In the last 20-odd years, between the narrow belt covered by the underground and the oh-so-distant terminuses of the RER lines, contemporary arts centres and galleries have been cropping up all over the place... 

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By: Tania Brimson

Theatres and cinemas

Théâtre Jean Vilar Created in the 1970s in grey, suburban Vitry-sur-Seine, the Théâtre Jean Vilar isn’t pretty.  But what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for ten-fold on the stage, with top-class, wide-ranging programmes of contemporary dance, classical music, theatre, stand-up comedy and pop concerts - so you don’t necessarily need to speak French, to enjoy a night out or a matinee performance here. Théâtre Gérard Philipe This town hall has quite a history...  

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Music and nightlife

Le Mange Disc Now there’s another reason to head to Montreuil apart from the Marché aux Puces, in the form of great new neighbourhood bar Le Mange Disc. One major draw is the sun terrace, while the main attraction is the old-fashioned and charming rock’n’roll ambiance that harks back to the 1980s rockabilly revival. At the bar, a record player blasts out doo-wop, teen rock and rhythm and blues, while a bartender with slicked-back hair asks warmly, ‘What can I serve you, pet?’... 

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Things to Do

St-Denis and the north Stade de France Football- and rugby-crazy kids (and grown-ups) will absolutely love the behind-the-scenes tours of France's handsome national sports stadium. After a quick scan of the museum (photos, football shirts, electric guitars from the rock stars who also play here), the tour begins by sitting in the stands and ends with a runout through the tunnel to the sound of applause. On the way, you can visit the changing and shower rooms and learn about... 

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