Lausanne and the theatre
Lausanne Between Court and Garden
By Jean-Louis Kuffer
Many visitors often discover this with amazement, but not even everyone in Lausanne is aware that nowadays our city boasts an outstanding representation in theatre considering its number of residents, encompassing both established institutions (the Théâtre de Vidy, directed by René Gonzalez with the assistance of René Zahnd, and the Kléber-Méleau Theatre, founded and still managed by Philippe Mentha) and a powerful group of independent companies scattered across various locations, from the Arsenic theatre (especially focused on experimental aspects, directed by Sandrine Kuster) to the 2.21 and the Pulloff (contemporary works, particular in short form), as well as the Théâtre Boulimie (satirical cabaret founded and directed by Lova Golovtchiner) and the Grange de Dorigny (contemporary works and more traditional shows) and the Petit Théâtre (for young audiences and directed by Sophie Gardaz), in particular.
The richness of this offering, which is comparable to that of the largest cities in Switzerland, like Geneva and Zurich, clearly stems from a long history, which was quiet for a long time and then crescendoed in the 20th century, a development that curious readers can find chronicled in the book by René Zahnd entitled Lien interne Entre l’oubli et l’euphorie: le théâtre à Lausanne, published by Payot in 1997.
The expansion of the 1960s
Without going into too much depth, what will be remembered from this evolution is that Lausanne’s theatre scene, which was still rather provincial in the early 1950s, developed alongside the great French movement linked to the creation of decentralized drama locations.
The role of Charles Apothéloz (1922-1982) is inseparable from the Centre Dramatique de Lausanne, which came from the old municipal theatre. After its establishment at the admirable Vidy site, designed near the lake by the great architect Max Bill for the National Exposition of 1964, it was transformed into the Centre Dramatique de Lausanne-Vidy, which Apothéloz directed from 1968 to 1974.
Under the direction of this pioneer, who was later succeeded by Franck Jotterand, the Théâtre de Vidy became a centre for local creativity, mainly involving Romand actors.
An opening to the world
Alongside the increased interaction created by the new European theatre movement, Vidy would become a more internationally visible production centre with the arrival of Matthias Langhoff at the helm from 1988 to 1991.
After the great director Langhoff was criticized for not focusing enough on the administration and for doing too little for the Romand theatre scene, René Gonzalez’s new leadership would settle these tensions and provide the Vidy location with direction and unparalleled influence (Vidy is the largest exporter of shows in all of Switzerland), anchored in the community on the same level as Philippe Mentha’s Kléber-Méleau Theatre.
Far be it from us to focus exclusively on the “institution” at the expense of independent productions, but remember that Lausanne’s public theatrical “talent”, often supported by the directors and passing troupes, has been refined and developed through years of hard work, carried out by our two main houses against the tide of what was once routine, when Lausanne was an uninspired stopover for successful Parisian tours. In short, with repertory and discovery, the golden years of theatre live on today in Lausanne. And long may they last…
Service de la culture
Place de la Palud
Hôtel de Ville
Case postale 6904
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Fax +41 21 315 20 30
tl: Saint-François, Bel-Air
m1: Lausanne-Flon; m2: Riponne-M. Béjart