The town I grew up in, in the west of England, was blessed with but one miserable little theatre, and although it regularly hosted some very entertaining shows, it was on rare occasions that all 200 or so seats were filled.
For I, like the majority of fellow town-folk, considered an evening out at the theatre as a somewhat eccentric activity, coming in way down on the list of possibilities:
- Discover the beers on tap at a new pub
- Appreciate the beers on tap at a favourite pub
- Stay in and watch TV
- Go to the town’s one and only cinema
- Go to the town’s one and only night-club
- Study and go to bed early
- Go to the town’s one and only theatre
Here in Strasbourg however, there are so many theatres that it is hard to justify doing much else when you find yourself free of an evening (unless of course you don’t understand a word of French). Indeed, as bizarre as it may seem, the majority of my French friends are more likely to go and see a show than they are to watch television. You could argue that this is because French TV is so downright abominable, or because the beer in one place tastes much the same as it does in another.
Thus far I’ve managed to familiarise myself with just a handful of venues: Au Camionneur, TAPS Gare, Le Kafteur, le Palais des Fêtes, Le Zénith, L’Iliade, le Point d’Eau and L’Opéra du Rhin; but there are literally dozens more scattered around the city and burbs.
Which means there’s something for everyone and something to suit just about every budget. Right now, at the top end of the scale you could get some top seats for ‘Swan Lake‘ at the Rhine Opera for 48 €, or at the other end you can shell out as little as 5 € for ‘Tout va pas bien‘ at The Cube nOir.
The Cube nOir, due in part to it’s somewhat isolated nature, hosts the vast majority of Strasbourg’s amateur dramatic productions, which means it has something of an Edinburgh Fringe feel to it. Like Edinburgh though it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether you leave the show saying “wow” or “that was a waste of an hour”.
The bottom line for me is that drinking for the sake of drinking comes much further down the agenda in France than in does in the UK, and that the arts thrive thanks to a nation that believes in promoting it’s own ‘culture’.
One wonders how much the arts are going to suffer under Dave’s “Big Society” plans in Britain … but no doubt, because almost every Brit is either out boozing or slowly rotting in front of reality TV of an evening, you have to wonder if anyone will notice anyway?