Located in a former munitions factory in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes, next to the Parc Floral de Paris, the Cartoucherie is probably the most mysterious theatre in Paris. In this unusual space of creation, opened in 1970, you can attend the high-quality performances, produced by five theatrical troupes. And just to warn you, this is not a formal kind of theatre. They are the supporters of the improvisation and physical theatre, so you have to be prepared to expect everything. Even to see the actors putting their makeup and costumes just before the show and in front of your eyes! Trust me, this place is definitely worth visiting.
At the end of the sixties of the last century, the French army left the old artillery polygon in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes. Among various military equipments left abandoned, the Cartoucherie, a former munitions factory was a sinister place in ruins, doomed to destruction. At that time, the City of Paris started considering the restoration of this former military space. A creation of a huge Olympic city was even discussed, but the Association for the protection of the Bois de Vincennes stopped this project. And then, in 1970, Ariane Mnouchkine, a theatre director and her troupe “Théâtre du Soleil” (“The Theatre of the Sun”) took possession of the Cartoucherie. The first performance took place during one cold and foggy winter night. The Cartoucherie was just an austere building, hidden in the woods, without heating, but the show was a success, and from that night, the audience just continued growing. The new Parisian theatre was born.
A few years after taking over the Cartoucherie, four other troops joined it: Theatre de la Tempete (Theatre of the Storm), Theatre de l’Epée de Bois (Theatre of the Sword of Wood), l’Atelier du Chaudron (Workshop of the Cauldron) closed in 2012 and Theatre de l’Aquarium (Theater of the Aquarium). Since 1994, the Cartoucherie has been home to the Association for the Research of Actor Traditions and since 1999 to the Atelier de Paris, a training and choreographic creation center founded and directed by Carolyn Carlson. This place is full of surprises. And that is quite understandable, if you know that Ariane Mnouchkine, a theatre director of the “Théâtre du Soleil” (Theater of the Sun) thinks that the theatre cannot be restricted by the "fourth wall", a performance convention in which an invisible, imagined wall separates the actors from the audience. That is why, the actors are often performing in the spaces like barns or gymnasiums, and the public will often find them preparing, putting the makeup and costumes just in front of their eyes.
If you want to reach the Cartoucherie, a mysterious theatre in Paris, the best way to go there is to take a free shuttle at the metro station Chateau de Vincennes. The shuttle goes one hour before every performance and every 15 minutes. And you can eat and have a drink in the bar of the Cartoucherie before and after every performance.
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