French Coffee Theatre Festival to kick off in Shanghai
Published: Apr 12, 2023 11:16 PM
Promotional material for Variations énigmatiques Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Modern Theater

Promotional material for Variations énigmatiques Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Modern Theatre

The upcoming May Day holidays in late April and early May will be an exciting moment for playgoers, coffee lovers and French culture enthusiasts in Shanghai. 

A coffee theater festival is scheduled to open in the city from April 28 to May 4 to offer audiences an immersive experience of enjoying plays while drinking coffee.

The French Coffee Theatre Festival, as part of the 17th China-France Cultural Spring Art Festival, will present the Chinese versions of three French plays with distinct styles and artistic features: L'Augmentation, L'Aide-Mémoire and Variations Énigmatiques.

L'Augmentation is a special avant-garde play that offers audiences a sort of "murder mystery game" experience, according to Zhang Yu, director of the Shanghai Modern Theatre, which presents the three plays.

L'Aide-Mémoire reflects on people's anxiety and uncertainty about relationships and emotions in today's society, while Variations Énigmatiques has an attractive narration that meets the tastes of those interested in detective reasoning, Zhang noted.

Tickets for the three plays, all priced at 180 yuan ($26.2) each, are available for booking. 

"They are selling well," Zhang told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Originated from the café-théâtre (small theaters where drinks and food are served) in Paris, the immersive coffee theater experience is becoming increasingly popular in Shanghai, a city with nearly 8,000 cafés, arguably the most in the world.

The combination of cafés and theater plays is a unique city culture in Shanghai. Early in the 1920s and 1930s, famous writers like Lu Xun, Eileen Chang and Xu Xu usually wrote or discussed literary works and plays at cafés across the city.

Today, coffee theater is welcomed by young people who prefer a casual lifestyle, Zhang said. 

"Some 70 percent of our audiences are aged 35 and under," he told the Global Times.

Unlike sitting straight at grand theaters, watching a play in a smaller and cozier space with a cup of coffee in hand is much more relaxing, said Zhang. 

"Both ways have their own charm, and they complement each other in enriching the audience experience," Zhang noted.

This is the third coffee theater festival in Shanghai since 2021. The first two, held amid the COVID-19 epidemic, were warmly welcomed by Shanghai residents, although drinking coffee was not allowed at that time as audience were asked to wear masks.

"Now coffee is available with the end of the pandemic. We look forward to providing our audience with a better watching experience," Zhang said.