The Paris theatre has undergone almost a complete change since the beginning of the Second World War. The occupation years, though lean and terrible ones, witnessed the dawn. Henry de Montherlant’s La Reine Morte was created at the Comedie-Francaise in 1942 and in 1943 Gerard Philippe made his debut in Jean Giraudoux’s Sodome et Gomorrhe at the Hebertot. Jean Anouilh’s Antigone was produced the following year, as was Jean-Paul Sartre’s first play, Les Mouches, while the 1940-45 period saw the staging of Andre Roussin’s initial comedies.
The Liberation inaugurated an era of notable achievement. It is impossible to chronicle here all the outstanding events of the French stage during the past decade, but high among them were the Louis Jouvet Molière productions at the Athenée, the formation of the Madeleine Renaud–Jean-Louis Barrault Company, the formation of Jean Vilar’s Theatre National Populaire, Pierre-Aime Touchard’s reign at the Comédie-Francaise during which Andre Gide’s Les Caves du Vatican was staged, Jean Marais’ stunning production of Britannicus was seen and the plays of Pirandello were rediscovered.