Paris Off and On Stage: An Old Game, New Hair
by Clive Barnes
The New York Times - September 13, 1969

No account of Parisian drama could be complete without mention of the great game called Place de la Concorde. The game takes place all over Paris, but for obvious reasons it has been designated Place de la Concorde.  (Try and cross the street there, mon enfant, mon vieux, mon Anglo-Saxon, and you will see how obvious the designation is.)

The game consists of a motorist (preferably either superlatively drunk or of very immediate need of psychiatric assistance) coming as close to a tourist pedestrian as may be achieved without actually killing him.  If he does kill him he loses up to five points (the number depends on whether the traffic lights were green or red at the operative time), and a simple maiming costs him at least two.  The game is so popular that motorists come from as far as Toulon to participate, and I am told that on feast days even French-speaking Swiss drivers may join in.  (Special terms are offered to French-Canadians.)

Nothing, I assure you, in the French theater can equal this life and death struggle of the streets.  At times, you will find even the dialogue piquant.

Then, in more conventional theatrical terms, there is, of course, Hair at the Theatre de la Porte St., Martin.  Before my recent visit to Paris I saw hair in London, and the contrast between the two is fascinating.

I would recommend Hair to any visitor to paris or London, or, for that matter, new York, but they are all different.  The Parisian Hair is perhaps the best, the hippiest, and happiest of them all.  The cast, led by Julien Clerc as Claude and Herve Matine as Berger, is splendidly uninhibited and enormously likable.  They belt out Galt MacDermot's music with a pounding authority and bring out all the poetry in the lyrics and "non-livret" of James Rado and Gerome Ragni, here adapted by Jacques Lanzmann.

The production has been staged in Paris by Bertrand Castelli, the executive producer in New York, and although he has largely followed the Tom O'Horgan Broadway original, and, of course, Julie Arenal's choreography, he has given them a Gallic liveliness of his own.

This French-accented Hair, with it's local jokes and additions, not only shows that vitality of the show in the first place, but also emerges as a perfect original in it's own right.  This in no sense seems like an adaptation or provincial version.

There is plenty of fun in the London Hair, at the Shaftesbury Theater, and this too has it's own local references and minor departures from the new York original.  But somehow it doesn't fly as high as the show does in Paris and New york.

This is not the fault of the London Berger and Claude - Oliver Tobias and Paul Nicholas - but many of the others, especially the girls, lack something in fervor.  There is also the question of accent, quite undisturbing in the French but here a little uncertain.  The show missed a sense of place or time, which took away something of it's original impact.

For all this, wherever Hair goes it certainly turns on it's audience.  I look forward one day to seeing a Soviet version in Moscow, or - who knows? - a lunar staging in that great theater in the sky.

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