Robert Thomas (director)
He is something of a forgotten man in French theatre and cinema. By the time he was 18, he claimed he had read every play published in French since 1900.
As a writer, almost from the beginning, he was fascinated by a curious genre that he helped invent: the comédie policière or comedy thriller, of which Eight Women is a classic example. In 1960 Thomas scored a hit with Man Trap, a humorous murder mystery which was an overnight success in Paris. Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights and the play established Thomas as a writer of psychological crime dramas with a distinctively Gallic comic twist. The following year the second outing of Eight Women was far more successful as it won the Hachette Prix du Quai des Orfevres for Best Play in 1961.
Thomas would go on to be a prolific actor, playwright and movie director. If he is most famous for Eight Women it is probably because it was adapted into a movie musical by François Ozon in 2002 with a star-studded line-up that included Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant and Emmanuelle Béart.
Thomas’s plays were never trendy or fashionable and he was often dismissed by French critics and intellectuals. But his public loved him and the best of his work is elegant and well-constructed. It is also unlike anything else in its peculiar juxtaposition of tension and laughter. Thomas died in 1989 in Paris and, from what I can gather, almost nothing of his work has ever crossed the Channel. So his most celebrated play is surely ripe for re-evaluation
- . Donald Sturrock programme notes.
- Robert Thomas at the Internet Movie Database
- The Uk premiere of Eight Women can be seen at Southwark Playhouse until 9 April 2011
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