(Laura Barnett’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/26.)

How much can you get out of a play if it's performed in a language you don't understand? This question was very much on my mind at the Avignon festival in the south of France. It was my first time at this large-scale, artistically ambitious arts shindig, which bears similarities to the Edinburgh International festival. Both started in the 1940s to cheer up a post-war populace; both have a large fringe festival alongside the main programme (though in Avignon this is known, delightfully, as the "Off"); both entirely commandeer their host town.

I was there at the invitation of the main festival's co-director, Vincent Baudriller; a few weeks back, he got in touch with me to say that he was keen to encourage more British audiences to visit Avignon. Theatre fans apparently flock there from all over Europe and beyond – Spain, Germany, Holland, Russia – and those countries' newspapers and websites devote reams of space to the festival. "But you Brits," he said, "generally stay away."


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