Melbourne French Theatre Inc. (MFT), an Income Tax Exempt Charity and Tax Deductible Gift Recipient, was founded in 1977 by Michael Bula and David Gorrie. In 1985 MFT was constituted as a non-profit incorporated association and was placed under the patronage of the French Consul General in Melbourne. In 1986 MFT was honoured to receive the patronage of His Excellency the Ambassador of France to Australia as a measure of the official recognition and prestige the Company has attained over the years. In 1991 MFT was entered on the Register of Cultural Organisations administered by the Department of the Arts in Canberra, thus providing tax deductibility for all private donations. MFT forms part of the Register of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).
The Company is sponsored or supported by a number of Australian and French companies established in Victoria as well as through business and private donations.
MFT is a Registered Charity [rare in our field] so all donations are tax deductible – if you are using this website it is thanks to the financial support of our donors, audience members and sponsors – please donate.
Historically and statistically – the following events or results are noteworthy –
- 1977 – Foundation on 23 March 1977 at the University of Melbourne by Michael Bula and A. David Gorrie
- 1982 – First televised play by SBS with an interview during the season of Je suis divorcé by Henri Brouillet de Gallois
- 1985 – The constitution of the Theatre as a non-profit incorporated association
- 1985 – Placement under the patronage of the Consul General of France in Melbourne
- 1986 – Placement under the patronage of His Excellency the Ambassador of France in Australia [M. Bernard Follin] – the sole French and French-speaking Theatre Company in Australia which benefits from this accreditation and recognition
- 1988 – First international tour to New Caledonia with Le jeu de l’amour et du hasard [The game of love and chance] by Marivaux
- 1989 – Second international tour to New Caledonia – officially forming part of the French bicentenary of the French Revolution with the play Pauvre Bitos by Jean Anouilh, part funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- 1989 – The bilingual [French-English] play Les Fourberies de Scapin by Molière beats the record held until 2005 with 1,496 spectators over 7 shows
- 1991 – MFT admitted to the Registrar of Cultural organisations – as a recognised tax deductible gift recipient
- 1991 – Third international tour to New Caledonia with the Le Médecin malgré lui by Molière
- 1992 – Interview for the play Les Fausses Confidences by Marivaux by SBS – Dateline program – season in Melbourne and also the residence of the then French Consul General Mme Isabelle Costa de Beauregard-Robertson
- 1993 – Invitation from His Excellency the then Ambassador of France M. Philippe Baude to present the play Les Fausses Confidences by Marivaux on the Terrace of the Residence of the Ambassador in Canberra before more than 400 diplomats, public servants, members of parliament and guests of honour
- 1993 – The play Hôtel Paradiso in bilingual form by Georges Feydeau/John Mortimer constituted the first tour to Port Vila, Vanuatu by invitation of the French Embassy in Port Vila – part funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- 1995 – Invitation from His Excellency the Ambassador of France M. Dominique Girard, to present the play Huis Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre in Canberra for two performances at Telopea Park and Narrabundah College schools
- 1995 – Signing of an historic Association Agreement with the Department of French and Italian at the University of Melbourne
- 1995 – Interview on Channel 31 on the play Les Précieuses Ridicules by Molière
- 1996 – Presentation in multilingual French-Italian form with Venetian dialect and Latin of the play Le Serviteur de Deux Maîtres written in Italian and French and Latin by Goldoni
- 1998 – Decoration of the President of the Theatre Michael Bula as Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite of France for his contribution of the French culture and his services as legal advisor to the French Embassy and the regional francophone community in Australia
- 1999 – Prototype for surtitles in English by video projection for the play Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon by Eugène Labiche [35 slides in scene by scene resume style – see 2013 entry]
- 1999 – Invitation from His Excellency the French Ambassador, M. Dominique Girard, to present the play directed by Michael Bula Dormez, je le veux by Georges Feydeau in Canberra at the Belconnen Centre [as part of the International Festival of Canberra] – this play was created and conceived in a rehearsed and costumed reading prior to the performance in 1998 at the residence of the then French Consul General M. Rollon Mouchel-Blaisot in Melbourne and toured St Arnaud, Victoria at its French festival
- 2002 – Creation of the bilingual website mark I – with a booking system and other attributes
- 2005 – The play Boeing-Boeing by Marc Camoletti beats the record of all time with 1,535 spectators over 7 shows [see 1989 Les Fourberies de Scapin by Molière]
- 2006 – Withdrawal of the French Government grant provided each year from 1986 to 2006 – creating a critical financial situation for the Theatre. Michael Bula to became the Financial Producer and supporter with sponsorship [see 2013 entry].
- 2006 – Signing of an Association Agreement with the Australian Catholic University
- 2006 – Victoria’s Award for Excellence in multicultural affairs – service delivery to multicultural Victoria – Arts awarded to Michael Bula
- 2007 – Tour of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery – a special theatrical adaptation commissioned by Michael Bula and Melbourne French Theatre toward to more than 45 schools in the State of Victoria – without any official government funding – play to over 7,000 spectators [primary and secondary schools, universities, French community, French-speaking groups, general public] over six months
- 2010 – Des courtes lignes by Courteline – Some short lines from Courteline – 4 specially selected one-act plays produced, conceived and directed by Michael Bula for schools in 2010 and 2011 [more than 20 schools]
- 2011 – For the first time in MFT history, La Maison de Maître building becomes the new home for MFT rehearsals and small productions
- 2011 – On 5 August 2011, the famous French cinéaste Francis Veber becomes the Honorary Member of MFT
- 2012 – His Excellency Mr Stéphane Romatet, French Ambassador in Australia, becomes the Honorary Member of MFT
- 2012 – New Mark II website launched + Automated e-bulletin system
- 2012 – Commissioning by the French Trust Fund [FTF] at the University of Melbourne and the Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations [ISFAR] a special edition of Explorations on the 35 year history of MFT [1977 to 2012] – author Dr Jana Verhoeven [nee Schleicher].
- 2013 – SEATADVISOR secure professional internet ticketing system implemented
- 2013 – Le Petit Nicolas student workshop format tour for schools conceived and produced by Michael Bula, assisted by Lynda Entwisle and Eddy Fatha commenced tours to schools
- 2013 – His Excellency Mr Stéphane Romatet, French Ambassador in Australia attends the gala performance of Marivaux’s La Double Inconstance, the first time a French Ambassador attended in Melbourne. MFT did play for 2 Ambassadors in Canberra.
- 2013 – French Government grant reinstated with special acknowledgement to His Excellency Mr Stéphane Romatet, French Ambassador in Australia and Mr Eric Soulier, Cultural and Scientific Counsellor to the French Embassy
- 2013 – Explorations on the 35 year history of MFT [1977 to 2012] is published.
- 2013 – Surtitles slides now dialogue driven with 600 + slides compared to their prototype of 35 when scene descriptive in 1999
- 2013 – Inaugural Colin Duckworth Actor Encouragement Prize awarded to Damien Kenny – named after the late Professor Colin Duckworth, Director and Adaptor, MFT Life Member [who passed away in December 2012]
- 2014 – Student Placement Agreement signed with Monash University [Translation and Interpreting Studies] to provide translation students to prepare and operate the English surtitles system for productions [many thanks to its coordinator Marc Orlando]
- 2014 – Memorandum of Understanding signed with the School of Languages and Linguistics of the University of Melbourne [MFT’s place of foundation in 1977] for greater collaboration and use of University theatre facilities such as the Open Stage theatre
- 2017 – MFT turned 40 [founded in 1977] – the longest-running French theatre company in Australia
- 2018 – new version adapted and directed for schools as an incursion or excursion in rehearsed reading of Le Petit Prince, revised and directed by Michael Bula
- 2021 – new MFT website Mark III launched including video, podcast and new interface with SQUARE for purchase of items and automated booking system [paperless]
- 2022 – MFT turned 45 [founded in 1977] – the longest-running French theatre company in Australia and possibly the Southern Hemisphere
MFT gratefully acknowledges the previous financial and now moral support of the French Embassy since 1986, another measure of the unique position MFT occupies in Australia, very much appreciated by the French Authorities, in the person of the French Ambassador, Cultural Counsellor, Cultural Attaché, their esteemed predecessors and assistants.
The French Embassy and the French Consulate General actively support the activities of MFT and all its endeavours. MFT also shares a healthy relationship with other French interest and cultural groups such as the Alliance Française de Melbourne and the French-Australian Association.
Victorian Multicultural Commission
MFT is proud to acknowledge the invaluable financial and moral support from the VMC for well over 20 years, without which MFT could not function to its present levels.
One to two productions can be presented each year being mainly theatrical plays either entirely in the French language or in bilingual (French/English) form, supported since 1999 by a sophisticated and innovative system of English surtitles which were developed by Michael Bula by video-projected PowerPoint to increase the number of spectators, especially anglophones. On some occasions cafés-théâtres and other projects are presented. The Theatre draws its inspiration for plays from a large repertoire of French playwrights from the Middle Ages until the present day.
The Theatre has presented over 100 productions during its existence. Amongst its actors are professionals and amateurs alike of French, Australian, European and other nationalities and origins.
MFT employs professional directors, artists, set designers, technicians and other staff who may change from production to production to enhance the great variety of styles and presentation of theatrical works. The Company has performed in conventional and experimental theatre spaces as well as in National Trust mansions.
Australian and International Tours
MFT has toured three (3) times to New Caledonia – in 1988 with Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard by Marivaux, in 1989 with Pauvre Bitos by Jean Anouilh and in 1991 with Le Médecin Malgré Lui by Molière. The last tour to the South Pacific was of the bilingual adaptation of Hôtel Paradiso by Georges Feydeau/John Mortimer created by Jean Papillon to Vanuatu in August 1993.
The company toured a number of times with great acclaim to in Australia on occasion by special invitation of the French Ambassador to Australia with the Marivaux classic Les Fausses Confidences in February 1993, Antigone by Jean Anouilh in May 1994, being Huis clos by Sartre in May 1995 and Dormez, je le veux by Feydeau in late 1998 to the St Arnaud French Festival and March 1999 for the Canberra International Multicultural Festival. The production of Le Père Noël est une Ordure toured to the inaugural Adelaide French Festival in November 2000.
In 2007 the special MFT adaptation of Le Petit Prince directed and adapted by Karen Berger toured to more than 45 primary and secondary schools throughout Victoria, preceded by a preview season in June and a full production in December attracting nearly 7,000 spectators in all. In 2018, Michael revived and directed a fresh new rehearsed reading version for schools.
In 2010 Michael Bula conceived and directed Des Courtes Lignes de Courteline – 4 specifically modern adapted 1 act plays for schools, successfully continuing into 2013. He was assisted by Eddy Fatha and a number of female actors, including the well-known professional singer and pianist Déborrah “Moggy” Morgan.
In 2013, Michael sourced and created, with the assistance of Linda Entwisle and Eddy Fatha, a schools’ incursion where students work-shop the famous Le Petit Nicolas ‘At the Market’ play extracts or alternatively a rehearsed reading by MFT actors – which continues in 2014 and beyond.
All 3 productions are available for schools.
The Theatre is managed by Michael Bula assisted by a professionals and consultants from the fields of law, accounting, the arts, business, university administration and teaching in order to provide the wide base that is required to administer the specialised enterprise of presenting live French theatre in Australia and overseas.
Michael Bula is MFT Producer and main finance and infrastructure provider through his legal office Michael Bula Solicitors, International Lawyers and Notaries. He owns the trade mark name.
Audiences are made up of French speaking ethnic groups, French speaking Australians as well as school and university students. The very existence of MFT serves to fill a cultural need in the presentation of the most exciting vehicle and exponent of French culture – live theatre.
MFT is on the look out for other venues. Collingwood College Theatre is the longest-running venue hire in MFT history, used since May 2008, after 1 show in 1990, to 2013 and then in 2017. La Maison de Maître pop up theatre in Carlton presents alternative intimate September second seasons [Des Courtes Lignes de Courteline, George Dandin, Le Roi se meurt – Exit the King etc.]. The Open Stage in the University of Melbourne, used since 1980 and last in 2007, staged the May 2015 Labiche and May 2016 Schmitt productions. Library at the Dock Performance space in Docklands is currently hired for the May productions.
MFT is also an agency which provides French “looking” and speaking actors and extras for films, TV, commercials and photographic work.
The Theatre provides an opportunity for the public, students at all levels, francophones and francophiles including certain French-speaking ethnic communities and lovers of French drama to witness, participate in and enjoy the excitement of quality French theatrical productions.
Code of Conduct
MFT has established its own code of conduct as a mark of compliance and professionalism –
MFT’s code of conduct
@ December 2021 – founded in 1977 – 44 years, 106 productions and more than:
57 different playwrights, sometimes represented in several of their works, 790 actors, 67 directors, 4,920 members of production teams and more than 70,500 [including some 26,000 school and university students and teachers/lecturers] spectators
Le Petit Prince shows since 2007
6749 spectators students + general public
Courtes Lignes shows since 2010
1855 spectators students + general public
Le Petit Nicholas workshop + shows since 2013
2565 spectators students
– that is MFT!