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“No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre - Performed in English - "Huis Clos" in French

"Hell is other people..."  Three strangers trapped together in a "hell" eerily similar to the real world find their stories are intertwined, with each alienating the other yet unable to escape. Passions, animosities, and power struggles soon create explosive tension. GEDS have kindly offered a pair of tickets to one lucky knowitall.ch reader. Read below to enter the competition.

Musings from Director Gary Bird

Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, "No Exit" (French title "Huis Clos") is often claimed to be Sartre’s clearest literary work demonstrating what he meant in "Being and Nothingness" as existentialism. He wrote the play in Paris during the Nazi Occupation, and it premiered on 27 May 1944 only 11 days before D-Day.

Because the play was censored and monitored by the Nazi occupiers, Sartre had to be careful of what he said so as not to set off any "red flags".

Sartre identified with the French Resistance, so any “messages” or themes in his writing had to be subtextual. For example, by setting the play in a mythical place (i.e., Hell) he avoided any charges that might have been brought against him as depicting the Occupation – which he was clearly doing.

Some examples of the Nazi subtext: the "Valet" in reality the closest thing to a jailer; or the elegant "Second Empire" furnishings of the room in Hell (a hell uncannily resembling the real world) alluding to an authoritarian regime that was eventually overthrown.


Of course, any play by Sartre is necessarily a play of ideas and “No Exit” is no exception. Perhaps the strongest moment of Existential depiction is found when the door of Hell opens for Garcin and he has to decide whether to stay or to go. Freedom. Free will. Will he go and face an unknown future? Or stay in Hell where he knows what to expect.

Many productions treat it with a kind of reverence to its philosophical content at the expense of its theatricality, i.e., it is most often staged as three characters in the waiting room of a dentist and arguing over who gets to go in first. Although the parallel between Hell and a dentist’s office is not far off the mark, these productions tend to be somewhat negligent of the inherent theatricality and spectacle of the setting. This is Hell, after all!

When approached to direct it, I wanted to “theatricalize” it without losing Sartre’s ideas. The play has psychological, sociological, philosophical aspects to explore, but it’s also a play about character. The interplay of these three characters constitutes the basis of the play.

As we heightened the drama, the cast and I adopted the metaphor not that “Hell is other people” (this play’s most iconic quote) so much as “Hell is insanity.” We worked on elevating the tone and emotion from realism through a kind of melodrama to urgency to desperation and finally madness. I have also tried to introduce a touch or two of gothic horror. I like to think that Sartre would approve.

button competition150GEDS have kindly offering one lucky knowitall.ch reader a pair of tickets (a Fr. 60.- value) to No Exit at Le Manège Onex, 24-28 May 2022. Just fill out this form and answer this question: What 3 aspects are explored in the play?

Only one entry per email is allowed. The competition closes at midnight on Thursday, 19 May 2022. The names of all those submitting correct answers will be placed into the digital hat and the winner's name drawn at random on Friday, 20 May 2022. The winner will be notified by email. No cash equivalent of prizes is permitted.


24-28 May 2022
Directed by Gary Bird
Written by J-P Sartre
Translated by Stuart Gilbert
Opening Night patrons on 24 May are invited to share a glass of bubbly with cast after the show.

Video trailer link: https://fb.watch/d16Rgekaww
Details and ticketing link: www.geds.ch

Route de Chancy 127, 1213 Onex
Tuesday through Friday: 20h
Saturday: 19h

Starring: Clàudia Baró Huelmo, Olga Derenkova, Masha Neznansky, John Ward

Tickets : www.geds.ch
30 CHF (normal price)
20 CHF (student price with ID at the door)