One of the things that I miss living in the French countryside is visiting theatres. Not only because my level of French is not good enough to follow a French spoken play. But also, because there simply are fewer theatres and festivals around than in downtown Amsterdam. That was until Chéri and I found the cultural site of Scène de Bayssan on the outskirts of Béziers. We’re especially excited now that the site has had a major make-over!
Situated between Montpellier and Narbonne, the site of the current Scène de Bayssan has been occupied since the Stone Age. The first inhabitants were probably potters, gradually replaced by farmers, traders and winemakers during the Roman era. After that, the land changed ownership numerous times. The remains of a Greek farm, a Gallo-Roman villa and a medieval hamlet have been found on site. However, it wasn’t until the French revolution at the end of the 19th century that the site was divided into two. On the higher side was Bayssan-le-Haut, which its chapel, turned into an orphanage and a congregation by Béziers’ Canon. And at Bayssan-le-Bas on the lower side, one of Béziers important winegrowing families, the family Sahuc, built a castle in the middle of their vines.
Finally, the Bayssan site swapped hands once again in the 1980s. This time, the local Council of the Hérault bought Bayssan-le-Bas to preserve this unique piece of land. In 2006, a beautiful festival-like canvas tent arose on-site, hosting the Sortie Ouest Theatre. Once Chéri and I discovered this theatre, we seized our chance and have attended many great shows. No need to say that we have mainly focused on art forms without spoken words… However, after ten years, the beautiful festival-like tent suddenly disappeared. I hadn’t realized that it was part of the plans of the public establishment of Hérault Culture. And this year, I was glad to discover some exciting new buildings, hoping for some new cultural action.
My latest visit, during the European Heritage Days, was a great way to get to know the refurbished Scène de Bayssan site. Via the ‘Allée des Statues’, the lane with impressive marble statues, I walked through the park to the newly built Bayssan Project. It includes the ecological construction of two impressive theatres: the open-air amphitheatre Claude Nougaro and the wooden theatre Michel Galabru. The third construction hosts the sustainable Restaurant du Théâtre by Traiteur Grand. In the middle of the estate, you will find the Cour Georges Brassens for concerts and markets in the courtyard. Besides the theatre and concert venues, you can also visit exhibitions at the L’Espace Hervé di Rosa, get in shape at the outdoor fitness course, have your children play at the Parc Petit Patapon or walk in the Sacred Forest (le Bois Sacré). I have already booked our tickets for the next show!