Eric Cantona to make stage debut in Paris

Nick Collins

Eric Cantona, the former Manchester United footballer turned actor, is to give his first live stage performance in a two-man play off the Champs Elysées in Paris.

The Old Trafford hero, 43, will play a dying man stranded in a ruined building in a play directed by his wife, Rachida Brakni, at the Théatre Marigny.

Cantona, a former France international, was initially viewed with scepticism when he embarked on an acting career after hanging up his boots, but has since won over many critics.

He was lauded last year for performances as himself in Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, and as a detective in two television films.

In Face au Paradis (Confronting Paradise), by Nathalie Saugeon, Cantona will play Max, a dying man half-buried in rubble, who talks about life and death with the only fellow character, played by Lorant Deutsch.

Pierre Lescure, director of the Théatre Marigny, told The Independent: "If I hadn't seen him in Looking for Eric, and if this had been a role in which he had to walk around on stage a lot, I would have hesitated.

"As it is, he is sitting the whole time."

Mrs Brakni, an actress who married Cantona two years ago, is making her bow as a director with the play, which opens on Tuesday night and will run for three months.

Cantona's name is likely to provide a boost after a difficult year for the Paris stage. Next month Audrey Tatou, the star of Amelie, will make her first stage performance in Henrik Ibsen's The Doll's House.