The Balcony


Writers: Jean Genet


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Dark Comedy, Drama
Fantasy/Imaginary, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
The Grand Balcony, Paris
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Mature Audiences, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult characters


In the Grand Balcony, a “house of illusions” (otherwise known as a brothel), a series of revolving rooms are prepared to fulfill the various fantasies of its male clients. They are all overseen by the brothel madam, Irma, who directs and stage manages a series of role-play scenarios, including a judge punishing a thief, a bishop forgiving a sinful woman, and a general riding astride his horse. Outside the brothel, a revolution threatens all those on the streets and the building buzzes with news of the troubles. Irma waits for the imminent arrival of the Chief of Police, but his arrival is surpassed by the news from the queen's envoy. He informs Irma and her patrons that the figureheads of the establishment have been killed. In a bizarre turn of events, Irma and her clients take their place, turning fantasy into a grotesque reality, in an attempt to suppress the revolution.

The Balcony explores the concepts of illusion and reality, and order and dissolution through a prism of sexuality and desire. Genet’s play is widely acknowledged as one of the founding plays of modern French theatre, with philosopher Lucien Goldmann labeling it “the first great Brechtian play in French literature'”

Lead Characters

The Balcony guide sections