Johnny Hallyday stages reincarnation after near-death experience


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The Independent Culture

Twenty months after a near-death experience in a Los Angeles clinic, the irrepressible Johnny Hallyday was back on stage this week. France's favourite rock star was not resuming his musical career but making his debut in the theatre.

Hallyday, 68, received a rapturous reception from the first-night audience for a new French adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, Paradis sur Terre (Kingdom of Earth). Most of the audience at the Théâtre Edouard VII in Paris were relatives, friends and fans, including three lookalikes in the front row.

French critics, though pleased that Mr Hallyday got through the 90 minutes without forgetting a line, were less ecstatic than the audience. Le Parisien said the play oscillated between tragedy and vulgar comedy. The French news agency, Agence France Presse, said that Johnny was "convincing" in the rapid, violent parts of the dialogue but stumbled over the "longer, more complex passages".

In December 2010 Hallyday came close to death after an unsuccessful back operation in France. He was placed in an artificial coma in a clinic in Los Angeles. He has made only brief, guest appearances at rock concerts since then, but there are plans for a European concert tour next year.

France's "other" veteran rock star, Eddy Mitchell, 69, who is less well known abroad than Hallyday, gave what he insists will be his last concert this week. Hallyday, one year younger, has no plans to retire.