Ni bleu ni blouse - François Chaffin


103 pages


Ni bleu ni blouse

François Chaffin | 2011 | Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France
Des voix sortant des penderies de vestiaire, Le Vélo, Le Bleu, La Blouse, Le Patron, La Machine, La Paire de mains, Les Machines, Jeanne, Raymond, Espadrille 1, Espadrille 2, Le dernier ouvrier de la dernière espadrille, Le Cigare à tête de patron, Les Voix du bistrot, L'Hirondelle, Jacqueline, Berthe, Les Vestiaires, Ulysse, La Confluence, Aspe, Ossau, Bleus, Blouses
Number of acts

In 2009, in cooperation with the local association Terres de mémoire(s) et de luttes, Jacky Challa, then director of the Scène conventionnée pour les Arts de la marionnette d'Oloron-Sainte-Marie (Béarn, France), commissioned François Chaffin to write a text for puppets about the industrial past of Oloron-Sainte-Marie, once a major centre of the textile industry and the home of many Spanish Republicans. At the beginning of 2010, the author came to lead writing workshops with the inhabitants, to visit factories (disused or still in activity) and to meet former workers, sometimes accompanied by Sylvie Baillon, whom Jacky Challa had asked to stage the text. However, François Chaffin quickly detached himself from the strictly documentary approach in favour of fiction and the poetic use of language. More sensitive to the materiality of objects, to sensory perceptions and to the emotions with which the testimonies are charged than to the social or political situations exposed to him, the writer transposed the life of the factory into a language that he himself willingly described as "baroque". Very musical, the language of the play is in fact criss-crossed with local expressions, while the characterisation makes abundant use of metonyms like 'The Blouse' (of the female worker) and 'The Blue' (of the male worker). Despite the liberties he takes with the testimonies (or perhaps precisely because of them), François Chaffin's text, first read in public by the author at the Chapelle d'Oloron-Sainte-Marie in November 2010, moved to tears an audience that either discovered or reappropriated this heritage. From 2011, Jean Capdevielle, director of the Osolasba publishing house, was associated with the project, while an exhibition of photographs paid tribute to the places and people François Chaffin met. In the end, a selection of these photographs were integrated into the book, helping to organise the edited text into 19 segments.

Plot summary

A tribute to working-class memories and to the life in a former textile factory

In a former espadrille factory closed for years, abandoned objects, clothes and machines come to life to evoke the forty-five years of life of the factory and its workers. Former workers, former managers, and residents who lived by the rhythm of factory life recall with emotion the hours of hard work interspersed with joy, the strike pickets and union struggles, the resistance to successive factory closures and unemployment. Among them, Jacqueline makes her eight-year-old grandson Ulysse understand the place of the factory in her life. The factory, which was closed and left abandoned for a long time, was finally dismantled and demolished. The day the building is razed to the ground, the whole landscape of the city changes, leaving a gaping void for the inhabitants. The children of the school, worried and disoriented, wonder about this disappearance. The headmaster then asks them to draw the factory as they have always seen it or as they have been told about it, so that they will not forget it. Ulysse offers his drawing to his grandmother Jacqueline to console her: it shows the factory teeming with life, as she knew it. This is how this working-class memory is passed on from one generation to the next.

Composition date

First performance

Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France, 17 Novembre 2011 -

Created at the Scène conventionnée pour les Arts de la marionnette in Oloron-Sainte-Marie (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France). Director: Sylvie Baillon assisted by Éric Goulouzelle. With : Laetitia Labre, Ludovic Darras and Olivier Sellier. Set design: Julien Defaye. Puppet creation: Éric Goulouzelle. Music creation: Karine Dumont. Lighting design: Yvan Lombard.

Publications and translations

Modern edition

Éditions Osalasba, Goes : 2011.

Literary tones
Comical, Pathetic, Lyrical
Animations techniques
Object theatre, Actor and puppet
All audiences
Droits réservés


Theatrical techniques



Written by

Carole Guidicelli