Well, that’s how this story began! “, launches, emerging from the bleachers, the narrator to an audience that he is about to embark on the story of the Bicarelle crèche, in the heart of the imaginary district of Puits-Hamelin, in the suburbs of a large French city. The setting, the plot, the characters will quickly remind viewers of a legal episode that had national repercussions in 2008: the Baby-Loup affair. Following the dismissal of an employee, Fatima Afif, this associative crèche, opened in a district of Chanteloup-les-Vignes (Yvelines), became the scene of a series of clashes involving management, staff members , locals and beyond. The reason ? Veiling in the workplace.
The Crèche: mechanics of a conflict, created and presented for the first time at the TNP in Villeurbanne (metropolis of Lyon) on February 17, is not a documentary on secularism or the place of Islam, but a inspired fiction that wisely recounts the mechanism behind a human tragedy. “That of a group of women who carried a revolutionary project at arm’s length which became the object of a heartbreaking conflict”, says its creator, François Hien. When he became interested in it for the first time, in 2016, he already knew that something would be born. A film, or a novel perhaps? No matter, the one who is then documentary filmmaker begins a meticulous investigation: alone, on the ground, he meets the inhabitants and talks with the employees, with the exception of the main concerned, who refuses. He probes, observes, listens.
The sequel will be written, as often, in chance encounters: those of Estelle Clément-Bealem, now taking on the role of director, and actors from Saint-Etienne from Collectif X will lead François Hien to put on a play. For months, La Crèche, programmed in a few establishments in the region, lives on. Its creator is aware that this work, “tinkered with in a summer laboratory”, cannot last: “We dragged a series of unthought on a burning reality and the group that carried it was too disconnected from it. “So, when the health crisis cancels the last dates planned at the Théâtre du Point du Jour, in Lyon, the halt is timely.
To understand the rest, three years later, you have to take a step back. Society has been rocked by the #MeToo movement and the surge of minority voices. François Hien became an author and director at the head of L’Harmonie communale, a “non-permanent” company created and directed with Nicolas Ligeon to play his texts, which take on delicate subjects like Olivier Masson. must he die?, family and societal drama created in 2020 and inspired by the Vincent Lambert affair.
The TNP offers them, straddling two seasons, a residency which then becomes an opportunity to carry out its project: to take a historical look at the affair by relying on a new politicized and concerned generation, whose first version thought it could happen. At the beginning of the summer of 2022, eight young actresses were recruited, from a previous collaboration or spotted at La Comédie de Saint-Étienne. ” That’s where it all began ! “recalls Émilie Waïche.
The show is, this time, the result of a collective staging from which emerge, on the set, the strength of the intimate involvement of each and the power of the sisterhood nourished by the group. While they have barely read the text and are unaware of the roles they will take on, the young artists meet educators, lawyers, Muslim women who are victims of discrimination, some even going to Baby-Loup for immersion. “Once in rehearsal, it was: there we don’t hear that, there it sucks, there it’s missing! sums up, laughing, Flora Souchier.
The duration of the piece, three hours, makes it possible to realize how words and gestures have been sharpened, to embrace the complexity of the subject and do justice to these intertwined fights. The costume designer modernizes and colors the veil worn by actresses to introduce coquetry. “Me, I saw stars in the eyes of educators when they talked about their establishment, and we had to show this magic! », Says, for his part, Saffiya Labaab. Her character, Yasmina, inspired by Fatima Afif, is one of those that the group works on the most. The result can be read in the stands, likely to go from incomprehension, in the face of his anger, to benevolence when discovering the richness of his spiritual life. “It’s a subject on which people arrive with preconceived ideas and the play is made to broaden, little by little, the place of their empathy”, confide the actresses. The two-front arrangement of the bleachers and the multiple addresses in the text offer a very special place to the public, whose entire troupe admits to capturing the slightest laughter, breath or silence, to digest and transform them. The goal? Make each new performance an even more relevant show than the previous one.