a two century tradition, Amiens became little by little the
French capital of puppets with rods and wires. The first
marionnettists appeared during the XVII century. On
the occasion of the fair of Saint-Jean-Baptist, the inhabitants of the
Amiens area could attend small spectacles given around the
theatres flourished in the four corners of the city until the
days before the First World War.The " Belle Epoque "
counted more than twenty or so rooms
distributed throughout each district including
five in Saint-Leu. The plays given in Amiens
were performed in these rooms in the form of buffooneries
interpreted by little characters made of wood. It was the theatre of
the poor..." says Francoise Rose, Director of the
" Théâtre d' Animation Picard ".
Lafleur, the leader, is a jolly fellow whose cheekyhumour
sometimes satirizes contemporary society. It is so famous that a
place in Amiens bears its name. It is to Amiens what
Guignol is to Lyon. Besides it seems to be
contemporary with him. But contrary to Guignol, Lafleur is a
puppet with wires (one at each limb) and has a very visible metal rod
fixed to his head. The unit is handled by a " croix
d'attelles " ( crossed wooden sticks).
He is a
servant, proud, a liar, a drunkard but always good humored.
Like Guignol, he is a righter of wrongs, always in dissension
with the gendarmes ("cadorets"), always ready to draw his
Master away from bad situations. He gradually takes the
character of an authentic Picard. Associated with him
are a woman, Sandrine, two masters, a woman and a man, and
finally gendarmes, rural policemen and soldiers. In the theatres where
these characters perform, one names them show-offs, more
exactly "cabotans". This term comes from
" cabotin/cabotine " which means a, "travelling
Actor, poseur, person who plays a noisy comedy to put himself
forward!.... ". This word used in Picardy and especially in Amiens
where the tradition is still long-lived does not exist, it seems, in
feminine gender, the great majority of these puppets with wires and rod
being male. It describes these puppets, very local and really
very spectacular as much by the superb quality of
their artistic workmanship as by the bold spirits
which their bright colors convey.
After the First
World War, with the development of the cinema these theatres declined,
and it is only since 1933 that Lafleur and his
friends reappeared on the " amienoise "
scene with the creation of "Chés Cabotans of Amiens" by
Maurice Domon, marionnettist and great defender of the Picardy
language, who founded his own company at that time. But the second
world war stopped the activity of this enthusiast. He will however
start his little " cabotans " again after 1944 on the
stage of many French and European theatres. Lafleur, Sandrine and
T'Chot Blaise become as time goes by the true ambassadors
of Picardy culture to the world. Their success
will see the company named as the "Permanent Official Theatre
of the Town of Amiens" in 1967.