French character, a principal figure of the “bamboches”, short satirical pieces in patois played for the populace in areas all around Picard-speaking Flanders at the end of more serious programmes. Jacques is a rod marionette (French: marionnette à tringle), with four strings for arms and legs, which appeared in the 19th century. The character is not well known; for a long time he was ignored by the educated bourgeoisie and therefore has little written testimony. However, he was well known among the “poor”. A mocking but courageous servant, lacking both diplomacy and servility, he is dressed in a currant-red velvet jacket with two rows of white buttons, matching knee breeches, and a three-pointed or two-pointed hat of the same cloth.
In Lille (France) during the second part of the century, about one hundred and thirty puppet theatres could be counted, run by workers who performed shows to supplement their meagre resources. There were more than seventy such theatres in Roubaix. The most important was the Théat’Louis, founded in Roubaix by Louis Richard (1850-1915), ex-metal worker, originally from Belgium. This talented man brought notable improvements to the northern puppet character. Among others, he found a way to pass the leg strings inside the body, to prevent them from getting tangled during action scenes. All of these popular theatres disappeared in 1940, but the Théat’Louis and the character of Jacques were reborn in the 1980s, thanks to the tenacity of the descendants of Louis Richard, and the passion of Alain Guillemin and Andrée Leroux, former teachers re-converted to puppetry. Under the well-established name of Théâtre Louis Richard, still offers a promising future to the repertoire of the modest Jacques.
- Leroux, Andrée, and Alain Guillemin. Marionnettes traditionnelles en Flandre française de langue picarde [Traditional Puppets in Picard-speaking French Flanders]. Dunkerque: Éditions du Beffrois, 1984.