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Le Bonheur au travail
Isabelle Grolier
Le Bonheur au travail
photo: DR
Actes du théâtre n° 92.[ imprimer ]
Things aren't going well at Publipresse. The clients are leaving, and the printer is no longer printing. Martine, a sales manager with a degree in selfishness, Hubert, the accountant addicted to reduced working hours, Lucie, the switchboard operator who mainly answers calls from her husband. Lobun, the director, puts on the pressure. A Dutch financier offers to invest in the firm but with a strange demand ... That each employee be happy in his job.
The Director tries to train his team to be happy. He calls in a company holy man to break the spell on Hubert of the civil servant mindset. Hubert imagines happiness as acting at the office. Martine risks everything. Lucie, who sees the Dutchman as the messiah, tries to force happiness on the people around her, even if it means triggering misunderstandings. The employees and the director work to be happy while working at being happy … a real muddle, misunderstandings, madness and above all … more work!

"Le bonheur au travail is not a joke and yet the greatest ideas have always made people laugh at first ... Like this play. Are we willing to bite the bullet until retirement or do we believe that happiness can cross the threshold of our office? The play asks the question and provides an optimistic viewpoint.
It talks about personal relationships with work and you're often better off laughing about it. It plays on our instinct for happiness despite reality. The quest for profits, the need for recognition, the fear of hierarchy when hoping to hang onto one's happiness. It deals with whether or not you can recite poems to a client and like your boss even when he's a homo-economicus."

"Isabelle Grolier has fun turning the values of the working world upside down and messing up its codes. She portrays highly stereotypical characters that are intentional caricatures, plunging them into irresistible madness. The dialogue is right on the mark, and the situations bound along at a frenetic pace."
Jean-Louis Châles, La Marseillaise, July 17, 2008


Opened at the Théâtre de Nesle in 2007. Performed at the Théâtre de L’Albatros at the 2008 Avignon Festival. At the Théâtre Le Mery in Paris, at the Théâtre de Ménilmontant, and at the Comédie Contrescarpe.
And on tour throughout France.
Directed by the playwright. Assisted by Gilles Crepel . Cast: Isabelle Grolier, Marie-Frédérique Habert, Philippe Colin, Maxime Daboville.

Characters : 2 women - 3 men -
Editions Art & Comédie

The telephone rings.

LUCIE Publipresse, hello!…
Lobun enters very excited holding a paperboard.
LOBUN I need your attention! Lucie cut off the switchboard a minute.
LUCIE (on the telephone) Publipresse, goodbye!
Lobun sets up the paperboard in front of the desks. Lucie, Martine and Hubert come and sit down in front of it. Lobun, the instructor, stands next to it. He speaks in a friendly tone of voice.
LOBUN We're going to spend a bit of time together. I'm going to train you in happiness. I think the Dutchman has opened our eyes. In this company we need to improve our well being in the office. So I thought about it ...
How to be happy at work? In three parts:
Lobun states what is written on the paperboard in the most natural way he can.
Happiness and objectives,
Happiness and output,
Happiness and net income from turnover.
Happiness and restructuring,
Happiness and cost reduction.
To sum up: is happiness really necessary?
HUBERT Isn't this training course a bit slanted?
LOBUN Not at all! And to prove it to you, each of you will write something down on paper that would make them happy at work. And I promise to take it into account. (He hands out some sheets of paper but they're all too scared to write anything) I'll mix up the pieces of paper so they remain anonymous:
They all start writing.Lobun mixes up the sheets of paper then reads one.
LOBUN "Evolutionary Perspectives." (Then another one) "Having a big ..." (He seems to have trouble understanding) A big ?… A big? … Timetable!"
HUBERT (Giving himself away) Take-home pay! … (Pulling himself together) Well, I guess anyway.
LOBUN (Reading the third paper) "Leaving before the end of the training course to meet up with Gérard." We said anonymous Lucie!
LUCIE I didn't sign it.
LOBUN These wishes are legitimate but they contradict one another. So how can you find happiness in a company? I've examined the question and drawn the following conclusion: each person must develop his own rate (Writing it down on the paperboard) of HUMANITOIDS.
MARTINE (Intrigued) What's that?
HUBERT (Ditto) I know about hemorrhoids, but humanitoids - do they hurt as much?
LOBUN (Pleased with himself) It's a word that designates the part of our humanity that we use at work.
HUBERT Why not just talk about humanity?
LOBUN Because the company doesn't need your humanity in order to sell.
HUBERT You're calling our humanity "humanitoid" because we don't care about it?
LUCIE That's awful!
LOBUN (proud) It's a word I invented.
MARTINE From a communications standpoint, it sounds like "suppository" which isn't very sexy.
LUCIE Right! I feel like I've got a wound in my … Heart.
HUBERT Is that your concept - putting our humanity at the service of Profit?!
LOBUN It all depends on your vision of things Hubert! We can't exclude economic reality. Without the economy what kind of happiness would we have? Let's take objectives. Objectives are part of life - you can't deny that. Having a high school diploma, a husband, a profession, a house ... Lucie, give me an example of one of your objectives.
LUCIE Having another baby.
LOBUN (Losing his patience) A work objective, for christ's sake!!!
LUCIE Improving my computer skills, being more organized in my work, in order to leave earlier ... so I can have another baby.
LOBUN (Philosophical) There - everything is mixed in together, everything is interrelated.
Martine: Naturally if you're asking Lucie!
LUCIE I'm sorry, I can't be a housewife at home and a hemorrhoid at work.
HUBERT She's right. How can you offer training courses like this? Happiness is a right not a contract. We don't want to be standardized! We want to be allowed to be unhappy and sulk when we feel like it.
LUCIE I wasn't talking about sulking but about being human. As the Dutchman said …
HUBERT Shut up!
MARTINE There's our Client Shalabi - the one with the big turnover. I'll make him a new offer. Then everyone will be happy. When sales are good, everything's good!
LOBUN That's an excellent idea, and it would delight me if it was still possible, but unfortunately it isn't.
MARTINE Why?
LOBUN Because Shalabi left us. He's going to publish his ads somewhere else, in a newspaper where the people are friendlier, he said.
MARTINE Since when?
LOBUN He just sent me an email. He apparently got a bad reception on the telephone. I'll let you be the judge. Now only the Dutchman's capital can save us.
MARTINE We're doomed to happiness?
LOBUN Take it as you will! I've tried to guide you toward happiness, but since you're not receptive, now the situation is: Happiness or unemployment!