La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

On purge bébé !


Marie Mergeay
Reading time
3 min.

An opera about unbreakable chamber pots and fragile family relationships, about straggly Scottish isles and shifty smiles, about how the greatest ambitions can end in the smallest room in the house.... Read the synopsis of On purge bébé !​​​​​​​.

Porcelain manufacturer Bastien Follavoine is busy in his office. To answer the question put to him by his seven-year-old son Toto – affectionally known as Bébé – he is scouring the dictionary to find out where the Hebrides archipelago is located. Annoyed at his failure to find the word, he calls to his wife Julie to come. She is ruffled at being put upon for this, just when she was counting on him to help her administer a laxative to Toto to alleviate his chronic constipation. Follavoine, however, has other things on his mind; he is about to receive Aristide Chouilloux, an official who can help him secure a large order for chamber pots. Indeed, Follavoine believes he has developed unbreakable pots and hopes to become the French army’s sole supplier. Julie reproaches her husband for paying more attention to Chouilloux than to his own son. During their exchange of words, she lets slip that Chouilloux’s wife is cheating on him with a certain Truchet.

Chouilloux arrives to discuss the sale of the porcelain chamber pots with Follavoine. They test the pots for their robustness but, to the bewilderment of both gentlemen, the pots shatter into a thousand pieces. When Julie returns to ask her husband once again to come and help her administer the laxative, Chouilloux shows a certain interest in the child’s complaint. He gives a blow by blow account of his own medical condition: not constipation, but the opposite: ulcerative colitis. Once again Julie urges her husband to come and help her, but Follavoine refuses, whereupon his wife leaves the room furious.

Julie returns, this time with Toto in her wake. She wants her husband to assert his authority and make the child do as he is told. Toto digs his heels in and refuses to drink the medicine, despite the encouragement of Chouilloux, the heavy-handed irritation of his father and the rewards held out to him by his mother. Julie even puts pressure on Chouilloux to set a good example by imbibing a few sips of the laxative himself. A heated row ensues between the Follavoines, during which Julie casually mentions in the presence of Chouilloux that the latter’s wife is having an affair. In his consternation, Chouilloux downs half the laxative with an immediate effect on his gut: exit Chouilloux, to the smallest room.

Now Mrs. Chouilloux arrives, accompanied by Truchet, who she introduces as her cousin. For a short while, everyone puts up a front, but when Chouilloux returns from the toilet, a furious row breaks out between the lot of them: Chouilloux accuses his wife of adultery and his friend Truchet of betrayal. Truchet thinks that Follavoine has told Chouilloux all this and slaps him across the face. In the commotion, Follavoine knocks back the rest of the medication. Exit Follavoine, to the smallest room.

When he is alone with his mother, Toto triumphantly shows her the empty glass. She is over the moon, thinking that he has finally ingested the medicine, but her husband does not share her enthusiasm. He is past caring and leaves the house angry. And Bébé? He still wants to know where that archipelago is located.