In December 2015 The New Factory of the Eccentric Actor (of which I am a founding member and director) staged an evening at the Torriano Meeting House in London called ‘Hope for Great Things to Happen’. It was described as “A rare opportunity to glimpse and snuffle around in the New Factory’s eccentric ideas and vision. Eight embryonic chunks; starting points for productions that we would like to make over the next few years. Come along and add your half-pennyworth. Good serious fun, could turn ugly…” There was film, performance, tea, cake, and pickles. And one of the decisions taken that night was to stage something about Blue Blouse.
The Blue Blouse (Синяя блуза) theatre troupe were an influential agitprop theatre collective, created by Boris Yuzhanin under the auspices of the Moscow Institute of Journalism. They were an important theatre movement, now long forgotten. They thrived between 1923 and 1927, when they merged with the Workers Youth Theatre.
The New Factory subsequently created a show to reflect the style and content we believe the Blue Blouse might have used, which has been performed at a number of venues in London, including the Royal Academy.
As the director of the piece, I spent a lot of time trying to find out more about the original Blue Blouse, who they were, how they worked etc. In the course of this I came across a copy of the Blue Blouse Magazine (a regularly published magazine for members of the 5,000 Blue Blouse groups that sprung up across the USSR), published in Moscow in 1927 and could not resist buying it. I do not speak Russian (though I can stumble through The Internationale in the language), so relied on those Russian speakers I know to walk me through some of it. In the same way that I had wanted to share something of the Blue Blouse via performance, I increasingly felt it would be worthwhile sharing the content of the magazine to an English speaking audience. And so, a translation project was born.
I am a great believer in the power of luck, persistence, and commitment (I would not have been running The New Factory for more than 20 years if I didn’t) in making work in the arts. The idea of my somehow managing to find enough translators, interested in the task of translating a magazine that runs to 64 pages, and then practically putting together something that could be both viewed and downloaded online, did seems a little far fetched to some. But if you build it they will come…
To cut a long story short, I talked to friends who found a number of translators who were keen to be involved, and I have used very simple software to put together the magazine in translation. It sounds less complicated than it has actually been, but then life is.
It is now a year since the inception of the project, and we are finally making the new translated magazine available to the world. Though the translation will no doubt be of interest to a relatively small audience, I believe that the project has been worthwhile.
The New Factory will be performing a revised version of ‘Blue Blouse’ at a venue in London soon. This updated show will feature some of the content from the Blue Blouse Magazine.