A Triumph: Incredible true story behind this comedy with Kad Merad

A Triumph: Incredible true story behind this comedy with Kad Merad

Discover the hallucinating true story that inspired Un Triomphe, the comedy carried by Kad Merad and signed Emmanuel Council.

In Un Triomphe, in theaters since September 1, Kad Merad plays Etienne, an actor in trouble. To make ends meet, he accepts to lead a theatre workshop in prison. Surprised by the inmates’ talents as an actor, Etienne decides to put on a play with them on a real theatre stage. Then begins a formidable human adventure.


This feel-good comedy is inspired by an incredible true story set in 1985 in Sweden. Actor and director Jan Jönson climb with inmates of Kumla high-security prison Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. On the day of the public premiere in Gothenburg, five of the six actors escape. Thirty-five years later, Jan Jönson looks back on this unusual and comical theatrical experience.

A triumph: the incredible true story behind this comedy with
A triumph: the incredible true story behind this comedy with

At the time, Jönson was an actor at the Swedish National Theater. For several months he had been playing a monologue, The Man himself, written by Alan Drury. It was the confession of a young man in search of identity. After the last one in Stockholm, a spectator came to see the actor after the curtain was lowered. “Don’t stop this show; it’s an essential play. You have to play it in all theatres, but also universities, everywhere!”


He was the director of Kumla prison. The latter asks Jan Jönson to come and play it in his prison, for his inmates. The actor accepts and finds himself performing in front of 75 prisoners, “looking at me in about thirty different ways, sizing me up,” remembers the actor.

From the first line, “My name is Michael,” one of the detainees insults Jönson, telling him to go fuck himself, an explicit gesture in support. “I was a little scared, so I said,“ My name is Michael. ”Looking at him out of the corner of my eye, I saw that he was starting to listen. At the end of the show, zero applause, total silence. I left the scene; the guards asked me to go back to talk to the inmates. And the guy who had insulted me got up and said, “Come back and learn. us to do theatre “. And he handed me a red rose, I never knew where he found it”, confides the artist.

During the performance, Jönson had seen all these faces, these strange spectators sitting in front of him. In the middle of the monologue, he began to think of Waiting for Godot. “I thought to myself; they are the characters in Beckett’s play. So I said: – I don’t know if I can teach you to act, but I can already come back and read a play. – Which one? – While waiting for Godot. Then another man got up, and he said to me in a loud voice: “Beckett is my hero.” I told them about my life, why I was an actor, how I was. had discovered Beckett, at 14 or 15, playing the child in Godot. The director agreed: “Come to my prison, spend as long as it takes, even a year, and set up the play.” “

Jan Jönson returned to the prison regularly for a year, a long period of friendship with these inmates. The readings began with about twenty prisoners. At one point, the director had to choose five. “I was afraid to tell either one I didn’t need them; I was delaying this moment. They all fascinated me. I listened to their voices; I observed their body language. day themselves said to me: “it is time to choose.” Those who would not be on stage could still work on the technique behind the scenes. I took the two inmates who had called me on the evening of the monologue, the first to play Vladimir, the second Pozzo “, explains Swedish.


The artist rehearsed the play’s first act with the prisoners for a very long time (he only had the rights for the first act). After a year, they found the right rhythm and the right silences. “We played in prison and were told it would be good to show our work in a real theatre. So these inmates, some of whom had not been released for almost ten years, were allowed to go. Playing in Gothenburg. For the first time in their life, they met people who listened to them “, Jönson recalls.

The latter then receives a letter from Samuel Beckett in person! He had heard about their work and wanted to meet this famous Jan Jônson. “He arranged to meet me in a cafe in Paris, near the Pantheon. I told him about the prison, the rehearsals, etc. He stared at me fixedly: – Why did you only play half? the coin? ” We couldn’t pay all the fees. He took a napkin, and he wrote in pencil that he was offering me the coin. my editor in Sweden hit the road again and tell me what happened. “”


Jönson and his comedians finally rehearsed the entire play. They were to perform it three times in three theatres. In Gothenburg, all the seats had sold out. “There was a press conference in the morning. After lunch, the warden, the inmate who played Pozzo and I made some technical connections. The other four said to me: ‘We’ll meet you in ten minutes.’ And they disappeared. I looked for them everywhere, in vain. So, at the time of the performance, I went on stage, and I stayed two hours, two hours improv, I had to get that out of my body “, confides the artist.

A little later, Jönson sees Samuel Beckett again in Paris. “- Tell me about the performance. – Sam, we had a few problems. – What kind of problems? – Six hours before the curtain rises, they all ran away, except Pozzo. – Runaway? He started to laugh without being able to stop. And he added: “This is the best thing that happened to my play since I wrote it.” Shortly after, my actors called me; they were in Spain. They have since returned to Sweden. Now they are free “, concludes the director.

Kad Merad: “I lived to the rhythm of the prison during the shooting.”

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