"They are doing Beckett while waiting for freedom"


- Jan Jonson




Swedish Press


Dagens Nyheter 11th of March 2001
"Ett svart kvinnodrama bakom galler"


Dagens Nyheter 1st of November 2000
"Interner spelar instängda"


Dagens Nyheter 19th of May 1988
"San Quentin väntar på Godot"


Dagens Nyheter 10th of March 1987
"Godot - sätts upp i fängelse igen"


Dagens Nyheter 25th of March 1986
"Kumlafångarna ska ut på turné"


Dagens Nyheter 20th of June 1985
"I väntan på frigivningen"


Dagens Nyheter 15th of September 1985
"Beckett spelas av Kumlafångar"


Svenska Dagbladet
"Teater som borrar i det egna livet"


Arbetarbladet Gävle 11th of October 2002
"Jönsons upplevelser"   


Östersunds Posten 10th of March 2001
"Kvinnodrama på Hinseberg" 


"Lorcas kvinnor bakom galler"


Nerikes Allehanda 9th of March 2001 (first page)
"Teaterpremiär innanför murarna" 


Nerikes Allehanda 9th of March 2001
"Riksteatern satsar på Hinsan" 


Arbetarbladet Gävle 28th of February 2000
"Sju timmar i Jönsons fängelse"  


Gefle Dagblad  28th of February
"Med öga för människan"  


Östersunds Posten 1st of March 2000
"Sju och en halv timme om kärleken till teatern"  


Hallandsposten 5th of September 2000
"En resa mellan liv och död" 


Barometern Kalmar 9th of October 2000
"Han har något viktigt att säga" 


Upsala Nya Tidning 12th of December 2000
"Ensam på scenen i åtta timmar"





International Press




La Presse 12th of November 2005
"Jouer sa liberté" 


"Prisonniers de Beckett - Michka Saäl - Le Film"


"Les Prisonniers de Beckett - Un film de Michka Saäl"


"Prisonniers de Beckett - Un film de Michka Saäl" (front page)


"Entreiten avec Michka Saäl á propos de Prisonniers de Beckett"


Le Devoir 13th of November 2005
"La rédemption par le théátre"


Voir 16th of April 2005
"Fin de Partie" 


Libé 6th of July 2005
"A Marseille, une humeur de doc" 


"Beckett behind bars" 




"Sterk Beckett i sikringsanstalten"



San Quentin News 12th of December 2005 

"Beckett’s Prisoners - Directed by Michka Saäl"


San Quentin News 4th of February 1988
"Cons to perform Waiting for Godot" 


"Cons to perform Waiting for Godot"


Bay Guardian 20th of July 1988
"Waiting for Godot at San Quentin" 

"Waiting for Godot at San Quentin" 




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Impressive Beckett in the Security Institution


One may well ask what director Jan Jonson could have done with professional actors. But why ask, when what he does with convicts as he cast is on a par with the best you can see on any Nordic stage?


Samuel Beckett:
Director: Jan Jonson
Cast: Gry Gustavsen, Jan Jonson, Bent, Jan

What is it?
We haven´t started to matter?
To matter? You and med matter? Oh, that is a good one!

From a classic interchange in modern theatre. A blind man and his servant, flanked by the emptiness outside and a couple of oldies who appear from garbage cans, simpering for porridge. They are Hamm and Clov from Samuel Beckett´s Fin de Partie, retold by Erling Christie when “Cappelen´s Unpopulars” were still yellow, and translated as Endgame by the playwright himself. His translation is also the bases of Jan Jonson production at Ila. We have seldom witnessed a stronger will to go by the intention of the playwright, but the again Samuel Beckett is not your average playwright. And Jan Jonson is not your average director. He can flatter himself, which he does, as belonging to the select circles who may allow them selves to address the poet as Sam. And since Beckett´s death 1989, Jonson has been on a constant mission from his friend: to take dismal and meaningless universe to those who already inhabit them: in places like Kumla, San Quentin, Folsom and Ila. At the very root of my plays according to the playwright.

It is one thing to do theatre in a prison. To do Beckett in there borders and the evil. Interchanges as the one mentioned above take on a special meaning when spoken by people who are sentenced to public oblivion. At Ila perhaps for ten to fifteen years. In other places, for ever.

I wonder. Imagine that a thinking being returned to earth, do you think he would stop to wonder if he studies us long enough: Oh right, now I know what it is they want to achieve.

That yours truly sometimes found it difficult to be this thinking being was more to do with certain accidental circumstances than with the extremely good play. I had got myself started on Johnny Cash and Eddie Palmieri´s Live from respectively San Quentin and Sing Sing, misanthropic manner from the taxi all the way out to Baerum. I was after all supposed to be hanging out with long-term convicts, my pulse kept rising to an anaemic maximum, the flowering fields ran past and the colored girls go: I don´t care what they say. People shouldn´t be treated this way. What had one gotten one self into?

No reason to panic. Inside the gates was a posse of the cultural elite of which the most crimerelated element was the Kangol-hat belonging to Anne-Cath Vestly. The prison feeling completely failed to appear until our inquiries for coffee (essentional to continued life for some of us) were met with a masterful nothingmoreleft and a broad back signifying that we don’t play around in here. We are playing prison. Past gates, through long corridors and down towards the public subterranean. A prison guard received a hug from his favourite childhood radio-presenter, we sat down and darkness fell. Very dark and very quiet: And one could, pardon the expression, have killed for a coffee.

It is not only his humanism which causes Jan Jonson to be mentioned today in the same breathas the likes of Joe Chaikin and Herbert Blau, the leading Beckett-directors in the world. His aestethetic alternates between the hypnotic and the sleeping-inducing, as is common with only as the convict Bent. In the middle of the stage sits Jonson himself in the role of Hamm, and occationally Nagg and Nell, played by the prisoner Jan and his guard Gry, stick their heads up from the garbage-can. It all takes place slowly, very stylized and slavishly bound to the minute directional descriptions of Beckett.
And the play is not at all funny, at Ila Security we are miles away from the half-baked vulgar absurdism and the cheap slacker-thrusts against the emptiness of everyday life so often to be seen, not only in Beckett-productions, but in all of theatre. Give Thanks! That it should take convicts to show us a serious piece of absurdism is nothing short of weird. The fact that they operate in a high international level must be to do with the fact that they work with a slightly brilliant theatrical pedagogue. One may ask oneself what Jonson would have been able to do with some of the professional actors who were present among the public. But why ask that question, when what he does with people without any experience is on a par with the very best that goes on at the Nordic stage?

And even if we don´t take it this far. So maybe we sometimes? Imagine that this was not at all in vain.

When the publishing-house Cappelen in their time presented Endgame to the Norwegian public, emphasis was laid on the inherent nihilism of the text. Samuel Beckett was the apostle of meaninglessness, the dark de-masker of human life, and Endgame was his darkest play ever. There is still hope in this play. A hope in the line which is spread out in the text. Who is this thinking being who ponders our stories and makes it his own? It might not be god or Godot, but the spectator. And perhaps this stories this spectator make up do not have to be those insanely great tales which embrace us all, and which for so long ago it has been the fashion to mourn the loss of. Might not the deliverance just lay in becoming the object of the attention of the other, to be a part of the stories of another human being. Maybe that is why Hamm and Clov do not leave eachother? And maybe that is why this play works so well here in prison, because it demands that the spectator takes his part of the responsibility? Simple, yes. But the simplest is often the best. We applaud. They hold hands. We have seen The Other. My Goodness.


Afterwards only Nell comes out in the hall to talk. Enjoying a fame which is seldom her due as a prison guard. Nagg is back in the garbage-can. Clov probably stands staring into the wall as usual, watching the light disappearing. W step slowly out into the sun, down towards the freedom-monument, waiting for a taxidriver who keeps swearing because Ila is not on the roadsigns. It is beautiful at Grini in the summer. It says on a sign that the monument was builtout of ploes taken from the prison-camp which was once here. Engraved on the monument is the saying: “Freedom and Life is One”


By Jon Refsdal Mo

Group picture,
Kungsportsavenyn Gothenburg






© Copyright. Jan Jönson.