Hamm: Is it night already then?
               Clove: No.
               Hamm: Then what is it?
               Clove: Gray. Gray! GRRAY!



Samuel Beckett

Translation into English by Samuel Beckett (the revised text)

Ila fengsel Forvarings- og sikringsanstalt Oslo Norway  2002 - 2003





                                                     Clov - Bent
                                                     Hamm - Jan Jonson
                                                     Nagg - Jan
                                                     Nell - Gry Gustavsen


Dear reader,
I have been asked by Jan Jönson to write a few words on why I chose to become part of this theatre project, so here goes. To begin with, I should tell you that job offers are few in prison, a place where it’s important to have something to do and involve yourself in if want to return to society as an active citizen. This is precisely what I have done. I am also very interested in developing myself as a human being, and this project is a fantastic way to express the many feelings, thoughts and frustrations that are part of prison life. I have really worked hard during my imprisonment, both with my criminal tendencies and through education and self-development. The theatre project has allowed me to challenge myself in many ways, which is the reason I chose to do this play, "Endgame", and the role of Clov. I would also point out that the play also has many parallels to prison life. Finally, I want to thank Jan Jönson for giving us this possibility, and quite simply for caring about people who are struggling with their problems and trying to get their lives back on track.
Many thanks.



Dare to be honest
dare to be free
Dare to feel your feelings
and show them to me

Those that stay silent
 may be more afraid
To open up the doors
of the prisons they’ve made

Dare to be vulnerable
we are none made of stone
Dare to show us how
you can stand your own.

Strong is the one who chooses
the path less trodden

Maybe those who hurt you
are weakest after all?
Sing out and tell us,
cry if you must

Time is too short for escape,
something you cannot steal

Some of us need to know
that you can keep it real.

"Dare to choose life!"



Gry Schöne Gustavsen

Some months ago an energetic Swede appeared in "our prison". He told us he was an actor and was here to stage a play. He roamed the prison wards looking for people to fill the roles in something called "Endgame". He often visited the ward where I work and we talked about his work in other prisons and the play he was planning to stage. It sounded fascinating, and I did my best to motivate the inmates to take part. It seemed to me to be a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they had to grab. (Maybe they’d be "headhunted" into theatrical careers after their release...?!)

Two inmates in my ward joined the cast, which was now complete apart from the female role of Nell. I have been told that it was an inmate I had persuaded to take part who first proposed me for the role. When Jan asked me, I thought he was joking and laughed out loud. But he was serious. I didn’t feel able to just say “No!” And the arguments I had used to persuade the inmates – a unique chance; an opportunity to "grow" – seemed to apply to me too. Never one to let a chance pass me by, I decided to join them. And gradually I realised what an opportunity I had to work alongside the inmates and to get to know them in a completely different way and context. We were all equals, and as a complete amateur I had plenty to learn from them and from Jan.

We shared experiences that were extremely valuable for my subsequent work, both as a contact officer and in my everyday responsibilities in the ward. I had been able to test myself in a new field and to participate in something that, in a sense, was the inmates’ own arena. I am grateful for this. I had also been part of an historic event, since it seems this was the first project of its kind to be done at Ila. The project has been an amazing experience, especially considering that it has taken place in a prison, with the challenges, possibilities and restrictions that this represents. To have the opportunity to work with such professional and enthusiastic people who are totally committed has been fantastic.

Many thanks to Jan for his engagement and positive attitude. Thanks also to the department of culture at Baerum Municipality, which gave me the opportunity to experience this. I am very grateful to Ila for allowing me to participate, and for creating the conditions to enable me to integrate this with my work. The project is hardly what one would expect to experience working as a prison warder, but it has nevertheless given me valuable experience I can utilise in my work at Ila. Thanks again!

I hope you all enjoy the project and that our performance lives up to your expectations.


I have a minor role in the play. However, as I have no previous theatrical experience, it has been a challenge for me. With Jan Jonson’s guidance things just fall into place. He is a professional, and I admire the way he handles the restrictions here in prison. I wish the project and cast every success with the performance!


Stig Kristoffersen and Jan Jensen
Lighting and set design

We became involved with the theatre project "Endgame" because we showed an interest in it and because we work in Ila’s carpentry workshop. We were asked to help make the sets and props and accepted the offer. It has been interesting to work "behind the scenes" and to experience the theatre from a different angle. Finding practical solutions has been an enjoyable challenge. We have learnt a lot about theatre and had fun working with professionals like Jan Jonson and Helge Rinnan. We are grateful for being able to take part and wish everyone involved the best of luck.


Helge Rinnan
Technical coordinator

A big thank you to all the leaders, employees and inmates in Ila’s workshops for their work creating the sets, props and lighting rig. As everyone can appreciate, there lies an enormous amount of work in creating an apparently simple stage. For me, this stimulating creative process would not have been possible without the workshops’ support.

Per Eriksen
Video documentation

In December 2002 Jan Jonson asked me to video as much as possible of the rehearsals for "Endgame". As I was doing a video film direction course at Ila, it was a great opportunity for me. I spent every possible moment I could with the actors, mostly in the chapel at Ila. In a normal week, this was about 12 hours. Until now (a week before the premier) I have used 66 days, and have 68 hours on film. It all has to be transferred to VHS cassettes – and I’ve so far copied 32 hours of material. Simple maths suggests I still have 68 hours copying ahead of me. By the last performance on June 14 I estimate there will be between 100 and 110 hours of film. I am to film all the performances, as Jonson says no two are alike.

We plan to edit the material into a documentary film about the production. We haven’t decided the exact duration, but it’s likely to be 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When it’s finished, the material will be sent to a British university’s Beckett department, for use by students and other Beckett enthusiasts. I am grateful for being given this exciting, interesting and demanding task. I hope the result will prove to be a success.

Trine Hamre Bendixen
Head of culture, Baerum Municipality

Why perform Beckett at ILA?

The department of culture at Baerum municipality actively seeks to incorporate impulses and methods from Norway and abroad to exploit the potential in working across sectors. The "Within prison walls - theatre as a agent of change" project is, as far as we know, the first time a professional theatre director has worked full-time in a Norwegian prison for a prolonged period. He has worked with a piece of theatre specially selected for its parallels with the inmates’ experiences and circumstances. The project participants have been actively involved in developing their roles and the production as a whole. The project’s objective has been to develop alternative methods of preventative and rehabilitative work that can supplement the work already carried out within prisons. The Swedish director and actor Jan Jonson has previously produced several theatre-in-prison projects, including at Kumla in Sweden and San Quentin State Prison in California, USA. Jonson has developed a conscious approach to working with inmates as participants and actors. He uses his experience of working with vulnerable groups and his theatrical expertise, combined with an exceptional ability as communicator, to both create a theatrical performance and to nurture the participants’ individual talents. The project aims to contribute to making a period of imprisonment a positive experience that improves inmates’ understanding and mastery of their own behaviour – within prison and beyond its walls. Culture, literature, and drama can provide new experiences and connection points after imprisonment, becoming a new arena of life for some of the inmates. Through the project, the participants have had positive attention and the opportunity to develop new awareness and forms of behaviour.

This has been a new approach to working in prisons that we hope has been a valuable experience for staff. In Norway, this type of activity for inmates is quite new, but the methodology is well proven abroad where it has produced good results. The use of theatre generates personal insight and thus improves life mastery. The inmates have encountered literature through the dramatic work used in the production, which focuses on situations and feelings quite familiar to them. By connecting with the inmates’ emotional situation, the project has created a platform for a continued process. Baerum Municipality’s department of culture is proud to have contributed to the project’s implementation. It is difficult to carry out such a project without a broad collaboration between representatives from various bodies and professions. "Within prison walls - theatre as a agent of change" has been characterised by the genuine interest and efforts of many people. We would like to extend our gratitude to everybody who has participated. The idea was born when Jan Jonson visited Baerum with his performance "Moments of reality" in 2000. Among the audience were several inmates from Ila Landsfengsel who also attended the subsequent seminar on theatre in prison. The Norwegian prison administration was being reorganised at the time and Ila saw the potential of this type of theatre project in connection with custody. Art and culture should play a central role in any society by challenging, stimulating, and by creating awareness and gratification. Culture should be present in all sectors of society, including behind prison walls.


Knut-Erik Tveit
Producer / Project coordinator, Baerum Municipality

Jan Jonson’s theatre projects within prisons have become his life’s work. They involve a profound existential objective: to use inmates’ presence in ‘moments of reality’ to give them the opportunity to overcome their past and create a new direction in life.

Jan Jonson’s gift of grace is his ability to create these existentially potent experiences and encounters, along with a talent for creating the conditions conducive to people’s personal development. This gives his projects a flavour of hope. The potential of the present moment, and of the future, becomes stronger than the limitations of the past. This is the reason why Baerum Municipality chose to produce the "Within prison walls" project at Ila.


Håkon Melvold
Prison authority, Ila Landsfengsel

The correctional services task is to carry out the punishment decided by a court of justice in a way that the convicted person can break their criminal behaviour through their own efforts. Ila Landsfengsel’s aim with this theatre project should bee seen in the context of the connection between aspects of learning, mastery and the experience of aesthetic expression. Moreover, the project has importance for interdisciplinary work and cooperation, as well as voluntary organisations. Samuel Beckett, the author of "Endgame", through his lengthy collaboration with Jan Jonson, has given his unreserved approval of the prison as a worthy arena for the performance of the play. This gives the use of theatre as an instrument in prisons a special dimension.


Ingunn Eitrheim Kleivan
Educational inspector, Ila Landsfengsel

The educational department at Ila has followed this theatre project with great interest. Its working methods and objectives support the department’s goals. Those of us who have daily contact with the inmates see that our ways of working have to be diverse, if we are to create insight. As educators, we are always on the lookout for new ways to release energy that can result in insight and mastery. The process involved in the project has been extremely interesting to follow at close quarters. We now look forward to experiencing the final product!  

Jan Jonson
Director and actor

Dear audience,
I visited Ila daily from September 2002 to June 14, 2003, creating close connections with the inmates and personnel. It became our common goal to perform a full-scale production of Samuel Beckett’s beautiful play "Endgame". Working alongside three inmates and an employee, we created our own rehearsal space in a quiet chapel, where the play has taken shape with the help of silence, harmony and occasionally with offensive and unwelcome interruptions.

We have dived deeply into Beckett’s work to find our own expression. Our rehearsing room has slowly but surely filled up with the necessary props, decor, lighting and mask finally collected together in our final stage at ILA´s sports hall. Suddenly, while we were rehearsing, something happened that we were only partially prepared for. My actor playing the role of Hamm just couldn’t go on. The contrast between his many years of solitude, silence and confinement and the vague world he was soon to meet outside prison became too much. The play was too close to real life. I decided to play the role of Hamms myself, and to work with Bent, Jan and to find our expression of the play.


About Samuel Beckett’s "Endgame"

With "Waiting for Godot" Samuel Beckett created one of modern theatre’s most revolutionary and remarkable dramas. With "Endgame", he perfected his pioneering and evocative style and secured his position as one of the most influential dramatists of our age.

"Endgame" is a stark play. Its drastic minimalism and merciless focus provide a gloomy and intense vision of life’s cruelty and lack of meaning, and of man’s pitiful longings. Humanity is portrayed by four people trapped in a room by obscure forces. The blind and paralysed Hamm bullies his downtrodden servant Clov and his senile parents Nagg and Nell, who are each confined to dustbins from where they peer out and occasionally beg for porridge or biscuits. Unable to let go of each other or their lives, they are the last human beings whiling away their last hours. There exists no affection or contact between them – their only fellowship is their captivity in a world without mercy. They talk to themselves, relating meaningless stories without beginning and end. The contrast between their naive self-satisfaction and hopeless degradation creates a grotesque tragic-comedy, which gives Beckett’s tragic worldview a peculiar patina of black humor.

About the translation

"Endgame" was originally written in French. Samuel Beckett himself translated the work to English. In my eyes, this original translation is the truest, and I would not feel comfortable using other versions. While working with "Waiting for Godot" at Kumla prison and in San Quentin, it was natural to use Beckett’s own translation, which gave me a feeling of security. I hope that my audience also experiences this sense of security and can enjoy Sam’s beautiful language.

Your devoted Jan Jonson


Direction, set/ lighting design, , costumes and makeup - Jan Jonson
Lighting and technical coordination - Helge Rinnan
Lighting technician, carpenter and stagehand - Stig Kristoffersen - Ila
Lighting assistant, carpenter and stagehand - Jan Jensen - Ila
Blacksmith - Dag Rönning - Ila
Prompter - Pham Quang - Ila
Photographer - Beppe Arvidsson
Photographic assistants - Sven and Per Arne - Ila
Video documentation of production - Per Eriksen - Ila
Project coordinator - Knut Erik Tveit
Producer – department of culture, Baerum Municipality

A special thanks to Vibecke Kenniar Ottesen, who through her presence, interest and endurance during rehearsals, compiled a report on the entire process, as part of studies at the Universities of Oslo and Edinburgh to complete her thesis in criminology.
Thanks to the Norwegian Broadcasting Company and the National Theatre for the loan of costumes and props.

Ila county prison/ Department of culture, Baerum Municipality
Supported by:                                                       
Öst-Norsk kompetansesenter rusmiddelavdelingen,
Directorate of Health and Social Services,
Norwegian Culture Fund,
The Swedish Embassy,
State educational office
Hordanland and Akershus county council









Bent and Jan Jonson









Gry and Jan


The ensemble











































































































© Copyright. Jan Jönson.