On 8 July 2016, the inmates of the prison of Avignon-Le Pontet perform Hamlet in the prison's gymnasium. Months earlier, they registered for a dramatic creation workshop led by Olivier Py, unsure whether this adventure would survive the everyday reality of prison, but on this day they're asked to take a curtain call. The audience, made up of prisoners, staff, and politicians, are moved by their tight version of Shakespeare's masterpiece. Rallying around the cry of “Free Hamlet!”, some aren't afraid to express their desire to see this adventure continue beyond the walls of the prison, next summer, during the Festival d'Avignon itself. All want a wider audience to share this intense version, rewritten “without blind spots” by the director, performed by ten men dressed just liked them and who bravely open up on a bare stage. “It would be amazing,” says the actor playing Claudius. A year later, their dream is within reach: the inmates on leave taking part in this human and artistic adventure will perform at the Maison Jean Vilar, on their very own stage. An unprecedented situation? “When I hear the trumpets of the Festival d'Avignon in prison, it's also unprecedented. Yet I feel like I'm at the very heart of our project of popular theatre: creating bonds,” says Olivier Py.
As part of its policy to make culture accessible to everyone, the Festival d'Avignon has developed since 2004 a partnership with the prison of Avignon-Le Pontet. In 2014, on Olivier Py's initiative, this partnership intensified with the opening of a workshop he co-directed with Enzo Verdet. Since then, he has directed three plays for and with the inmates: Prometheus Bound (2015), Hamlet (2016), and Antigone (2017). Olivier Py's project hasn't been beneficial to the sole participants of the workshop, either. In 2015, rehearsals of Prometheus Unbound with the amateur actors were filmed by members of the video workshop. They then filmed the performance of the play, before doing the same with Hamlet the following year. In 2016, the two movies retracing the adventure of Prometheus in prison found their place in the Nave of Images where are shown the audiovisual treasures of the Festival d'Avignon, dating back to 1947. A programme that revisits the major moments in the history of the most important and oldest cultural manifestation in the world, whose wide-reaching work is often ignored.
Text William Shakespeare, Olivier Py Theatrical creation workshops led by Olivier Py, Enzo Verdet
With the participants of the theater workshop Andria, Choukri, Hakim, Jean-Michel, Maamar, Paulu Pierre-Eric, Sylvain, Yannis, Youcef
Production Festival d'Avignon With the support of Fondation M6, Fonds interministériel de prévention de la délinquance / Ministère de l'Intérieur