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World "In six years of detention, this is the first time that I am going out": prisoners take the stage in Bobigny

16:05  25 september  2020
16:05  25 september  2020 Source:   francetvinfo.fr

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Prisoners from the Meaux penitentiary center will participate in a show on Friday in Bobigny. An initiative that helps them to reintegrate into society as they approach the end of their sentence.

This project is called Watch, it has been carried out for months by the Paris Chamber Orchestra. A few days before the big night, the inmates participated in a dress rehearsal. Among them, Hadyl: "In six years of detention, this is the first time that I'm going out. I haven't slept much this week, since I was told it was going to be possible."

It will be an honor for my sisters to see me on stage, not to see me as a prisoner but as an actor.

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Hadyl, an inmate

at franceinfo

These rather particular actors have been working for months on writing, bodywork, music, etc. It all started last fall with writing workshops: patients of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, poorly housed people from the Popincourt emergency accommodation center of the Samu social or even residents of the Hector Berlioz nursing home in Bobigny have written texts on their relationship to time. "From February, we made these texts dialogue with those written by the inmates, then a rehearsal teacher made them work on diction, dress on stage ... It's an incredible experience," says director Olivier Fredj.

"In prison, as in the hospital or nursing home, we lose track of time a little. We realized when we spoke that we had the same feelings," explains Sofiane, an inmate. Except that nursing home residents or the chronically ill cannot perform on stage. So the inmates "carry their words", give them a voice. The inmates also wrote their texts. Then it was all directed by Olivier Fredj and set to music by the Paris Chamber Orchestra, international pianist Shani Diluka and electro musician Matias Aguayo. "I integrated sounds from the real world, from prison or from the hospital, to make it rhythmic and to integrate it into the music," he explains.

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An important step in the reintegration of prisoners

The construction of such a show also has an educational aim. It allows prisoners who are nearing the end of long sentences - more than three years in prison - to gradually open up to the outside world and discover new horizons: theater, writing and music. "I started writing in prison, when I was in the back room, the disciplinary cell," says Sofiane, who now brilliantly recites her lyrics on stage.

Like Sofiane or Hadyl, all these one-night stand-up comedians are volunteers and have signed an employment contract for this project and are paid half the minimum wage. "In this way, we contribute to the reintegration into society - also at the professional level - of these people", explains Irène Muscari, cultural coordinator of the prison service for integration and probation. This is the sixth year that the theater has come to Meaux prison. A loyalty that has even given rise to some vocations: "Two ex-prisoners decided after their release to take the road to the theater for good, and today they are actors and have the status of intermittent performing", welcomes Irène Muscari .

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