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Death of Jean-Noël Fenwick, author of Les Palmes de monsieur Schutz at 74

In the memory of Jean-Noël Fenwick, April 29, 1990 undoubtedly remained the most beautiful evening of his life.

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Death of Jean-Noël Fenwick, author of Les Palmes de monsieur Schutz at 74

In the memory of Jean-Noël Fenwick, April 29, 1990 undoubtedly remained the most beautiful evening of his life. During the fourth Nuit des Molières, he was crowned “best author” for Les palmes de monsieur Schutz. His play was also rewarded with four other trophies, including that of director, awarded to Gérard Caillaud. The latter was the first, and undoubtedly the only one at the time, to have believed in this story, the manuscript of which arrived on his desk one morning. After reading it, he immediately decided to stage it at the start of the 1989 school year at the Théâtre des Mathurins, of which he was the director.

The adventure began on September 18 with almost general indifference. The first, in front of all of Paris, is greeted with some polite applause. On the other hand, the rare audience present the other evenings in the room does not hide their enthusiasm. Stéphane Hillel and Sonia Vollereaux, who play Pierre and Marie Curie, regularly receive a standing ovation. Production logic would dictate that the curtain falls the day after the 30th performance. Gérard Caillaud rejects this hypothesis. He believes in this particularly original subject and decides to play the “whatever it takes” card, continuing as long as possible. Around the 70th performance, the telephone begins to ring at the cash register. A month later, thanks to word of mouth, the theater was sold out. From this day on, to find a place, you will have to do it several weeks, even several months in advance.

Six seasons later, after more than 1,500 performances, the troupe leaves Paris for a long tour in France which will end in Quebec. The phenomenon is still expanding with adaptations in 21 countries including China and Japan. Finally, in 1997, Claude Pinoteau directed a film adaptation headlined by Isabelle Huppert.

Jean-Noël Fenwick did not imagine for a single moment this daydream when, after reading an article in a specialist journal, he had the idea of ​​taking inspiration from the discovery of radioactivity and then radium to write, in just a few weeks, a piece that he wants to be “gay, tender and scientific”. This is not his first experience in the world of the red curtain. After working in the world of journalism and then advertising, he decided to follow his passion. He thus packaged plays exclusively performed in café theaters and made a few appearances on stage, in particular in Le bonbon bleue with Charlotte de Turckheim, to whom he was married for around twenty months.

In the years following this triumph, he signed, among others, Calamity Jane, Gossip of Hell, which he directed, and Me, but better. Success, much more modest, leads the creator to embark on other adventures. Inspired by the universe that made his good fortune, he published The Seven Strokes of Genius of Madame Bibabanga, a popular essay evoking, in 200 pages, the scientific phenomena which, since the Big Bang, have led to the appearance of man on earth. Finally, about ten years ago, he signed L'Arlequin, a novel in which, through the journey of an artist made famous by the role of a jester, he painted a vitriolic portrait behind the scenes of a small world of entertainment, of which he was not fooled. Those who, in the days of glory, gave him a friendly pat on the stomach, did not hesitate afterwards to hit even harder, but behind his back.

During the last Molières ceremony, Rudy Milstein, winner in the best comedy and best French-speaking author categories, paid tribute to this man who often repeated in recent years that he had a problem. That of being fifteen years old in the body of a man of seventy.

Paying a high price for his success morally did not discourage him. He continued until the end to imagine situations, to write. Some time ago he had read a new play in which he had high hopes. Destiny did not allow him to take action.

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