Briefly in english
“In my last seven years as Director of the Finnish National Theatre, I have come to realise how much the public looks to the theatre for depth and meaning. The stage offers a window onto the world. In these confusing times, theatre helps clarify our perception and understanding. Individual responsibility for the planet and by extension for the future of humanity are themes which are brought up with increasing weight and frequency.” Mika Myllyaho, Director of the Finnish National Theatre, January 2017
This year, Finland celebrates a hundred years of political independence. In honour of the nation’s centenary, the Finnish National Theatre has put together a season of powerful classics and new Finnish works which examine the achievements of the past and prospects for the future. In addition, the theatre will be hosting the end-result of an ambitious project entitled Caravan 2017, which brought together theatre professionals, amateurs, pedagogs, and students – people of all ages and backgrounds – in workshops, rehearsals and discussions over a period of eighteen months. The project, initiated and directed by Jemina Sillanpää, culminates in a unique musical performance on the theatre’s Main Stage in May.
For the main programme, Janne Reinikainen directs William Shakespeare’s classic tale of dark ambition, Macbeth, on the Main Stage. Reinikainen’s interpretation casts its gaze toward the future and includes live music, mechanical animals, poetic videos, weird sisters, post-humanist thinking, rap-duo, gatekeeper from hell and political murder. The play opens in March in a new translation and adaptation by Reinikainen and Eva Buchwald. The season’s international programme also includes Thomas Mann’s celebrated novel Der Tod in Venedig, adapted and directed by Michael Baran, which opens in April on the Small stage. As the story’s ageing protagonist follows the object of his obsession through Venice’s magical yet cholera-ridden streets, he feverishly ponders the nature of beauty, truth and longing. This two-hander, accompanied by live cello music, is a touching elegy to a vanishing world.
Also on the Small Stage, Arctic Hysteria by Marko Tapio opens in March. This modern classic novel covers almost half a century of Finnish history from the early 1900’s to the 1960’s, when it was written. The story traces the loyalties and frictions in a small community dependent on the local power station. The novel has been adapted for the stage by Juha-Pekka Hotinen and Atro Kahiluoto, who also directs. March will also see the world premiere of the Ruska Ensemble’s Arctic Odyssey, a unique journey through the landscapes of the North. The performance mixes Chukchi myths with Inuit masked dance, Arctic songs with modern Sami poetry, and reflects on the experiences, memories and destinies of northern populations. This is the second part of the Ruska Ensemble’s Arctic Trilogy and has been produced in collaboration with the FNT and Greenland National Theatre. New Finnish drama is represented by Pasi Lampela’s Granada, which opens on the Willensauna Stage in February and Marko Järvikallas’ Maternal Love, which opens in the Omapohja Studio in March. Lampela will be directing his own play, which traces a gently comic, yet poignant encounter between ex-lovers in an Andalusian hotel room. Järvikallas’ work, directed by Liisa Mustonen is a suspenseful triangle drama about divided loyalties, as tension builds between a single mother and her unruly son when the mother starts dating. Can the pair break with the sinister habits of their past to make a new future for themselves?
Many successful works have been carried over from the autumn season. Sumu, written and directed by Juha Jokela, continues in repertoire on the Main Stage. Jokela’s play examines the pitfalls of doing business in a global world. A small Finnish company’s innovative brain-scanning machine represents top-notch technology, but it requires marketing capital. When the company receives government funding to export the product to its eastern neighbour, the company directors are faced with a moral dilemma: is doing business with Putin’s Russia a viable option? Commercial, scientific, political and personal ethics all come into question in Jokela’s sharply satirical comedy. Last’s season’s major new historical drama Canth also continues on the Main Stage. Written by Seppo Parkkinen, the play is based on and around the life of Finnish author Minna Canth (1844-1897), who played a significant role in the development of Finnish literature. Especially remembered as a playwright, Canth was a driving force behind the Finnish National Theatre in its early years. Parkkinen’s meticulously researched play paints a vivid picture of the intellectual and cultural milieu of the late nineteenth century, highlighting the social, political and aesthetic concerns of the day. In his portrait of Minna Canth, Parkkinen does justice to a striking, socially influential figure whose radical views were often highly controversial, even among her closest associates. The play is directed by Kaisa Korhonen.
Two adaptations of Finnish novels from last season are still playing to full houses. Tuomas Kyrö’s Happy Times, Mr Grumpy, adapted and directed by Mika Myllyaho, and Miika Nousiainen’s Root Therapy, adapted and directed by Aleksis Meaney can be seen on the Small Stage. Both works take a humorous look at human frailty and vulnerability in relation to the greater scheme of things. Kyrö’s ageing hero tries to prepare for that final departure, while Nousiainen’s protagonists, a dentist and his patient, are driven by tooth ache and a shared secret to embark on a self-searching quest.
On the Willensauna Stage, William Shakespeare’s Richard III, translated by Matti Rossi, also continues its highly popular run. This brutal tale of sinister ambition and betrayal has been given a surprisingly playful and atmospheric interpretation by Jussi Nikkilä, without losing any of its fierce intensity. The work has been adapted for a cast of five by Anna Viitala. Also on the Willensauna stage, Kristian Smeds’ latest work just filming will continue for a limited run in May. This is a two-hander rich in passion and absurdity, performed by Estonian Juhán Ulfsak and Hungarian Annamária Láng. A heart-felt tribute to the world of cinema, it is a highly visual and musical piece, and its brief textual content is expressed in ‘Broken English and Broken Finnish’, according to Smeds.
Several performances return by popular demand. Arto af Hällström’s successful production of Molière’s Le Malade imaginaire transfers to the Main Stage. Hypochondriac Argan places such faith in his entourage of charlatan doctors that he is determined for his daughter Angélique to marry one, thus provoking an intrigue in which the honest must don disguises in order to unmask the pretenders. Juha Jokela’s interpretation of British author Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs also transfers to the Main Stage for a limited number of performances. A couple struggles to live up to the responsibilities of both parenthood and the future of the planet. The play gives voice to a generation all too aware of its carbon footprint.
For children there are several events taking place in the theatre’s Club Scene, such as Baby tango dancing and the Batman Club, as well as theatre workshops for primary school children. Ella Pyhältö and Helena Vierikko have created a show for the very young, based on Finnish classic comic stories entitled Hölmöläiset. The show is performed in the lobby of the Main Stage.
The theatre will host several touring productions this season, including a visit from the celebrated Aleksandrinsky Theatre of St Petersburg with Valeri Fokin’s interpretation of Gogol’s play The Marriage. The show plays for two performances on the Main Stage. Other visits include Cie Accrorap and Kader Attou’s dance performance The Roots, also on the Main Stage and Cirko festival’s regular contributor Circa’s What Will Have Been, on the Small Stage. All these shows can be seen in May. There will also be a rare opportunity to see Atiq Rahimi’s novel Pierre de Patience on stage for five performances in May. Adapted and directed by Terhi Panula, the tale expresses one woman’s capacity for resilience in the face of war and bloodshed.
Amongst other activities, an innovative project entitled Black Box, which began last spring, continues this year. The project brings journalism to the Small Stage for a series in which journalists present previously unpublished material and reveal the stories that have touched them the most. The theatre’s own Touring Stage has continued to develop small-scale performances which are available to hospitals and community centres. Its latest project Other Home involves interviewing artists with refugee status who are currently resident in Finland. A series of interviews and workshops will eventually culminate in a performance directed by Jussi Lehtonen, who has also devised the whole project. Audience outreach work continues with a new project involving residents of a Helsinki suburb, entitled Maunula Landscape. The project’s multidisciplinary workshops and eventual performances are devised and directed by Eveliina Heinonen and Juho Gröndahl. This year’s theme is Maunula and Love. A huge variety of performances, music events, readings and discussions also fills the theatre’s own Club Scene venue. The venue’s varied programme can be accessed at www.lavaklubi.fi.
HISTORICAL ROOTS OF THE FNT
The Finnish National Theatre, founded in 1872, is the oldest Finnish-language professional theatre in the country. The birth of the Finnish National Theatre was closely linked to the political ideology of the late nineteenth century. Finland was part of the Russian Empire, and the country’s intellectual elite was Swedish speaking. Finnish language and art, including theatre, became the cornerstones of a cultural movement which began in the 1860’s, gradually developed political ambitions by the turn of the century, and eventually led to national independence in 1917.
For the first thirty years of its existence, the theatre functioned primarily as a touring company. The theatre did not acquire a permanent home until 1902, when a purpose-built theatre was erected in the heart of Helsinki, adjacent to the city’s main railway station. The building design was by architect Onni Törnqvist-Tarjanne. This majestic neo-romantic edifice with its façade of Finnish granite and interiors of soapstone, marble and wood, is one of Finland’s most impressive national monuments. The theatre still operates in these premises today, and over the years the building has expanded from its original size to encompass another three permanent stages. In addition to the Main Stage (Suuri näyttämö), the theatre comprises the Small Stage (Pieni näyttämö) built in 1954, the Willensauna Stage built in 1976, and the Omapohja studio built in 1987.
In 2010 the FNT’s governing board appointed the current director Mika Myllyaho, who has expanded the theatre’s activities. He has adopted a policy of associate writers to whom the theatre is committed on a long term basis. He has increased the number of Finnish play commissions and the theatre has also become a venue welcoming a variety of joint productions and guest performances.
A new production unit was established in 2010, under the name of Touring Stage. This unit, which has no fixed stage, aims to take small-scale touring performances to locations throughout the country which have little or no access to theatre, such as schools, day care centres, homes for the elderly, hospitals, welfare reception centres, prisons and so on. The Touring Stage’s programme focuses on topical issues which are developed through community research and interaction, reaching out and giving voice to marginalized sectors of society.
Over recent years, the theatre has also expanded its outreach activities in the realm of theatre in education and community work. Theatre Educator Pirjo Virtanen has initiated and developed many projects and themed events to engage with different sectors of the FNT’s audience base. The programme includes discussion groups, drama courses, literary study, backstage tours and more. The unit also provides educational background material related to the tehatre’s productions for the benefit of teachers.
In January 2011 the theatre’s former restaurant reopened as the Club Scene, transformed into a late-evening club-like entertainment spot. The space has been given a new look, refurbished in a piano-bar stroke artist’s living-room style, and it offers a varied programme of music, drama and poetry performances, discussion evenings and artist soirées, put together by producer Hanna Reetta Majanen.
Throughout its history the Finnish National Theatre has also maintained international links in various forms of partnership with foreign theatres and festivals. This continues today as the theatre co-operates with, among others, the Helsinki Festival to bring over cutting-edge examples of world drama. The theatre also participates in text-based cultural exchanges and workshops, and regularly invites guest directors or other artists from abroad, to bring new perspectives to Finnish theatre. The theatre’s cultural exchange also includes tours and collaboration abroad.
Finnish National Theatre
Läntinen Teatterikuja 1
Telephone +35810 733 11
+358 10 7331 331
email addresses are:
Director of the Finnish National Theatre
Director’s Secretary / Club Scene Producer
Hanna Reetta Majanen
Telephone +35810 733 1259 / +358 50 374 4181
Telephone +35810 733 1264 / +358 50 320 9601
Telephone + 35810 733 1203 / + 358 50 381 6436
Telephone +35810 733 1261
Dramaturg / International relations
Telephone +35810 733 1314 / +358 50 315 2947
+35810 7331 321
Head of Marketing
Telephone + 35810 733 1220 / +358 50 375 3501
Head of Press
Telephone +35810 733 1238 / +358 50 540 5062
Telephone +35810 733 1256 / +358 50 374 2296
Manager of Theatre Restaurant
Telephone +35810 733 1283