Briefly in english
“Today we live in a world of grim realities, of conflict and uncertainty. In a divisive world, it is important to create a unifying force. Art provides a common language, and we must have the courage to use it. The Finnish National Theatre remains committed to its role as an artistic theatre in pursuit of ethical values, both in thought and action.”
Director of the Finnish National Theatre, August 2016
This season opens with two new original works by Finnish authors. Sumu, written and directed by Juha Jokela, premieres on the Main Stage, and 60, written by Veera Tyhtilä and directed by Otso Kautto, can be seen in the Omapohja Studio. 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. Veera Tyhtilä’s play 60 also explores the cost of success, but on a more intimate level. Tuuti is a female stand-up comic who has recently turned sixty. Her employer tells her she needs to be funnier, or younger, or both. Her husband is retreating into his own fantasy world. And she can’t keep up with the egomania of the modern world. To her surprise, she is suddenly ‘on the way out’ when she was supposed to be in her prime. Tyhtilä’s rare, carefully crafted play is a bitter-sweet comedy of life and laughter in the twilight years. Both plays open in September.
Later in the season, a major new historical drama opens on the Main stage. Written by Seppo Parkkinen and entitled Canth, 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 and opens on the Main Stage in November.
Two adaptations of Finnish novels also provide new additions to the repertoire this season. Mika Myllyaho adapts and directs the final part of Tuomas Kyrö’s series of Mr Grumpy novels Happy Times, Mr Grumpy, and Aleksis Meaney adapts and directs Miika Nousiainen’s latest novel Root Therapy. 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. Both productions are playing on the Small Stage.
On the Willensauna Stage, Kristian Smeds’ latest work just filming is a two-hander rich in passion and absurdity, performed by Estonian Johán 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. The show opens in October. On the same stage in November, Jussi Nikkilä directs William Shakespeare’s Richard III, translated by Matti Rossi. This brutal tale of sinister ambition and betrayal has been adapted for a cast of five by Anna Viitala.
Also on the Willensauna Stage, actresses Anna Paavilainen and Marja Salo have created a performance focusing on individuality and self-image in a society dominated by the media’s increasingly narrow understanding of perfection. Identity was devised from a project entitled ‘What are you staring at?’, in which Paavilainen and Salo joined forces with make-up artist Tuire Kerälä and photographer Mitro Härkönen on a series of workshops exploring the world of selfies, photo-shopping and role-playing. The show is also suitable for young audiences.
Several performances return by popular demand from the previous season. Arto af Hällström’s highly 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. Minna Leino’s production of Martin Crimp’s In the Republic of Happiness continues on the Small Stage after a successful visit to the Tampere Theatre Festival. In this chillingly amusing satire of contemporary obsessions, the author makes reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy by leading the audience through domestic hell and therapeutic purgatory towards an ambivalent paradise. On the Willensauna Stage, Juha Jokela’s interpretation of British author Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs returns after a period on tour. 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. These are just a few examples of the many shows that are continuing in repertoire this season.
Children’s entertainment is well-represented with a stage adaptation of Veera Salmi’s latest book Mauri and the not Very Smart Phone on the Willensauna Stage, as well as a musical evening Pidgin Boy and Pony’s Songs based on Veera Salmi’s earlier work, which will take place on the Main Stage on Finnish Independence Day, December 6th. In September, there will also be a touring Finnish-Arabic production for the over-fives on the Willensauna Stage. The show is created by Liisa Isotalo and Osiris Teatteri and is entitled Tsunamika – the girl who looked for the sun.
There are a number of other touring productions to look forward to, such as legendary actress Seela Sella’s monologue on the Main Stage in celebration of her eightieth birthday, Small Animal, created by Leena Tamminen, and Sauli Tiilikainen’s monologue-opera on the Willensauna Stage, Own Fault, composed by Olli Kortekangas with libretto by Michael Baran. In addition, Iida Vanttaja and Antti Kaski bring puppet theatre for adults to the Omapohja studio for eight performances in December. Their show Meeting Places for the Vanished is a darkly comical study of people marginalized into absence. Musical events include Jussi Tuurna and Tiina Wekström’s song performances It’s Come to This in September on the Willensauna Stage, and the We Jazz 2016 opening concert on the Main Stage in December.
As usual the FNT has joined forces with the Helsinki Festival to host a major international production in August. This year, renowned European artist Romeo Castelluci’s work can be enjoyed for the first time in Finland on the FNT’s Main Stage, in the unforgettable imagery created by his visually striking show Go Down, Moses. This year the FNT has also been collaborating with Dance Company Zodiak, to bring two performances of Deborah Hay’s choreography for the Cullbert Ballet, Figure a Sea, to the Main Stage in January next year.
Amongst other activities, an innovative project entitled Black Box, which began last spring, continues this season. 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 involves interviewing foreign artists who are currently resident in Finland. 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. 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