Briefly in English

Menu

“The Finnish National Theatre has been going through a period of transition over the last five years. Many people complain that institutions never change. The truth is the current changes are radical. Change brings many good things, but one of today’s harsher realities is fewer jobs. As one actor has put it, the acting ensemble of the Finnish National Theatre is a “vanishing natural resource”. In 1970 the theatre’s ensemble consisted of over fifty actors, in 2014 there are twenty nine, with over ten positions lost in the last five years alone. This is of course the result of budget cuts. Who knows what the future will hold. Luckily for now our existing company is at the top of its game.”
Mika Myllyaho, Director of The FNT, August 2014

CURRENT SEASON

Human nature and its inherent longing for unity, compassion and a sense of belonging are central themes of this season’s programme. Many of the plays opening this autumn not only portray a wealth of characters trying to connect with one another, but also examine humanity’s eternal yearning to understand its place in the scheme of things.

Two Russian classics this season focus on the difficulties of human interaction. On the Main Stage, the season begins with director Paavo Westerberg’s new interpretation of Anton Chekhov’s ever popular Uncle Vanya which opens in September. In Westerberg’s production Chekhov’s lonely, bankrupt characters struggle to reach each other in an environment of havoc and neglect: the forests have been razed and the landscape ruined but nothing worthwhile has taken their place. Later in the season, Maxim Gorki’s searing portrait of humanity and society The Lower Depths opens on the Small Stage, directed by Janne Reinikainen. Set in a cellar populated by the dregs of society, the play is a metaphysical study of the aspirations and limitations of the human spirit. The production opens in December and has been chosen to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Small Stage.

Two new Finnish plays also open this season. The Future of Our Countryside is a new work by Leea and Klaus Klemola. Set in the Finnish countryside, the play delves into the animal kingdom in order to explore the complexities of man’s relationship with his environment. Directed by Leea Klemola, the play opens in November on the Main Stage. In late August the first première of the season takes place on the Small Stage with a poignant new comedy by Minna Nurmelin, who also directs. Dreamteam tells the tale of four women who set out to establish a Life Management company, but first need to confront the many unresolved issues in their own lives.

More Finnish work can be seen on the Willensauna Stage this autumn, in two monologues adapted from prose writing. Both works are a fondly humorous depiction of loneliness, showcasing two fine actors. Juha Varis plays Tarmo, adapted by Riikka Ala-Harja from her short story of the same name in collaboration with Jukka Rantanen, who also directs. Tarmo, a divorced librarian expecting his colleagues to surprise him with a birthday party, is a man who expects little out of life but is nevertheless met with disappointment. The play opens in September. Antti Litja plays the hero of Tuomas Kyrö’s latest in his series of Mr. Discontent novels, entitled Happy Times, Mr. Discontent. In Kyrö’s novel, adapted and directed by Satu Rasila, the cantankerous hero is preparing for his final departure with characteristic grumpiness. The play opens in October.

The Willensauna Stage’s programme also includes a modern classic from the pen of one of Britain’s most influential playwrights of the twentieth century, Harold Pinter. Written and set in the 1970’s, the play deals with the tensions of romantic relationships, tracing a triangle drama backwards in time. Inspired by his own experience of having an extra-marital affair, Pinter’s play is full of gentle irony. Translated and directed by Arto af Hällström, Betrayal opens in December.

Another modern classic can be seen in the Omapohja studio. Michael Baran directs Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 filmscript Persona, which Baran has also translated and adapted for the stage. Persona begins as a deceptively simple encounter between two women which develops into an intense study of intimacy. The production opens in September.

This year the Finnish National Theatre has also collaborated once again with the Helsinki Festival, bringing two unusual shows to the Main Stage. Director Kristian Smeds stages his interpretation of the life of controversial Finnish artist Kalervo Palsa (1947-1987), examining the individual behind the art. The show, entitled Palsa, is based on the writings of Rosa Liksom, and opens in August. Unusually, performances take place at midnight, on occasional Saturday nights throughout the autumn. Also in August, the Main Stage hosts a tour by Australian company Back to Back Theatre, which was originally founded to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability. The company has grown into one of Australia’s leading creative voices, known for its emphasis on ethical issues relating to individual lives. Pitting the Indian God against Hitler over the ownership of the swastika, their show Ganesh Versus the Third Reich examines political and moral responsibility.

Many of last season’s shows continue in repertoire, and Juha Jokela’s 2012 play of generation conflict, Patriarch, has been revived by popular demand for a limited run. Other Finnish plays in the programme include Laura Ruohonen’s Caves on the Main Stage, Juha Hurme’s Europaeus on the Small Stage and Miika Nousiainen’s Wood Giant, adapted and directed by Aleksis Meaney, on the Willensauna Stage. Caves weaves an off-beat love story into its study of the relationship between history and progress, between modern expediency and sustainable humanity. Europaeus is a gently humourous portrait of nineteenth century linguistic scientist and folklorist David Europaeus, who in Hurme’s view, was something of a Finnish Don Quixote. Wood Giant traces the waning fortunes of a Finnish timber processing plant from the 1970’s to the present day, against the vibrant backdrop of Heavy Metal music.

Last season’s British, French and German drama also continue in the programme. On the Small Stage, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, in a new adaptation by Eva Buchwald and directed by Irene Aho, is a finely wrought, profound assessment of the age we live in. Sebastien Thiéry’s Falling from the Trees, translated and directed by Arto af Hällström, is a ruthlessly comic comment on our relationship towards money. On the Willensauna Stage, Eugène Ionesco’s Exit the King, newly translated by Reita Lounatvuori and directed by Minna Leino, is a timeless portrayal of life’s final transition. Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Golden Dragon, translated by Jukka-Pekka Pajunen and directed by Mika Leskinen, is set in an Asian takeaway, and unfolds as a comic, theatrical fable about modern life and global connections.

Children have not been forgotten. On the Willensauna Stage Muro and Me, adapted and directed by Jukka Rantanen from the award-winning novel by Mari Kujanpää, carries over from the previous season. This is a heartwarming tale of how a shy, lonely little girl, whose only companion is her teddy bear Muro, gradually comes out of her shell as the result of new-found friendship with a teenage school-girl. There is also a new puppet version of an old Christmas favourite, The Nutcracker, playing in the foyer of the Main Stage in November and December. The show, suitable for ages three to eight, has been created by Juha Laukkanen and his Sytkyt Puppet Theatre.

The programme also continues to include many new productions in the Touring Stage’s repertoire.  Guest Book, a cross between dance and theatre, examines the pain of isolation and is part of the Loneliness project sponsored by the Ministry of Culture.  Fear of Freedom is a piece of docudrama created in collaboration with Kiasma theatre, dealing with the challenges prisoners experience on facing release. The season also brings a number of visiting productions, some of them returning for a second time, such as the Smeds Ensemble creation Sculptors, in which sculptors Juha Menna and Tapani Kokko can be seen working with wood on stage. Devised by Kristian Smeds, the show is a cross between theatre and visual art, between professional and amateur skills. Likewise, the FNT’s coproduction with Beaivváš Sámi Našunálateáhter and The Ruska Ensemble returns. Entitled Áillohaš, the play is written by Ari-Pekka Lahti who also directs, in collaboration with Hanna Brotherus. The work deals with the life of the Sami artist Nils Aslak Valkeapää.

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. Juha Jokela, Heini Junkkaala, Sofi Oksanen, Laura Ruohonen and Paavo Westerberg have all been commissioned to write a series of plays for the Finnish National Theatre.

The theatre also established a new production unit in 2010, which was given 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 curator 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 latest work-in-progress is a series of art, music, drama and dance workshops which involve residents of a different Helsinki area each season. The project, entitled Roads to Konttula, aims to raise awareness in local communities of the role and nature of theatre.  The latest stage of the project is the creation of a youth performance called Territories which can be seen in various youth and community centres, as well as in the Omapohja studio in December.

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. It has also been designated as the official after-hours club for the Helsinki Festival.

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. Most recently an original FNT production, Paula Salminen’s play 13 Sunken Years, translated by Eva Buchwald, was staged at the Edinburgh festival by Scottish companies Stellar Quines and Lung Ha’s.

Contact

General contacts

Address
Finnish National Theatre
Läntinen Teatterikuja 1
00100 Helsinki
Finland
Telephone +35810 733 11

Tickets
+358 10 7331 331
www.lippu.fi

email addresses  are:
firstname.surname(at)kansallisteatteri.fi

Director of the Finnish National Theatre
Mika Myllyaho
Telephone +35810 733 1201

Director’s Secretary / Club Scene Producer
Hanna Reetta Majanen
Telephone +35810 733 1259 / +358 50 374 4181

Technical Director
Antti Aho
Telephone +35810 733 1264 / +358 50 320 9601

Administrative Director
Päivi Isosaari
Telephone + 35810 733 1203 / + 358 50 381 6436

Dramaturg
Michael Baran
Telephone +35810 733 1261

Dramaturg / International relations
Eva Buchwald
Telephone +35810 733 1314 / +358 50 315 2947

Dramaturg
Minna Leino
+35810 7331 321

Marketing Manager
Auli Turtiainen
Telephone + 35810 733 1220 / +358 50 375 3501

Head of Press
Mia Hyvärinen
Telephone +35810 733 1238 / +358 50 540 5062

Theatre educator
Pirjo Virtanen
Telephone +35810 733 1256 / +358 50 374 2296

Manager of Theatre Restaurant
Thomas Möller
Telephone +35810 733 1283


Ylös ↑