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“It’s hard these days to inspire folk with communal spirit, when we know that globalization and corporate ownership are changing the way companies think and operate. The notion of ‘our factory’ is history.  It’s the market place which determines viability. The employee is just a number on an Excel chart. For this reason it’s heartening to see that last season’s reviews underlined the value of the Finnish National Theatre’s teamwork. The critic for Helsingin Sanomat praised the FNT’s ensemble as a ‘treasure’. The theatre’s identity is in its united communal spirit, and it has shown that it’s still possible to believe in ensemble work, even in a large institution.”
Mika Myllyaho, Director of The FNT, January 2015

CURRENT SEASON

The Spring season’s new productions focus largely on the question of identity: on the image we have of ourselves and the image we portray, as well as how we are perceived by others. It is fitting therefore that in May, a Scottish production of a Finnish play will be presented for two performances on the Small Stage, thus offering an outsider’s perspective on Finnish drama. Paula Salminen’s award-winning play 13 Sunken Years was chosen by two of Scotland’s leading theatre companies for their first joint-production. Salminen’s lingering, atmospheric play examines family, destiny and the journey that brings them together. The performance is in English with Finnish surtitles.

For the Finnish National Theatre’s own programme, author Pirkko Saisio and composer Jussi Tuurna, the duo behind the hit show Homo!,  have joined forces once again on a new production opening in March on the Main Stage. Directed by Laura Jäntti and entitled SLAVA! Honour., this musical cavalcade through Russian history takes a sharp look at the icons of Russian political identity. The month of May also features the return of contemporary dance troupe Tero Saarinen Company to the Main Stage. Choreographer Tero Saarinen’s acclaimed new work Morphed explores the dimensions of masculinity, as eight stunning male dancers run the gamut from raw vigor to tender minimalism, with music composed by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Another touring production can be seen on the Main Stage in May. La Meute is a performance by a six-strong male team, reflecting the kind of daring acrobatic skill and madcap humour which has given modern circus its new identity. Their performance is part of the Cirko Festival 2015.

On the Small Stage the season opens in January with a new children’s show Pidginboy’s and Pony’s Theatre, based on Veera Salmi’s novel, adapted and directed by Jukka Rantanen. The story traces the touching friendship between a lisping pigeon and a girl who prefers to see herself as a pony. Also on the Small Stage, Arto af Hällström directs Molière’s classic tale of false prophets and self-delusion Le Malade imaginaire. 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. The play premières in April.

In the theatre’s smaller spaces, two new works take stock of the role and identity of the artist. In Michael Baran’s latest play Morning, which he also directs, a professional pianist on the verge of retirement finds her life-choices questioned by her two daughters – a composer and a journalist. The play, which is performed on the Willensauna Stage, examines the personal cost of following one’s calling. On the Omapohja Stage a new American play by John Logan paints a portrait of the artist Mark Rothko in later life. Set in 1958 in Rothko’s studio, Red is a tense two-hander between the artist and his apprentice, directed by Juhana von Bagh. Both plays open in March. A third piece on the subject of the artist can be seen for three performances in May on the Willensauna Stage. Choreographer Hanna Brotherus’ solo piece, entitled Hanna B, is a very personal expression of the relationship between art and womanhood.

A new monologue performed by Paula Siimes also opens on the Willensauna Stage in April.  Wenla Männistö, based on Riina Katajavuori’s recent novel, is adapted by Taina West and directed by Mika Myllyaho. The book is an interpretation of Aleksis Kivi’s classic novel The Seven Brothers, but here the author focuses her attention on the women behind the men.

Many of last autumn’s shows continue in repertoire, such as two new productions of Russian classics. On the Main Stage, director Paavo Westerberg’s interpretation of the ever popular Uncle Vanya shows Anton Chekhov’s lonely, bankrupt characters struggling 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. Maxim Gorki’s searing portrait of humanity and society, The Lower Depths, can be seen 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.

Several new Finnish plays also carry over from the previous season. On the Main Stage, The Future of Our Countryside by Leea and Klaus Klemola delves into the animal kingdom in order to explore the complexities of man’s relationship with his environment. On the Small Stage, a poignant new comedy by Minna Nurmelin, 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. Europaeus, created and directed by Juha Hurme, can also still be seen on the Small Stage. This gently humourous portrait of nineteenth century linguistic scientist and folklorist D. E. D. Europaeus, depicts a man who, in Hurme’s view, was something of a Finnish Don Quixote.

The Willensauna Stage’s programme includes two modern international classics. From the pen of one of Britain’s most influential playwrights of the twentieth century, Harold Pinter, Betrayal is a gently ironic study of the tensions and passions in a triangle drama. The play is translated and directed by Arto af HällströmEugène Ionesco’s Le Roi se meurt, newly translated by Reita Lounatvuori and directed by Minna Leino, is a timeless portrayal of life’s final transition.

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. 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. Some of the most popular evenings include Timo Tuominen’s rendition of Jacques Brel’s songs, In The Mood clubnights which focus on vintage music from the 40s to the 60’s, and the Conscience Club which is a forum for live performers of any kind.

Audience work continues to be an important part of the theatre’s activities.  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 most recent stage of the project was the creation of a youth performance called Territories which premièred last autumn and continues to tour in youth and community centers this spring.  The next stage is a new series of workshops leading to performance, this time examining the changing nature of Finnish identity.

 

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, put together by Jussi Lehtonen, 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 unit also provides educational background material related to the theatre’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. 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.

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


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