A garden of writing – Finnish theatre makers at the Sala Beckett
Klaus Maunuksela is set to take part in this year’s summer workshop at Barcelona’s world-renowned Sala Beckett theatre. His latest project, a gamebook titled Woyzeck Game, has been turned into a participatory drama where the audience is invited to experience a precarious reality. Also recently published is his brand new documentary play Apuraha ja tunteet (Of grants and feelings).
Playwright Saara Turunen took part in the l’Obrador d’estiu workshop a decade ago. “The Germans and the Brits taking part were all really big names in their own countries, and it was great to be included in such a starry line up. The whole experience felt a bit like going off to a summer camp as a kid. There was this sense of freedom and just a real joy at being part of this group of people,” she said of her experience.
The collaborative relationship between Sala Beckett and Theatre Info Finland (TINFO) is a long-standing one. In addition to Saara Turunen, Finnish playwrights and dramaturges Sinna Virtanen, Aino Pennanen, Marie Kajava and Asta Honkamaa have also previously taken part in the annual writing workshop. This year, it is writer and dramaturge Klaus Maunuksela’s turn to head to the Catalan capital.
Ask Maunuksela about his latest projects, his future plans or how he ended up as a theatre maker and the conversation inevitably turns to writing. He says his association with writing goes as far back as his secondary school days when a career quiz pointed him towards either dramaturgy or gardening.
This April, Maunuksela has been working alongside Antti Mattila on Woyzek Game, a hefty tome of a gamebook that is currently being turned into a gamified drama due to be performed in central Helsinki. As part of the performance, the public can decide whether they would like to participate as an audience member or take on the role of a player or game piece. The players are then invited to spend a brief moment living in a precarious reality, tending to a character by the name of Franz Woyzeck.
Maunuksela’s most recent play, titled Apuraha ja tunteet (Of grants and feelings), has recently been published. It reveals the author himself to be an activist, a defender of rights and an advocate for equality. The play is based on the highly ambivalent experiences shared by a total of 55 artists and scientists who have previously applied for grant funding to support their careers.
Come July, Maunuksela will be travelling to Barcelona for the annual l’Obrador d’estiu workshop. Now in its 17th year, the summer writing workshop, which runs in both Catalan and English, was for many years taught by Simon Stephens, associate playwright at London’s Royal Court theatre. This year, that role has been passed to Ella Hickson, a writer and course director of the University of Oxford’s postgraduate creative writing programme. The week-long workshop will feature a series of lectures and writing exercises, and the participants also contribute to the local GREC theatre festival.
In the lead up to the workshop, participants are invited to write a short play, which is then translated into Catalan and continues to be edited during the workshop. Maunuksela’s text, titled Serjozha, turns its attention to the concept of citizenship and the institution of marriage, exploring the way in which nation states exert control over our interpersonal relationships and our freedom of movement in this era of new borders and barriers. What moral conflicts are associated with the act of boundary crossing? Maunuksela has approached his topic as an artist and scholar, seeking greater understanding of the contradictory reality that surrounds us.
In the autumn, Maunuksela plans to resume his PhD studies at Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy. If his track record is anything to go buy, his thesis will engender new ways of thinking that are steeped in language and find expression in a wide variety of textual forms. For Maunuksela, language is like a garden that he tends through writing to cultivate its richness and diversity.
The autumn will also see the publication of Maunuksela’s debut novel Manuaali (Manual) that describes humankind’s faith in the omnipotence of the digital habitat and the fragility of our connection with it.
TINFO / Hyde Hytti 26 April 2022
Translation by Liisa Muinonen-Martin. A photo of Klaus by Lasse Poser.