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The most tender and poetic of Juha Jokela’s plays, The Patriarch premiered on the main stage of the Finnish National Theatre in the autumn of 2012. Written for the theatre’s 140-year anniversary, the text skillfully melds universal and personal themes: conflicts between generations and genders, the changing world, aging, and love. In the minds of many, its biting, funny dialogue, intellectual and emotionally engaging storyline, and revealing yet empathetic portrayal of humanity made the production the theatre event of the year.
Upon their retirement, construction engineer Heimo and language arts teacher Virpi move to France. Yet Heimo finds it impossible to settle into a life of leisure; a man of action, he is used to shouldering responsibility. Despite Virpi’s resistance, he is determined to go back to Finland to see if there is one more service he can perform for his country. Their return disrupts the lives of the couple and their children, calling to the surface tensions and suppressed feelings that have accumulated over the years. Intergenerational conflict comes to a head when all that has been left unsaid comes bursting out. Each member of the family is forced to look in the mirror and ask, “What is my place in the world?”
5 F, 5 M
1. Normandy, France
(Normandy. Virpi and Heimo.)
Did you have a good day?
I did yes. A very good day. But not without… an unexpected dose of madness. When I set off for market I had no idea I’d end up as the flower girl.
Yeah, Claude just plonked me in front of his stall and went off to run some errand.
I see. Well I also had a..
Suddenly I’m faced with all these demoiselles wanting care instructions for their fleurs de lys. So I’m stood there guessing more than remembering and waving my arms about in broken French, like some sort of Eliza Doolittle from hell: a very bonjour to you too madam, but me voici abso-bloomin-lutely flummoxed.
But then I just embraced it and actually it turned out pretty well. Claude got back and packed up shop, he and his wife whisked me off in the truck. They took me to this…utterly surrealistic place, huge great tunnel of a greenhouse with rows and rows of the exact same flower. Then off we went again, to a wonderful little restaurant in Caen. I’ll have to take you there. Or we can go with them sometime. I don’t know if they’re your kind of people but what a wonderful pair of French nutters.
I won the sudden death tournament today. I’ve never won before.
Did you. Congratulations.
I was on fire somehow. Cracked all those really hard rook endgames, where you have to predict the rank and file of the pawns, the positioning of the king etcetera. Where by the middlegame you have to know whether to leave your pawns on white or black…
And you actually won.
I want us to move back to Finland.
Sorry, Virpi, I know this comes as a shock…But I want one more life. I got this idea into my head and now I know I can’t shift it.
[English translation of the play by Eva Buchwald]
"‘Patriarch has been written with piety. Each word has its meaning. The dialogue is natural.’
‘An abundance of matters doesn’t bother when it is not imposed. This is natural, too. Like before, Jokela has decided not to construct an entity with a clear plot. This has facilitated his objective of staying on the level of feelings. As it is there where the play runs, even though social democracy gets its fair share of criticism. Regardless of the fact that structures are now left alone, the play is most sociological.’
‘Jokela has firmly stated that he doesn’t want to be a speaker of the truth. He says he has in his youth received one too many truths about the world. This is the right starting point, and consensus is not the objective of Patriarch, and it is not reached. But Jokela with his delicate aspect knows how to aggravate matters, and he also shows plenty of psychological creativeness by leaving many questions unanswered."
‘The gap between generations tears us apart: Hannu Hurme, Kansan Uutiset (online) 21 September 2012
"‘The method of narration has many similarities in both the content and in technical aspects with Jokela’s previous work Performance Economy for the Espoo City Theatre two years ago. In both plays, people venting their internal pressures alongside their motives discussing the state of society are “only trying to live this life”, and at the same time they have to deal with their narcissism as well as insufficiency and powerlessness. There are many things more important than the individual and what he or she wants.
Flowing, witty, in many parts very funny colloquial dialogue is one of the aces up the author Jokela’s sleeve.”"
‘Your parents are not yours’: Suna Vuori, Helsingin Sanomat 21 September 2012
‘The models of patriarchal ways of doing politics or organising family life are not bought by the current 40-year-olds. In his fourth play, Juha Jokela zooms into the edge of the shaft of those born in the 1970s.’"
‘The generation of stiff phalli gets its ass kicked’ : Soila Lehtonen, Aamulehti 21 September 2012
"‘I predict that Juha Jokela’s most recent play will be a hit like his previous work: Mobile Horror, Fundamentalist and Performance Economy. Chosen as the celebratory play of the 140th anniversary of the Finnish National Theatre, with Patriarch Jokela continues to delve deep into the changes in Finnish society and does it in an intellectual and entertaining way.
There is a lot of talk and a lot to be talked about but the witty and, at times, devilish dialogue takes care of not letting the atmosphere go flat.’
‘Even though Jokela is strict with his characters, or us, he also understands. [...] Change is possible but it must begin in an individual.’"
‘The generation of stiff phalli encounters the therapy generation: Irmeli Haapanen, Turun Sanomat 21 September 2012
"‘Jokela raises the question of responsibility to be the analyser of a nation.’
‘Drama running alongside both comical and serious only starts to cough a little when it’s time to turn theses and antithesis into syntheses.
Jokela doesn’t want to become a know-it-all. That’s why themes are left a little scattered, and the trajectories of the characters do not seem to be well justified at parts.’"
‘A nation taking a look in the mirror: Ilkka Kuosmanen, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, 21 August 2012
"”The radioactive nuclear waste that father and son are debating is an effective picture of how political decisions are inherited from one generation to another. On the private planet Patriarkka verges on the feeling of not daring to let go, which after all is inevitable.”
”In some places it opens a dialogue in the usual sitcom – necessary jokes and empty talk. The text is certainly formulated in a clever way, but becomes boring in the long run”."
”The king is dead:” Isabella Rothberg, Hufvudstadsbladet 24.9.2012
Nordic Drama Corner Ltd