New Plays from Finland
Arctic Games (2019)
And so the glaciers melt and people change.
Arctic Games (Arktiset Leikit, 2019), is the fourth and final part of the Klemola siblings’ Arctic trilogy. The story deals with heavy themes such as alcoholism, global warming and the impermanence of life. It also deals with the topics of the importance of play, men’s honour and deciding one’s own destiny. Stylistically, the play can be categorized as a dark comedy.
The story centres around 75-year old Marja-Terttu and her relationship to two men, Piano and Vili. Marja-Terttu has been seeking out the cold for her whole life, and it is finally dawning on her that it may now be forever unreachable as the warm month of December in the Finnish city of Kokkola proves. She attempts to find the cold one final time from a place with no return.
The play questions what it means to have an Arctic identity without the presence of coldness. It questions our roles as adults and our attempt to roleplay as functioning members of society; in essence, it emphasizes the importance of this kind of conscious and ever-present game. According to Leea Klemola, Arctic Games was her attempt in learning how to (re)love the Finnish people despite their shortcomings.
VILI: Well that was a load of dumb shit from Simpanen. Let’s go get you that mattress since the soirée got moved so...
INTIJANI: Listen Vili, I don’t know if I can sleep on that mattress anymore.
VILI: Weeell I suppose I can handle it myself. (drags the mattress)
INTIJANI: You’ve fucking dragged me into some sort of club which you’re using to seduce a married woman.
VILI: (drags the mattress) Marja-Terttu being married. Ha, that’s rich (tries to laugh). On paper maybe. Piano isn’t any sort of husband! Listen, if Marja-Terttu were some sort of regal princess or queen, then Piano would just be some stable boy or jester who she’d go to town with every now and then. It’s just a fact that I’ve been the king this whole time.
INTIJANI: I just don’t want some goddamn jealous husband to show up here with a gun at some point, Vili.
VILI: Intijani. Intijani. Let me tell you. Marja-Terttu has the most beautiful, the most incomparable - YES - breasts. But I never look at them. Whenever I talk, I only ever look at Marja-Terttu deep into her eyes. Not her breasts. Her eyes.
INTIJANI: What the fuck are you trying to defend with that Vili?
MARJA-TERTTU: And so the glaciers melt and people change.
LÖMMARKKI: What’s the thing with the ice, why would you want to die there?
MARJA-TERTTU: This going to the ice thing isn’t any invention of my own, it’s a long-standing tradition in Greenland. But that’s a pretty good question. (thinks) It must be since ice means ice I suppose, it just remains as is. You don’t really go to the ice to die; you go there to freeze. To just remain there. And then when it moves the ice raft travels in the water and it’s not like you’re actually dying but rather it’s more like you’re on a journey towards eternal life. Not like if you were to jump head-first into a rock since then you’d only live for maybe three seconds.
Piano puts on ‘Night train to Rovaniemi’ once again.
MARJA-TERTTU: (on top of the music) Should I also ask the audience to think about something other than elves when I’m singing about elves?
PIANO: (on top of the music) The audience and people in general aren’t as concerned with elves as you are. Otherwise this record wouldn’t have gone gold.
MARJA-TERTTU: (on top of the music) You seriously cannot fucking let me die of shame out there. If I’d wanted to die from shame, I would’ve married Vili.
VILI: (on top of the music) What the fuck is up with you talking to me like I’m some unwanted pile of shit. Why can’t you respect me! Piano always rocks up with all my women wrapped around his arms! What does that fat dumbass have that I don’t?! (drops his pants and grabs his balls) I have balls! I have balls! (pause) Namely.
Piano turns off the music. Silence. Pause.
MARJA-TERTTU: I think I’m starting to have enough of this music business. I didn’t ask for much from this. Just to get rid of the elves and a bit of money. Look around you Piano what did I get.
INTIJANI: Yeah hey the elves change. Let’s think about them together. Elves, thirty? Possibly? (angrily at Vili) Now pull your damn pants up chairman.
VILI: The pants will come up accordingly to when people start to respect and honour me that’s when I’ll pick up my pants at the same pace.
Maura comes across the courtyard on a boat. “Fuck off with your damn boat” “Get to hell” “It’s always like this when he’s on that booze again” shouts are heard. The band equipment is quickly put somewhere safe.
PIANO: It’s always like this when he drinks that goddamn booze.
INTIJANI: Give me politics! Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do anything! One picture! One gun!
ARIJOUTSI: PIANO, HOW THE FUCK IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU’VE ENDED UP IN SOMETHING LIKE THIS. SOME SORT OF SHIT LIKE THIS.
INTIJANI: Goddamnit! (starts to teeter towards the club room)
PIANO: Well it’s just that one thing’s led to another.
ARIJOUTSI: Should I trust you.
PIANO: Arijoutsi. Whatever. I promised.
INTIJANI: (Into Vili’s apartment) There goes my life. Down the drain, every last bit. There won’t be any posters, any politics, any Terhi. Look Vili just look at me Vili
PIANO: Just listen to the guy, Arijoutsi.
INTIJANI: Vili! Look at me! You’re now gonna to see me for the last time. I’m gonna go sleep, you see.
Please note that the quotes and passages have been translated by Pia Malinen for TINFO's New Plays from Finland site. There is no official translation of the entire play available.
Leea and Klaus Klemola have once again managed to write a text which makes viewers laugh out loud while at the same time exceptionally intensely considering the games which we adults play and how these different roles in the adults’ playground feel.
(Kaisa Järvelä, Kulttuuritoimitus, 5 Sept 2019)
The originality of Leea Klemola's directorial work - whether it be television or theatre - stems from the combination of astonishing, imaginative plot twists and fervent acting. The world is ruthless and the images rugged, but the attitude towards a person’s weakness is always merciful.
And even though the characters are outlandish and exacerbated, they are not a mockery of any sorts. Behind the characters lay sharp observations about both the impossibility and the jagged beauty of being human.
(Tuula Viitaniemi, YLE, 3 Oct 2019 )
Leea and Klaus Klemola’s surprising evening star to their arctic trilogy - the cycle’s fourth and perhaps final part - is stylistically faithful by dealing with topics such as the difficulty of being successful, loneliness, and climate change. It is a true story about a game that conquers death.
(Tampere Theatre Festival 2019)