TINFO News / Autumn 2011







  • The Finnish National Theatre – new phase
  • On Stage - Now


  • Case: Purge
  • Case: The Fundamentalist
  • Case: France
  • Case: Oblivia
  • Case: Edinburgh Fringe
  • Finnish drama and artists abroad 2011



Kristian Smeds: Wake up, Dostoyevsky!

Kristian Smeds | Photo Juho PaavolaKristian Smeds’ latest work 12KARAMAZOVS  will take place in Tallinn (Estonia) and Turku (Finland) in October 2011. The performance is a co-operation of Smeds Ensemble, Turku City Theatre and Von Krahl Theatre of Tallinn.

“I had been thinking of undertaking a collective work with a larger group of people. In Karamazov Brothers the collective mind has a leading role. I am interested in the “karamazovian” personality, a constant issue in Dostoyevsky’s novel. Karamazovian temperament is made up of religion, god, benevolence as well as of envy, wantonness and murderous thoughts.”, says Finnish stage director Kristian Smeds.

12Karamazovs, inspired by The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, turned out to be a unique stage concert.  Smeds has been preparing the Karamazov workshop for four years with Estonian students. These young multi-talented artists even created the music for the performance.

12Karamazovs contributes to Kristian Smeds’ idea of building a cultural bridge over the Baltic Sea.

Even after 12Karamazovs is done, Smeds will not forget about Dostoyevsky. Johan Simons invited him to stage a performance in Münchner Kammerspiele. The Smeds Ensemble already started working with the director’s choice, which is Crime and Punishment. The premiere in München will be on the 6th of October 2012.

The team is international: besides co-operation with münchners, in the role of Raskolnikov a Finn, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, will be seen and the Hungarian Annamaria Lang will play Sonia. The young Finnish dramaturge and playwright Saara Turunen together with producer Eeva Bergroth took action in the dramaturgical groundwork with Dostoyevsky’s classic novel and the world around it. Kristian Smeds’ way to work is to first split up the material in small pieces and then tie it up again and then stage it in a new form.

Follow up Karamazov sisters and brothers blog: http://karamazovworkshop.com
Touring dates and places: http://smedsensemble.fi/blog/?cat=16

“Making theatre is a matter of will”

“I’d rather not talk about a process. Directing is like knitting a nice wooly sweater. Collectively, freestyle. This requires time. As a leader of the working group, I am responsible for first thinking things through thoroughly. By doing this you always find what you are looking for. Ultimately, making theatre is a matter of will”, says Kristian Smeds.

Smeds’ previous work in the country was MR VERTIGO, based on a novel by Paul Auster, and made a huge success at the Finnish National Theatre in 2010-2011. In Mr Vertigo the director invited the audience to take a seat on the revolving stage and be amazed with the magic of theatrical atmosphere and devices and finally – a flying boy. In addition to Helsinki, Mr Vertigo was also seen in St Petersburg when the Europe Prize for New Theatrical Realities was awarded to Kristian Smeds in April.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD (2010) is a performance-happening that Kristian Smeds developed together with Lithuanian actors. Based on the Anton Chekhov play, production of Smeds’ Ensemble took place in an old summer cottage and orchard just outside Vilnius. The site specific performance was then invited to Wiener Festwochen 2011 and performed in Macondo, a refugee settlement on the outskirts of Vienna. From there this unique event was streamed live to the Theater der Welt festival in Mülheim as well as Baltoscandal in Rakvere, Estonia.

Kristian Smeds’ work with the Flemish national theatre of Belgium (KVS) was a production entitled MENTAL FINLAND that toured Finland, Lithuania, France and Austria in 2009.

With regard Smeds’ earlier stagings, the most acclaimed in Finland and in Russia was THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, a modern adaptation of a major Finnish novel. It was performed during 2007-2009 all together 122 times on the main stage of the Finnish National Theatre. A Russian theatre critic Pavel Rudnev refers to the performance:

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is about the superiority of defeatist philosophy over victorious philosophy – that it is better to be a victim than to rule Europe and the world.”

The XII Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities awarded to Kristian Smeds

Kristian Smeds was the first Scandinavian theatre director awarded the Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities (EPNTR). The international jury announced the prize for Smeds’ theatre art saying:

“Smeds’ plays are wild, energetic, and filled with many distinctive voices and can be interpreted in many different ways, and can take full advantage of a wide variety of theatrical techniques. His language is rich and colourful, but at the same time natural.

In Smeds’ world, the personal and the political are indistinguishable, and his work is characterized by a deep concern for human beings.

Smeds is at home portraying the inner worlds of his characters as in highlighting the remotest corners of society.”

Kristian Smeds – a hooligan and a humanist”, an article written by Pavel Rudnev
Der Bär schweigt”, an article written by Anna Teuwen

Intercity Helsinki 1- 28 October 2011 in Italy

Intercity festival is organized by Teatro della Limonaia in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy. It is a unique concept for which the formula is in fact indicated in its name. The festival has, for 24 years, showcased contemporary theatre from various cities of various countries all around the world.

The program of the festival, which runs for about three weeks, includes  productions from contemporary scripts from the chosen city, directed by both foreign and Italian directors, in addition to hosting foreign companies.

The festival also includes encounters with authors, readings, mises en espace, exhibitions and a movie section.

Intercity Festival Helsinki

The 2011 edition of the festival will showcase today’s top notch, award-winning talent from Finland. Juha Jokela is a playwright whose other play, The Fundamentalist, was performed at FringeNYC festival in August 2011; Irene Aho directed Mika Myllyaho’s play, Chaos, for the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2011.

Kristian Smeds has been awarded the XII Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities, and Mikko Roiha with The State Prize for Theatre.

Jussi Moila and Saara Turunen are young writers who both handle current but timeless, global themes in their texts which have been performed in various countries, from Mexico where Turunen’s Bunnygirl premiered in August 2011 to Serbia, where Moila’s play, Nevermind-Stories of the Youth, was awarded a jury prize at the FIST 2008 festival in Belgrade.


Mobile Horror by Juha Jokela, directed by Juha Jokela
7, 8, 9 October

Panic by Mika Myllyaho, directed by Irene Aho
21, 22, 23 October

Sad Songs from The heart of Europe by Kristian Smeds, directed by Silvia Guidi
7, 8, 9, 15, 21, 22, 23 October

Guest performance:
Juha by Juhani Aho, directed and adapted by Mikko Roiha. Performed by Tanssiteatteri Minimi
15, 16 October

Mises en espace:
Knives cut the air by Jussi Moila, performed by Teatro Sotterraneo
Bunny Girl by Saara Turunen, directed by Michele Panella
24 October

In addition opportunities to meet Finnish playwrights and directors will also be organized during the festival.


Finland in focus – Nordwind calling

Nordwind is a platform for Nordic and Baltic artists, which takes place every other year in Berlin. In 2011 Finland is the festival focus. For a couple of years, artistic director Ricarda Ciontos has been studying in depth what is going on on Finnish performing arts scene. The festival program with different artistic disciplines will not only be shown in Berlin but also in Hamburg. The Finnish theatre section from 29 November to 11 December is proud to present Nya Rampen with its new performance Worship!, and Smeds Ensemble’s Karamazov Workshop will be staged in Volksbühne Theater. Vocal and performance artist Juha Valkeapää with Estonian choreographer Kaja Kann also creates a multi-disciplinary show. Finally, Saara Turunen’s play The Bunny Girl will be seen as a stage reading.

See the Nordwind festival program www.nordwind-festival.de


Forthcoming theatre festivals and Finnish showcases 2011/2012


Baltic Circle 16-20 November 2011
An international contemporary theatre festival, that functions in the European context. Baltic Circle is a platform for developing new ideas and ideas.
See festival program and more information about Baltic Circle philosophy.

Tampere Theatre Festival 6-12 August 2012

Stage – Helsinki Theatre Festival 15-26 August 2012
See Finnish case –material 2011, prepared by TINFO.
Goldene Zeit der Dramatik”, an article by Christine Dössel in Süddeutsche Zeitung 6.9.2011

What's on Stage

  • The Finnish National Theatre – new phase

The Finnish National Theatre has always been at the forefront of Finnish cultural life, introducing both the classics and the avant-garde of the international repertoire to Finnish audiences as well as promoting and developing the work of Finnish-language authors.  This is no less true today, under the leadership of its new Director, Mika Myllyaho (born 1966), appointed in 2010. The Finnish National Theatre is entering a new phase, according to Mika Myllyaho, as cultural institutions must address the challenges of a changing world with changing values.  His strategy reflects today’s philosophy of communication and openness in business activities: ‘It’s a matter of responsibility. Transparency is key,’ Myllyaho has stated.  

Myllyaho’s first season at the National places its emphasis on contemporary Finnish drama with a number of new plays by Finnish authors on Finnish topics.  Promoting the work of living authors and handing over the Main Stage to the younger generation are the focus of Myllyaho’s artistic vision for the Finnish National Theatre in 2011.  The future will also see the introduction of new work by international authors, as well as high profile productions of carefully chosen classics.

Myllyaho has added new features to the theatre’s creative 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 will all be writing specifically commissioned work for the Finnish National Theatre over the next few years.  

Myllyaho has also established a new stage, though not physical in character, called the ‘Touring Stage’.  This production unit aims to take small-scale touring performances to places which have little or no access to theatre, such as schools, day care centres, homes for the elderly, hospitals, prisons and so on, throughout the country. Myllyaho has also transformed the theatre’s former restaurant into a late-evening club-like entertainment spot called Lavaklubi with various types of artistic programme to offer. 

Mika Myllyaho: I like theatre!
Mika Myllyaho | Photo Tuomo ManninenMika Myllyaho is a stage director, playwright and from 2010 a general director of the Finnish National Theatre (FNT). Before FNT Myllyaho spent many years at the helm of the independent theatre company Ryhmäteatteri (Group Theatre) as artistic co-director. He works to develop new scripts and performance practices.

Myllyaho’s trilogy of plays Panic (Paniikki 2005), Chaos (Kaaos 2008) and Harmony (Harmonia 2009) bites the reality of today’s individuals. In Panic Myllyaho returns to a theme he has often dealt with when staging, the problems of being a man. This comedy describes the neuroses of three young men approaching middle-age. A companion play to Panic, Chaos threatens the friendship of three women. Harmony is a rough comedy about work and passion. These three plays got several stagings in Finnish theatres, and Panic has been directed also in theatres abroad.

Mika Myllyaho challenges himself and his colleagues: At least once a year theatre artists should ask themselves – why am I doing this? And states following:

Ten personal reasons why I make theatre:
1. I feel the urgent need to reflect my own actions in relation to other people and the world around me.
2. Theatre is a means to raise important social issues.
3. Making theatre forces you to think more thoroughly.
4. I believe that people come to the theatre to gain new viewpoints and experiences.
5. I believe that theatre has a positive influence on people and their thinking.
6. At best theatre lets us experience beauty.
7. Theatre grants us meaningful moments where everything seems perfectly right.
8. After a good performance even everyday life might feel easier for a moment.
9. Making theatre is wonderful and rewarding even if at times also very difficult.
10. Short and simple: I like theatre!


  • On Stage - Now

TINFO´s selection for this autumn. Visit our website to find more!

Pirkko Saisio: HOMO! | dir. Pirkko Saisio | The Finnish National Theatre

HOMO! - Finnish National Theatre - Photo Laura MalmivaaraAn anarchistic musical farce. HOMO! is a ruthless opera and hot-blooded cantata of a time when the church broke down, Finland was split up and homosexuals stopped being nice.
Premiere September 21 2011.
Photo: Laura Malmivaara. In photo Johannes Holopainen and Juha Muje. 



Finnish Drama and Theatre Abroad

  • Case: Purge

Sofi Oksanen's Purge at Teatro Aberto in Lisbon

Award winner Sofi Oksanen’s play, Purge, has been staged in numerous countries. One of the last productions was at Teatro Aberto in Lisbon in June. The play will return to the repertory of Teatro Aberto in October 2011. 

The adaptation was made by dramaturge Vera San Payo de Lemos and director João Lourençco . Lemos and Lourenco are familiar with Finnish theatre through their frequent visits to Finland. “We want to tell stories. The Purge is a powerful story with powerful characters. It happens in an Estonian context under the Soviet period which we in Portugal don´t know so much about. It depicts the human strategies for survival under the dictatorship. This is not so far from our own Portuguese history. For us it was important to grasp the richness and the ambiguity of the characters in order to avoid stereotypes. I think we achieved the sensitivity which is found in Oksanen´s novel. The strength lies in the details. Therefore we added extracts from the novel in our adaptation, we also wanted to have documentary materials which we got from Estonia.”


  • Case: The Fundamentalist

Juha Jokela’s Fundamentalist highlighted at The New York Fringe

I can see why it won the Nordic Drama Award; the play is a solid work and I can fully recommend it to any audience member looking for a deeper discussion of religion,” says Case Aiken on nytheatre.com 13082011

The New Yorker highlighted The Fundamentalist out of the 200 performances at the NY Fringe Festival. Juha Jokela’s Nordic Drama Award –winning play examines religious fanaticism.
In Jokela’s Fundamentalist, liberal middle-aged priest Father Markus (it is never made clear whether he is Roman Catholic or Episcopalian) is visited out of the blue by Heidi, who once was an 18-year-old favorite student of his at a religious summer camp. Now Heidi is a born-again evangelical Christian and has decided that she must convert Markus.

The play has been performed at the Theater Aachen in Germany, TVAZZ Company in the Faroe Islands and the Jaunais Rigas Teatris (the New Riga Theatre) in Latvia. In August 2011 The Fundamentalist premiered at the Scandinavian Theatre Company in New York and the performance was seen as part of the New York Fringe Festival.

The Fundamentalist is available in English, Swedish, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Danish, Faroese and Russian translations.


  • Case: France

Contemporary Finnish theatre and drama land in France

Theatre Info Finland, the Finnish institute of France (Suomen Ranskan instituutti) and Baltic Circle invited French theatre professionals to participate in the Baltic Circle festival in November of 2010. The guests liked what they had seen on their first visit to Finland, and cooperation developed quickly.

“The Europe of us theatre professionnals expanded in one fell swoop,” commented Nicole Martin, director of the north-west Parisian Théâtre de Gennevilliers (T2G), and at once invited Und er libet’s The Lightness and Death of Giselle and Conte D’amour, a joint production of Finnish-Swedish Institutet and Nya Rampen, to their own festival (TJCC – Très Jeunes Créateurs Contemporains) in May.

The programme of the 2011 TJCC festival consisted of Finnish, Finland-Swedish and French performances along with one from Japan. The top performance of the first and second evenings was Conte D’Amour, which received a passionately positive response from professionals of modern theatre. Und er libet came to Gennevilliers straight from the Stamsund Theatre Festival in Northern Norway, arriving on the morning of their performance. Without the extensively skilled technical personnel of T2G, the performance would have been significantly delayed. Despite the rigmarole of travel, performance and rehearsals, the combination of Und er libet-like non-performance and precise choreography succeeded in captivating the greater part of the audience.

The school of topic-based thought – the new generation writes directly for the stage

On the last Sunday in May, the Finnish focus shifted from Gennevilliers to downtown Paris.  The intimate auditorium of the Finnish institute of France was transformed into a meeting place for the Finnish theatre and Finnish playwrights.  Playwright-directors Heini Junkkaala, Katja Krohn and Juha Jokela had participated in writing workshops at Caën’s Panta Théâtre and told about their experiences. Theatre director Guy Delamotte had directed new texts by Katja Krohn, Minna Leino, Juha Jokela, Minna Nurmelin and Kati Kaartinen in French.

The Panorama de la Dramaturgie Finlandaise Aujourd’hui survey of contemporary Finnish theatre, organised by KOM-teatteri theatre, the Finnish National Theatre and the Finnish institute of France, attracted nearly thirty French theatre professionals along with some reporters.

At the panel discussion which ended the richly atmospheric event, participants enquired, among other things, about a possible Finnish “school of writing”. A conclusion was reached together that the style of the authors is to write text and language directly for the stage, rather than writing a stand-alone fictitious story, which is later adapted to the stage as-is.  Heini Junkkaala said, thinking out loud, that if someone wanted to give a name to the school of thought they had defined for their generation of playwrights, that name might be “the school of topic-based thought.


  • Case Oblivia

Our odd Oblivia on tour

Oblivia is one of the most vital live art groups working today. Entertainment Island gives us three astonishing pieces in one evening, exploring the liminal space between culture and entertainment. This key work by the group was created over three years, with some of the project devised during a Creative Lab residency at the CCA (Francis McKee, director of CCA)

Wonderful audience and great success!, says Oblivia’s artistic director Annika Tudeer just after home coming from tour. In spring Oblivia performed in Scotland (CCA) and Germany (PACT Zollverein). In August / September the Entertainment Island was seen first in Estonia, then Denmark, Iceland and Faroe Islands. Later in this year Oblivia takes to the road in Poland, OKNO Festival in Szczecin.

The critics are positive, Kirsten Dahl (in Stiftstidende Aarhus) gives 5 stars blessing Oblivia’s energetic being on stage and critical of society remarks. “There is something in Finnish performing arts companies” says Dahl referring what seen.

Entertainment Island 1, 2, 3 – A Trilogy

The meticulous physicality and unstinting humour of this superb Finnish company are a tremendous vehicle for communicating complex issues and profound observations on popular culture.
Mary Brennan, The Herald, UK 17.4 2011
Drilling through the vast world of entertainment and popular culture, from the shiny surface to the murky and private regions underneath, Entertainment Island is a project on popular culture and entertainment by the performance company Oblivia. Moving from the entertainment industry through local and to private entertainment, the trilogy explores entertainment and popular culture. The trilogy is shown as a full evening length work.

Founded in 2000 in Helsinki, the international performance company Oblivia is a unique force on the Finnish performance scene. Oblivia’s collectively devised, interdisciplinary and minimalist performances merge the boundaries of art forms and nationalities. The background of Oblivia's members from Finland, UK and Iceland are in music, visual arts, dance and text.

See slideshow of Oblivia’s performances.


  • Case: Edinburgh Fringe

Finnish Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2011

Finnish plays cross language and cultural barriers. Last year there were 48 foreign productions of Finnish plays in various theatres. Mika Myllyaho´s Chaos and Esa Leskinen´s and Sami Keski-Vähälä´s Overcoat were produced at Edinburgh Festival Fringe to give a taste of boom in Finnish contemporary plays. Overcoat and Chaos are part of a cultural export programme by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The project will continue at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 and 2013. 

The Overcoat is a cheeky and absurd satire about the modern banking industry and the deterioration of working life based on Gogol´s short story and was originally produced by Finnish theatre company Ryhmäteatteri (Group Theatre) by Esa Leskinen and Sami Keski-Vähälä. The play was translated into English and for the Scottish Stage and adapted by Cathrine Grosvenor and directed by Finnish director Aleksis Meaney. Billy Mack as Akaki won the Best Actor at the Stage Awards for Acting Excellence. The performance was warmly received by the critics in the Scotsman, British Theatre, The Herald and The Times.

The brazingly shameful Chaos is part of the Mika Myllyaho trilogy (the other parts Panic and Harmony) which have been successfully performed in various theatres. The play was directed by Irene Aho who will now direct Myllyaho´s Panic at the Firenze Intercity Festival.

If you missed the Overcoat in Edinburgh, come to Finland! You can see it in Ryhmäteatteri from 22nd-26th November.


  • Finnish drama and artists abroad 2011

Please visit our website to find the list of Finnish drama and artists abroad 2011

TINFO translation grant

TINFO – Theatre Info Finland awards grants for translations of Finnish plays. We accept applications continuously. Grant decisions are reached four times a year. We aim to support international productions of Finnish plays.

Grants for published works or anthologies can be applied from FILI - Finnish Literature Exchange.

Who can apply TINFO translation grant?
Playwrights, drama agencies, theatres, festivals or translators. The grant will be paid directly to the translator.

Each year TINFO gives 10-12 translation grants. In the valuation we emphasize following factors: the international production of the play; the translation will be a part of a grand project; the status of the performing theatre or festival in the target country.  International potential will be evaluated. TINFO translation grant is intended to support young playwrights as well as translation of Finnish plays, which have not been translated to any other languages. 

Application instructions
Fill out the online application on TINFO website: www.tinfo.fi/TINFOgrant.php.

Grants 2011, So far grants have been awarded for the following translations:
Juha Jokela: WAITING FOR THE MIRACLE (French, translation Alexandre André)
Leea Klemola: NEW KARLEBY (English, translation Juha Mustanoja)
Katja Krohn: PIKKUJÄTTILÄINEN (French, translation Martin Carayol)
Jussi Moila: VEITSET LEIKKAA ILMAN (Hungarian, translation Andrea Kovács)
Jussi Moila: VEITSET LEIKKAA ILMAN (English, translation Eva Buchwald)
Mika Myllyaho: KAAOS (Spanish, translation Luisa Gutierrez-Ruiz)
Sofi Oksanen: PUHDISTUS (Spanish, translation Luisa Gutierrez-Ruiz)
Kristian Smeds: JUMALA ON KAUNEUS, englanniksi, translation Kristian London
Kristian Smeds: JÄÄKUVIA (Catalan, translation Meritxell Lucini Saurina/Riikka Laakso)
Tuomas Timonen: OODI RAKKAUDELLE (French, translation Sébastien Cagnoli)

This is TINFO News Autumn 2011 edition. The next one will be released in January 2012. TINFO Staff see here.
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Kristian Smeds - Der Bär Schweigt

Kristian Smeds - a hooligan and a humanist

Goldene Zeit der Dramatik