New Plays from Finland
Grandfather, for Sure (2022)
When we die, what will remain of us? A list of all our accomplishments, an assortment of flags of all the countries we visited, or perhaps a collection of hair kept for tracking down our greying process. Most likely, it is none of the three, but rather the memories people have of us. In Eeva Turunen’s 2022 play Grandfather, for Sure (unofficial translation, orig. Isoisä, ilman muuta /working title), K’s grandfather has recently passed away.
What is the hardest part of grieving? Well, of course, it is the decision of what kind of urn is the best. K begins a long humour-filled email exchange with a carpenter to try and find the perfect one. K’s partner also tries to help, but they do not seem to be able to find a common language, and the partner does not seem to understand that there are simply way too many urns to choose from nowadays!!
Although the play is about K’s grieving process for the grandfather, he is still present in most scenes. The plot is not linear: it is more like a fragmented memory lane. Before his death, the grandfather made voice recordings on a dictation machine, mostly about his architectural projects and other accomplishments. Throughout the play, there are scenes where the audience is shown how the grandfather makes these recordings, scenes where K makes them with him, and scenes where K listens to them. Although the grandfather makes very peculiar and detailed lists about, for example, all the memberships and honorary positions he had throughout his life, K would just like to hear how the grandfather met his wife and what his mother was like. Simultaneously, there is also stuff that K would have perhaps wanted to tell the grandfather before he died, for example, how K does not want to start a business and how K is in a queer relationship.
Thus, at the heart of the play is the complicated intergenerational relationship between K and the grandfather. With its witty and inventive language, the play shows how hard it is to sometimes talk to those closest to us. Especially K uses various registers throughout the play, which beautifully highlights the way our usage of language changes from one interaction to another, the way K or we talk to our partners, grandfather, or our best friend is after all very different. In their usage of language and other things K and the grandfather are exceedingly similar: They are both architects, practical, and extremely careful in articulating themselves. However, they are both also excellent at avoiding talking about anything that truly matters. In his testament, the grandfather has left K four dining room chairs that K now brings from one apartment to another. In the end, K is finally able to give up the chairs and perhaps actually start grieving for the grandfather.
Grandfather, for Sure is Turunen’s second play. It was first performed as a staged reading in 2018 at the Jyväskylä City Theatre. It was then revised by Turunen and the new version was likewise performed as a staged reading at the Tampereen työväen teatteri in 2022.
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