‘An unflinching opera and a hot-blooded cantata about a time when the church was torn apart, Finland was divided and gays stopped being biddable’: this is how Pirkko Saisio’s new play HOMO! (music composed by Jussi Tuurna) is described by the Finnish National Theatre, where it is currently playing to full houses. This tragicomical-farcical satire takes up serious issues with gusto. In this extract we meet Veijo Teräs, troubled by his dreams of Snow White, who resembles his steely MP wife Hellevi – and seven dwarves. Introduction by Soila Lehtonen
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Hellevi, Veijo’s wife and a Member of Parliament
Rebekka, Hellevi and Veijo’s daughter
Moritz, Hellevi and Veijo’s godson
Agnes af Starck-Hare, Doctor of Psychiatry
Tom of Finland
The Bishop of Mikkeli
Old gays: Kale, Jorma, Rekku, Risto
Olli, Uffe,Tiina, Jorma: people from SETA [the Finnish LGBT association]
Second Lieutenant, Private Teräs, the men in the company
Big Gay, Little Gay, Middle Gay
Teemu & Oskari, a gay couple
The Apostle Paul
On the stage, a narrow closet.
Veijo Teräs appears, struggling to get out of the closet.
Veijo Teräs is dressed as a prince. He is surprised and embarrassed to see that the audience is already there. He seems to be waiting for something.
He speaks, but continues to look out over the audience expectantly.
This outfit isn’t specifically for me, because… I mean, it’s part of this whole thing. This Snow White thing. I’m waiting for the play to start. Just like you are. My name is Veijo Teräs and I’m playing the point of view role in this story. Writers put point of view roles like this in their plays nowadays. They didn’t use to.
Just to be clear – this isn’t a ballet costume. I’m not going to do any ballet dancing, but I won’t mind if someone dances, even if it’s a man. Particularly if it’s a man. But I don’t watch. Ballet, I mean. Not at the opera house, or on television, or anywhere, and I have no idea why we had to bring up ballet – or I had to bring it up – because this is a historical costume, so it’s appropriate. This is what men used to wear, real men like Romeo and Hamlet, or Cyrano de Bergerac. But we in the theatre these days have a hell of a job getting an audience to listen to what a man has to say when he’s standing there saying what he has to say in an outfit like this. People get the idea that it’s a humorous thing, but this isn’t, this Snow White thing, where I play the prince. Snow White is waiting in her glass casket, she died from an apple, which seems to have become the Apple logo, Lord knows why, the one on the laptops you see on the tables of every café in town. More…
Scenes from the play Kuningatar K / Queen C
Christina, the Queen
The Queen Mother
Karl Gustav, the Count [Christina’s suitor, the King-to-be]
Oxenstierna, Per Brahe
A choir of midwives
The play can be performed with six actors (3 female, 3 male). Other ways of dividing the roles are possible. All stage directions may be altered.
The eels’ court
If eels had a court then a great female eel would sit in the centre and the little males would writhe about like seaweed around the throne. However they would not be envious of the queen, because they would know that if they swam up into rivers and lakes, into fresh waters, they themselves would gradually become females, great and heavy, and would be able to rule and close into their great embrace all the small little gentlemen. They just have to wait.
I don’t know. What I do know is that a great black eel, as thick as a rope, was pulled out of the well last night and the Queen looked at its silver stomach and its thrashing tail, but the eel looked the Queen in the eyes and in the heart and since then she has never been the same. More…
Extracts from the play Poltettu oranssi (‘Burnt orange‘): ‘a ballad in three acts concerning the snares of the world and the blood’. Introduction by Tuula Hökkä
The scene is a small town in the decade before the First World War
an imperial,bearded middle-aged gentleman
a moustached, ageing, slightly shabby leather-manufacturer
his wife, well-preserved, forceful, angular
their daughter, shapely, withdrawn, wary
open, direct, not too ‘common’
After a short interval the receptionist opens the door and ushers Marina Klein into the surgery. Exit the receptionist. Marina immediately goes to the end of the room and presses herself against the white wall. The white surface makes her look very isolated in her ascetic black dress. The Doctor, who now appears to be headless – an impression produced by the lighting and the yellowish background – half-turns towards her. More…
First performed in 1989 at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Veitsi (‘The knife’, 1984) is set in Helsinki. The opera is composed by Paavo Heininen and the libretto is by the novelist, poet, playwright Veijo Meri. Veitsi is not a traditional opera, but ‘music-drama’. Introduction by Austin Flint
(Pamppu takes Havinen and the Poet to the Publisher’s office)
Hello there, you great novelist!
This is really a surprise,
as though you’d blown the door off its hinges.
These pages are terrific. Take a look at them. More…
Eeva-Liisa Manner’s Woyzeck is an independent ending to Georg Büchner’s fragmentary play. Introduction by Riitta Pohjola
(Dawn in the market square of Leipzig. A gallows looms, dimly visible in the distance. Brisk rumble of drums.)
What’s going on here?
They’re getting ready for an execution. Some villain’s going to be executed in public.
Franz Woyzeck. I guess you know him, the barber. More…
An extract from the tragedy Kullervo (1864). Introduction by David Barrett
The plot of the Kullervo story as told in the Kalevala: Untamo defeats his brother Kalervo’s army, and Kalervo’s son Kullervo is born a slave. Untamo sells him as a young child to llmarinen whose wife, the Daughter of Pohjola, makes the boy a shepherd and bakes him a loaf with a stone inside it. Kullervo takes his revenge by sending home a flock of wild animals, instead of cattle, who tear her to pieces. He flees, and discovers that his parents and two sisters are alive on the borders of Lapland. He finds them, but one of his sisters is lost. Life in the family home is unhappy: Kullervo fails in all the tasks his father sets him. On his way home one day he finds a girl in the forest whom he abducts in his sledge and seduces. It turns out the girl is his lost sister, who drowns herself when she learns that Kullervo is her brother. Kullervo sets out to revenge himself on Untamo; he kills and destroys. When he returns home, he finds the house empty and deserted, goes into the forest and falls on his sword.
ACT II, Scene 3
Kalervo’s cottage by Kalalampi Lake. It is night-time. Kimmo, seated by a fire of woodchips, is mending nets. More…
An extract from the play Hypnoosi (‘Hypnosis’, 1986). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen
As you all know, this company has been my life’s work and it stands for everything I’ve had to renounce. You know that for years I have not received a penny for my personal expenses, that I am on the firm’s lowest wage level, zero.
I haven’t even had a free cup of coffee; if, because I have been working hard or I wanted to improve my concentration, I have felt like a cup of coffee, I have always gone to the canteen during my coffee break and challenged one of the boys to a bout of arm wrestling under the agreement that the loser buys the coffees, and the bloke has paid. The money never came out of the firm’s running expenses, investments, trusts or funds. More…