Best theatre, best play

16 March 2012 | In the news

On 11 March Finland’s theatre organisations gave their awards to last year’s best theatres and theatre-makers. Theatre of the Year was the Finnish National Theatre: according to the jury, it has both ‘opened all its doors, from cellar to attic’ and also left the building to make theatre and offered space for initiative. Audience figures have risen by more than 50,000, and the theatre’s repertoire has ‘cut keenly into the life and reality of contemporary audiences and the key national questions behind them without becoming bogged down in familiar stereotypes.’

The Finnish Dramatists’ Union awarded its Lea Prize for the Playtext of the Year, worth ā‚¬5,000, to Pirkko Saisio’s HOMO! (This is Saisio’s fourth Lea Prize since 1986.) HOMO! is currently running, in a musical, or rather, operatic form in the National Theatre, in a production directed by the playwright herself; the composer is Jussi Tuurna.

In art as elsewhere, it is worth thinking about things from new angles ā€“ a few years back, for example, the National hardly did any musical theatre at all. (However, the company of actors in no way hinder the staging of musical theatre: under Tuurna’s direction, the entire cast burst into spectacular flower, alone and in chorus.) Besides, musical theatre was thought to be the province of the Helsinki City Theatre, where imported commercial musicals (Cats, Les Miserables, Mary Poppins etc) have lately represented a considerable part of the theatre’s income. On this production line, however, there are few chances for writers, composers and other theatremakers to develop a specifically Finnish musical theatre.

The Finnish National Theatre’s most recent success, Kristian Smeds’s Mr Vertigo also used original music, produced by young jazz musicians, which was on exactly the same wavelength as the text and its interpretation.

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