Author: Pekka Lounela

The stages of Aleksis Kivi

Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Authors

The organic unity of written and performed drama is today considered an unarguable truth especially in acting circles. The work of Aleksis Kivi appears, on this view, anachronistic to say the least: he created the basis of Finnish drama at a time when the indigenous Swedish-language theatre was taking its first faltering steps and theatre in Finnish was not even dreamed of. And more: his most important works still inspire interpretation after interpretation, and audiences continue to flock to see his plays.

Kivi’s drama is no mere paper art, scribbled by an artist in a garret. Details from contemporary accounts reveal that Kivi was naturally drawn to acting, and presumably he had some gifts in that direction. Some of his friends thought him a good mimic. Kivi had marked out his first stage as a boy on the slopes of the Taabori mountain close to his home. His first play concerned the weekly trip to church; he sketched his own satirical version of the sermon and the reading of the banns. As a schoolboy and a student he invented and organised brigand plays in Helsinki and Nurmjärvi; scholars believe that his model was Schiller’s Die Räuber. In Siuntio he read Shakespeare aloud, in Swedish, to his saviour and patron Miss Charlotta Lönnqvist, and to her students of household economy – ‘although, of course, a lot had to be cut out.’ More…