Suvilahti and Helsinki, Finland
BALTIC CIRCLE: This year marks the 12th gathering of Baltic Circle, a festival of contemporary European theatre and art that also organizes training programs, seminars and workshops. Keen on exploring the boundaries of theatrical performance, this year’s programming features three world premieres. Leftovers from the War begins when the Finnish National Museum closes. The audience is divided into four groups, each of which follows an artist as he or she divulges personal family secrets before a backdrop of dusty official history. The four multitalented and multinational artists are Nina Larissa Bassett, a writer, dramaturg and director from Denmark; Ivo Briedis, a freelance screenwriter, playwright and director from Latvia; Elin Petersdottir, a freelance actress, director and writer-translator from Iceland; and Finnish artist Janne Saarakkala, a director, scriptwriter and performer.
Personal narratives also receive showy treatment in the premiere of Heidi Klein, developed by sound designer Heidi Soidinsalo (formerly Lind) and director Anni Klein (formerly Ojanen), who have both changed their names for the purposes of the performance. Just why the artists have switched monikers serves as a jumping-off point to examine how names define us. Trash, kitsch and Germany herself also inspire the recent graduates of the Theatre Academy Helsinki.
Another unlikely confluence of inspirations converge in The Other, created by the Berlin-based Club Real group and Reality Research Center, a performing arts collective based in Helsinki that often questions surrounding reality through performance. Taking place in a home, The Other offers audiences a chance to meet a stranger four different times, as portrayed by four different actors. Meta-theatrical antics include wearing the stranger’s clothes, eating his food, watching his favorite TV show and even replying to his text messages. This is, of course, all in an attempt for the audience to draw conclusions about the life of this stranger while also being urged to ask: How are we supposed to live?
Philosophizing gets further treatment in DO TANK, an experimental program that invites artists to sort out diverse values and experience a sense of community while sweating it out in Helsinki’s 83-year-old public sauna, Arla. (In Finland, visits to the sauna have historically combined political discussion with occasional cold beers.) In the first of these lectures, the Icelandic troupe Kviss Búmm Bang reveals the dilemma they face as artists with a political agenda: Postmodern society does not tolerate fixed viewpoints. From there, the three women explore gender issues, prostitution and the notion of “normality.” Germany’s Barbara Balsei will discuss how to change the world with thinking and speaking, while Sweden’s Mårten Spångberg will lead a session imagining a kind of theatre that is “rich enough to not tell the audience what to do or feel.” Either way, onlookers will no doubt work up a sweat. (Nov. 7–11; +358 (0)9.454.21.355; www.balticcircle.fi)
THESPIS: British actor and solo performer Roy Dotrice once described solo acting as “the ultimate in egotism.” An exceedingly large ego, he went on to say, is required “to stand up there and think you can hold an audience’s attention for a couple of hours. It’s just you out there, no one else. There’s no one to foul you up by stepping on your laugh or giving you the wrong cue.” Then again, there’s no other actor feeding you a dropped line.
Brave solo performers from four continents grace this year’s 8th annual Thespis International Monodrama Festival. Not all shows offer typical solo performance fare. Take, for example, Ahmed Soura, from Burkina Faso, who will present two dance pieces, Écrasement 100 Sens, about resistance, fall, closeness and distance; and En opposition avec moi (As Opposed to Me), a piece inspired by an encounter with a street musician.
Oh My Irma, written and performed by Canada’s Haley McGee, takes the oft-done topic of moms and spins the trope on its head. The show features Mission Bird, a character who is on the hunt to find out who killed her mother, Irma—as the murder mystery unravels, aspects of Mission Bird’s disheveled appearance begin to make more sense. Oh My Irma has been receiving accolades around the world, winning best production in November 2011 at United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. (Nov. 9–16; +49 .431.52.83.07; www.thespis.de)