Today saw the launch of the From-Start-to-Finnish theatrical exchange programme between the Pleasance Theatre and ACE Production, Finland.
Pekka Huhtaniemi, the ambassador of Finland, introduced the initiative at his official residency in Kensington Palace Gardens. He emphasised his country’s rich theatrical heritage and the importance of bringing Finnish productions to the UK and British works to Finland.
Next to speak was Johan Storgard, award-winning actor and chief executive of ACE, who pointed to the recent success of Finnish-Estonian playwright Sofi Oksanen’s Purge at the Arcola Theatre as evidence of British audiences’ appetite for stories told from a different perspective.
From-Start-to-Finnish began with a meeting between the Finnish Minister for Culture and Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance. It is the culmination of a two-year relationship which saw Finnish productions achieve critical acclaim at the 2010 and 2011 Edinburgh Fringe festivals.
The season opens with the first London showing of Sami Keski-Vahala’s and Esa Leskinen’s reinterpretation of The Overcoat, based on the famous short story by Nikolai Gogol. Following a successful run in Finland, it was translated and re-produced for the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe, where Billy Mack won the Best Actor prize for his performance as the hapless Akaky Akakievich.
While talking about the warm reception received by The Overcoat in Edinburgh and Finland – which returned to Helsinki for a sell-out run in its British incarnation – a wry Storgard provoked laughter by joking that “Finnish audiences laughed their asses off, which is very rare.”
The Overcoat will be followed by Joakim Groth’s Death of a Theatre Critic, which also receives its London premiere at the Pleasance. This dark comedy about a director whose extreme reaction to a bad review leads to a murder charge debuted at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe.
Storgard and Pleasance director Alderson then announced the two plays that will comprise From-Start-to-Finnish’s Edinburgh showcase this year. My Elevator Days is by Bengt Ahlfors and produced by Svenska Teatern (Swedish National Theatre of Finland). Continuous Growth is Keski-Vahala and Leskinen’s loose sequel to The Overcoat and is produced by Rhymateatteri (Group Theatre), Helsinki.
During the Q&A that followed the launch, the organisers revealed that From-Start-to-Finnish’s three-year association with the Edinburgh Fringe will culminate in the world premiere of three as-yet-unnamed plays at the 2013 festival.
The Overcoat is at the Pleasance Theatre (London) from 17th – 28 April. It is followed by The Death of a Theatre Critic from 1st – 5th May.
See the Pleasance Theatre website for more information.