Living for the theatre

hyljepromo-1.jpgI was one of the founders of a new theatre troupe in Helsinki called OMS-teatteri (OMS-theatre).

Our first production, which I co-wrote, was a musical called HYLJE (“seal” in Finnish). It was about an advertising man suffering an identity crisis, who decides to shake up his soulless life by becoming a seal mascot in a cruise liner. I played the title character.

The old locomotive workshop named Bruno.

HYLJE was also part of a movement to save a neighbourhood in Helsinki. The heart of the gentrifying working-class neighbourhood of Vallila is the old train factory “Bruno”, which was slowly being taken into new use by the surrounding inhabitants setting up flea markets, cafés and workshops. The city had plans to turn it into a furniture supermarket, which the people were vehemently against since it would just turn the whole area into a drive-through instead of the lively cultural plaza it was becoming. HYLJE was one of the cultural events, which showed that an abandoned train factory with 10 metre-ceilings and bare brick walls could be turned into a theatre.

The play ran for weeks in a was a resounding success with sold-out performances (91% of all our tickets sold), publicity in the nation’s main newspapers, and favourable reviews.

The following year (2017) I wrote and directed a 60-person cross-disciplinary performance combining modern dance, male choir music and video art called KOIVU JA TÄH (The Birch and the Wha? – it’s a play on words). The story was loosely based on the 19-century Finnish fairy tale of The Birch and the Star by Z. Topelius. I gave it a new, modern twist by removing all of the nationalist sentiment and replacing it with a fantastical dystopia filled with anxieties of present generations. The show was performed to sold-out audiences in November 2017.