ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Theatre ED2013 Week3 Edition

Kuopio Town Theatre: A Mammoth Fringe Finnish

By | Published on Tuesday 20 August 2013


Presented as part of a great initiative run by the Finnish Ministry Of Education And Culture, Kuopio City Theatre’s ‘Mammoth’ is an innovative play by writer/director Leea Klemola, translated into English and relocated to Scotland for its Fringe production, which is performed by a British cast. A play within a play, in which the main character rents a Pleasance space to speak to her son, the adaptation works brilliantly. It wowed our reviewer, so we spoke to Klemoa and co-producer Hanna Roisko about the play, and its Edinburgh production.

CC: Tell us about the premise of ‘Mammoth’.
Leea: It plays with the idea that evolution is not always improvement. Yes, we have more and more innovations that make life easier, but as it becomes less of a challenge to simply stay alive we don’t need each other in the same ways.

CC: Where did the idea for the English translation come from?
Hanna: ‘Mammoth’ is part of a project funded by the Finnish Ministry Of Education And Culture called From Start To Finnish. It’s an international theatrical exchange, which aims to showcase new Finnish writing by staging productions in the UK, translated into English and performed by British actors.

CC: It’s a great idea. How has the project been going?
Hanna: There are three Finnish productions at the Festival this year – ‘Bad Boy Eddie’ and ‘Preen Back Yer Lugs!’ as well as ‘Mammoth’. And From Start to Finnish has already fostered links between the theatre industries of the UK and Finland, and some of the featured plays have toured in London, Helsinki, Turku and Shanghai.

CC: Is the new English version of ‘Mammoth’ very similar to the Finnish play?
Leea: Yes, the English translation is very close to the original.

CC: Were there any challenges in adapting the piece to take place in Scotland?
Leea: It was actually easier to transfer the play to Scotland than it would have been England. In Scotland it feels like there is the same relationship with nature; and a certain craziness! And the impact of the class system doesn’t seem as bad as it is in England. The hardest thing to translate was the ‘Mammoth’ song, which plays a key role in the piece.

CC: How did you find directing a play in English?
Leea: This was the first time I’d directed a piece in a foreign language. In the rehearsal room it was quite easy, because I had a great cast who wanted to fully understand the play and my vision for it. Though working in a foreign culture does pose challenges; in particular, you’re less sure of how an audience will respond to what they see on stage.

CC: The play definitely seems to make an impact on its audience. Is there a key message in the piece do you think?
Leea: The most important ‘message’ is possibly the form of the play, and how it speaks directly to the audience. It is a tribute to theatre as an art form. For me the theatre is a place where people can come together and share an experience and a connection.

CC: Tell us a bit more about Kuopio Town Theatre – what kind of theatre does the company specialise in?
Hanna: The roots of Kuopio City Theatre date back to 1902 when the first permanent amateur theatre was established in the city. Today its successor is a municipally-owned professional theatre, the biggest in Eastern Finland with about 80 employees. It’s an all-round repertory theatre, especially known for performing self-produced musicals and contemporary Finnish plays.

CC: How have you found producing theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe?
Hanna: It’s been an interesting experience, both in producing at the Fringe, and in the UK in general. There are some differences between Finnish and British theatre – you have shorter rehearsal periods and auditions are more common, for example. But as a producer, this experience is very valuable, and you learn a lot about marketing and networking!

‘Mammoth’ was performed at the Pleasance Dome at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

Photo: Matilda Kalving