perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2012

Anna Liisa - Tampereen Työväen Teatteri (May 2012)

Suvi-Sini Peltola and Anna Liisa's wedding dress fabric.
© Jyrki Tervo / TTT
Anna Liisa is originally a play written in 1895 by Minna Canth, a feminist, modernist and probably the most influential female playwright in Finland. The story tells about a young woman Anna Liisa who is about to get married with a man called Johannes, but her former love Mikko suddenly returns to the village and wants Anna Liisa for himself. Four years earlier he made Anna Liisa pregnant and left from the village, and Anna Liisa ended up giving birth in secret and suffocating the newborn baby in panic. Mikko's mother buried the infant under a spruce in the forest, and the whole baby affair remained a secret between the three. Now Mikko and his mother are trying to blackmail Anna Liisa to marry Mikko by threatening to tell everyone about the dead baby. Anna Liisa loves Johannes and has been quite traumatized by the death of the baby, so she's not willing to marry Mikko who left her in trouble and now reminds her of the infant.

The story is so well-known that they don't even tell it in the program but assume that everyone is familiar with it. I'm in the minority who has never seen it on stage or read it in school, so I knew nothing about it beforehand. It was nice to go and be surprised, for a change. The musical version is composed by the Finnish rock/folk/etc. lyricist and singer Pauli Hanhiniemi and the modern folk music group Hehkumo, and both also perform in the musical. They even released a cast recording, though the songs are in wrong order and the CD case claims that it's a soundtrack. :-P


The Cast & Visuality

The cast was very good, could sing and act and even dance the sometimes quite challenging-looking choreographies that were done by the modern dance group Tanssiteatteri Tsuumi. Especially Suvi-Sini Peltola in the title role was almost breathtaking, anxious and scared but not overdoing it. She also sang and moved beautifully and had great chemistry with others. Jari Ahola was rather perfect as Mikko, he was an arrogant bastard but you could still see why Anna Liisa used to liked him. I've previously seen Ahola as Billy Flynn in Chicago and in the title role in Schaeffer's Amadeus, and I really like him. Mika Honkanen as Mikko's mother was excellent, sort of a comic relief but still the bad, um, guy, and I adored his dance moves. (I only now realized that it was he who played Frank'N'Furter in the legendary Finnish Rocky Horror Show production in Seinäjoki in 1995. I'm kind of glad I didn't recognize the name before the show...)

© Jyrki Tervo / TTT
Speaking of the choreographies, I know nothing about modern dance but they did look impressive and were even amusing.

My favourite part of the musical was its sets and lights. The sets were quite minimalistic, with mostly open stage with only a stool or two and a dark spruce forest or a lake in the background. There was something skeleton-like and threatening in the spruces, and they created the perfect visuality for Anna Liisa's guilt-ridden and in the end nearly crazy mind. The costumes were a bit boring and ugly and felt a bit out-of-place against the darkly beautiful sets (which was probably intentional), but I liked Anna Liisa's dresses.

The Music

They used Canth's original play in the spoken text parts and had just made some minor cuts and added the songs. I'd have hoped that they would have used Canth's original text in the lyrics and used songs to take the story on, but now the songs mostly stopped the action. In fact, the musical was more just Canth's play accompanied with songs. All in all I sometimes got the feeling that the person(s) who wrote the music didn't have a very good sense of drama or of what works in stage context and what doesn't, but as such the music was still better than I've heard in other original Finnish musicals.

Many songs were sung by the cast, and some of them were a part of the plot and added something new or deeper to it, like "Siksi", "Kuusenpihkaa" and "Suolammen vettä". These were my favourites and the most meaningful ones, and they also had the most impressive lyrics. Many songs (too many for my taste), though, were kind of just comment songs sung by Pauli Hanhiniemi, the ensemble or some cast member. Often those songs didn't have much to do in the plot and they could easily have been cut without losing anything, and even their lyrics were a bit lame. Especially the second act had many of these, like "Ootteko nähneet mun sydäntäni" sung by Hanhiniemi and some woman, and "Täs on metsän kaunis tupa", a totally random wedding song sung by Pirkko, Anna Liisa's little sister. Anna Liisa herself had only one short song.

The Story

© Jyrki Tervo / TTT
The idea of having Minna Canth herself as a narrator of the story was interesting but it didn't completely work. Especially the beginning was too Canth-centered, like they'd try to make Anna Liisa's story more autobiografical than it is and underline its meaning to Canth herself instead of letting the story work on its own. After the most narrative part was over, I liked how they used Canth's character, though. For example, once Anna Liisa wanted to escape an unpleasant situation but Canth forced her to stay on stage, and after nasty things started to happen to Anna Liisa, Pirkko was clearly angry at Canth for writing the story that way.

The ending was a bit confusingly made. After Anna Liisa confessed and was taken to prison, Pirkko started to dance and sing the reprise of "Kaikki ilo", a very joyful and energetic song that started the whole musical. I'm still not sure what they wanted to tell with the song, but the lyrics didn't fit the situation at all and the song felt a bit too much like a poor attempt to wrap up the story. It also didn't feel like a "life goes on so let's try to get over this" song, but that's still the best explanation I can think of. Or then someone had an odd way of showing that people are happy because Anna Liisa at least got peace of mind.

© Jyrki Tervo / TTT
Speaking of that, I'm not completely okay with how the play ends, but I guess its point is to make people think. The idea of a person going to prison and getting all the responsibility about the crime because she needs to find peace with God just disturbs me. I guess it has something to do with general Finnish attitude to religion: in some cases - like this - it's all about punishing, despair and "I deserve all the unhappiness because God wants to punish me for whatever reason I can come up with, so I'll make myself as unhappy as I can". I won't deny Canth's talents and meaning for Finnish society - she has her own flag day and all! -, but I'm not a fan of her realism in fiction. Her plays are simply too depressing for my taste.

Generally the show was quite meta-textual, with people telling or commenting the story and thus distancing it from the audience. The band also played on stage and sometimes took part in the scenes. I'm not sure if I'd have chosen the meta way myself, but it was interesting and suited the play well.

The musical version was quite modern in many ways and not a musical in the most traditional sense of the word, and I found it very refreshing. It's far from being my favourite musical, but as a theatrical piece it was mostly well done and interesting to watch. There were parts that didn't work, like some of the songs, but as a whole the musical worked well.

Links:
Tampereen Työväen Teatteri
A TV reportage from the rehearsals in Yle Areena

6 kommenttia:

Talle kirjoitti...

Hei,osa kappaleista on julkaistu jo paljon aiemmin Hanhiniemen ja Hehkumon levyllä (joka mulla on),eli siinä varmaankin syy miksi osa tuntui "epäsopivilta",ehkä muutamia sanoja muutettu sieltä täältä Anna-Liisaa varten.

ihmepensas kirjoitti...

Okei, no se selittää asioita. Toki tunsin Hanhiniemen nimen ennestään, mutten ole yhtään perehtynyt hänen musiikkiinsa tai tuotantoonsa. En ihmettele, että mies on saanut Juha Vainio -palkinnon, koska ainakin Anna Liisan lyriikat olivat paikoin todella osuvia.

Talle kirjoitti...

Omassa blogissani omat mietteeni Anna-Liisasta meni näin :
http://www.teatterikarpanen.vuodatus.net/blog/3008974/anna-liisa/

ihmepensas kirjoitti...

Ai Teatterikärpänen on sinun blogisi? Minulta on jotenkin mennyt sen haltijan henkilöllisyys ihan ohi, vaikka blogi on kirjanmerkeissäni ja kaikkea. :) Olen pitkälti samaa mieltä kanssasi etenkin juuri näyttelijöistä; Työvis on kerännyt kattonsa alle esimerkillisen kokoelman hyviä laulavia näyttelijöitä.

Siiri kirjoitti...

Haa, menit sitten katsomaan! :D
Joo, aika pitkälle samaa mieltä. Kivoja nuo huomiosi sen Minna Canth -hahmon käytöstä, muuten! Itse katselin ilmeisesti kriittisillä hetkillä jonnekin muualle, en huomannut noita juttuja ollenkaan...

Laura kirjoitti...

Menin, kun satuin joka tapauksessa olemaan Tampereen keskustan tienoilla toiseksi viimeisen esityksen aikaan ja viime hetken lippuja sai puoleen hintaan tuntia ennen. ;) Levyjä ja käsiohjelmia jaettiin jo ilmaiseksi.

Minulla on pieni fiksaatio musikaalien kertojahahmoihin, siksi tarkkailin Canthinkin puuhia tavallista tarkemmin.