Theater in Finland

The development of Finnish theater in Finnish and Finland

The development of theater in Finland has been characterized by the fact that modern professional Finnish-language theater has had its origins in the worker theater movement to a greater extent than in the bourgeois theater. The Finnish-Swedish theater, on the other hand, can be compared to Norwegian theater, which has its origin in the bourgeois theater. The Finnish language consciousness raising in the 19th century also received impetus from developments in Norway. The older historical background of Finnish theater goes back to what one knows of student theater in Latin, such as in Turku in the 1600s, and traveling Swedish and German language theater companies from the 1600s onwards. In 1827 a separate theater was built in Helsinki to accommodate such guest plays. In the Finnish-language narrative tradition associated with Kalevala is also a source of roots in Shamanism in pre-Christian times. This is a factor that scientists will now emphasize, while traditionally the development of professional theater and acting arts has begun. The Svenska Teatern was opened in Helsinki in 1860 based on the Swedish-Swedish language, but the awareness of the Finnish-Swedish dialect itself led to a gradual transition.

Theater in Finland

The first Finnish-language professional theater came in 1872 and was founded by Kaarlo Bergbom, and it was this theater that in 1902 moved into a new house under the name of Finland’s National Theater (Suomen Chancellist Theater). In the 1900s, the theater has had great artistic significance. It is also part of the story that the Finnish working class in the larger cities emphasized the importance of the theater, and opened their own amateur theaters, which eventually gained professional status. The Labor Theater in Tampere is what has gained the most importance, and today it has the closest status as a national theater. Turku (Turku) also got professional Finnish and Finnish Swedish theater.

The artistic development up to about 1950 reached a climax in connection with the Finnish National Theater with the theater director and director Eino Kalima (director 1917–1950). He was oriented towards both Russian and Western European theater, and he introduced the Stanislavsky method based on several well-known Chekhov performances. The Finnish-Swedish theater was characterized by the transition from national Swedish to Finnish-Swedish language norm, not least with an actor such as Hedvig Raa (1838-1907), who also contributed to the development of a Finnish-language theater when in 1869 she gave the first performance in Finnish in Helsinki. The Swedish Theater in Helsinki got its own house in 1915. The labor theaters largely absorbed the impetus of expressionism, which created an experimental tradition that should have significance for the theater after 1950, and to some extent relate to the style development in connection with the non-institutional theater of our time.

Finnish theater in later years

The Swedish-language Lilla Teatern, the stage of the Svenska Teatern, gained great importance under Viveca Bandler (1955–67) and Lasse Pöysti (1967–74), not least exemplified by a Hamlet performance as a guest actor in Norway. A Finnish opera had been established by the former Russian theater in Helsinki being used as an opera building, and in the late 1980s a completely new opera building was completed in the Finnish capital. It was also of great importance that a city theater was established in Helsinki. The Finnish-Swedish theater in Turku (Turku) gained a special importance in the years 1973–1977, when Ralf Långbacka and Kalle Holmberg headed it. Långbacka is a Brecht-inspired director who is one of the foremost in Finnish theater history, and in addition to solid productions of Brecht’s drama with emphasis on message and distance, he also applied himself to central Chekhov performances. He later also performed in Finnish in Helsinki, and eventually became a leader in Swedish theater in Sweden during his time at the Gothenburg City Theater.

The leading Finnish theater director of the 1980s has been Juoko Turkka. With his direct and partly reckless extreme realism, he has highlighted key features of Finnish mentality and society. When it comes to Finnish theater in recent years, it should be noted that it has been increasingly directed towards Western Europe, after receiving in its historical basis almost as much impetus from Russia as well as the general Swedish cultural influence. In the post-war period, Finnish theater appeared to be isolated in relation to current flows, which can be said to have contributed to a very peculiar contemporary theater in Finland today. Styles and shapes have been mixed freely all the time, and there has been a strong focus on the scenographic.

In the same way as in the other Nordic countries, non-institutional theater has played an important role from the 1970s until today. A particularly important free group was KOM based on the Svenska Teatern. The cabaret and agit propeater (art form that targets political agitation and propaganda) combined with the popular Finnish tradition have been an underlying aesthetic impetus for these groups. Ryhmäteatteri has, under the leadership of Arto af Hällström and Ralla Leppäkoski, played an important role as an innovator in the field of classic productions, and the dance group Raatiko has been a trendsetter when it comes to working with older Finnish myth material as expressed in their Kalevala set in 1980- the years. The free groups have been organized in a theater center that has existed since 1971. It is also part of the development that there has been a strong expansion of regional theaters in Finland, which has also happened through collaboration between professionals and amateurs. It may be mentioned that Finnish amateur theater has a recognized international position. Western Europe’s first permanent gypsy ensemble, Teatteri Drom, has been a member of the Theater Center since 1981.