Tallinn, 22 July 2005Tallinn, 07 July 2005
For immediate release


Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
phone/fax: +372 644 9270
e-mail: suri@suri.ee

Estonian and Saami Theatres Start Co-operating with the Kalevala in Estonia

In the end of July and the beginning of August, an Estonian-Saami troupe was performing in Tartu and Tallinn (Estonia). The play titled Lemminkainen, based on the Finnish traditional epic Kalevala, was staged by the Estonian Heritage Theatre Loomine as a co-operation of students of the High School of Scenic Art of the Estonian Music Academy with Mr. Ailu Gaup, actor and musician at the Saami national theatre Beaivvas. Beside playing a key part in the performance, Gaup also participated in composing music for the play and trained the Estonians to sing traditional Saami tunes, the yoiks.

The performance was directed by Jaan Tooming, known as the initiator of new trends in Estonian stage art, and Anne Türnpu, a leading producer at Finno-Ugric theatre festivals.

In the city of Tartu the play was performed at the black box Sadamateater. In Tallinn it was staged in the forest at the Estonian Open-Air Museum.

The decisive role in preparing the performance was played by the Saami actor because the intention of the Estonian directors was to present the events described in the Karelian-Finnish epic from the Saami point of view. Gaup confessed after the performance that he could not imagine how much Kalevala tells about the Saamis. 'This project has made me think I should read Kalevala, said Gaup.

The tragical story of the central character, Lemminkainen, was recited impressively as a song that included texts from Kalevala, Saami yoiks, Karelian, Votic and Seto songs and lamentations. That was probably the first performance wholly built on the opposition of Saami yoiks to the Saami Balto-Finnic runic song. The relations of the Finns and Karelians with the Saamis had not always been cloudless. Tensions that still remain can be treated by staging ancient legends.

The play was praised by the Estonian theatre critique.

'The plot borrowed from the epic Kalevala collected by folklorist Elias Lönnrot has revealed the might of the folk art and carried the actors who yielded to its power, playing sincerely and persuasively. The performance had no superfluous elements. Every detail was chosen carefully.' - daily Eesti Paevaleht.

'This is comprehensive and profound theatre. [...] A theatre that impresses. An important thing is that this theatre has a body language of its own. It has its own language of imagery. [...] The play has no roles experienced in the usual sense. At the same time it is free from declamatory strangement. [..] the group as a whole is experiencing the story.' - daily Postimees.

The student actors were delighted with the teamwork and with the Saami visitor. Gaup, too, found that not only he taught the Estonian students but learned from them to some extent. At the farewell party, Estonian songs and Saami yoiks sounded endlessly.

For the next Easter it is the planned to play Lemminkainen at the Beaivvas theatre to the Saamis in Kautokeino (named in Saami as Guovdageaidnu) in Northern Norway, and in the Kola Peninsula, Russia.