So, I did not use this blog at all in the way I intended to. In fact, I did not end up using it at all.
What happened? I have no idea. Anyway, by this time, I have returned to live in the UK. Not because I did not like Finland (on the contrary, after getting over the initial problems, I ended up having an absolute ball) but rather because I felt the need to return. After all, I did have a university place waiting for me here in Nottingham.
Over the six months I spent in Finland, theatre became an even greater part of my life than it had been before.
I went to see the Finnish production of Wicked in March at the Helsinki City Theatre. I was already a fan of musical theatre and having seen several shows in London's West End, I went in with an embarrassingly prejudiced attitude: "There is no way a production in Finland will beat a West End show." (N.B. I had never seen Wicked in the West End and I did not know the story behind the musical even if I had heard some of the songs.) Already after the first act I could not contain my excitement. The show was one of the most fantastic things I had ever seen on stage.
Delving deeper into the world of Finnish theatre, I found that, despite being a country with a small population, there is a surprisingly large number of plays going on at a surprisingly large number of theatres, particularly in the capital. And, naturally, this would not be the case if there were not a significant number of people seeing them.
One cannot leave out the summer theatre culture, of course. All the big theatres are closed in the summer, giving the small open air theatres (not rarely located in the middle of nowhere) a chance to shine. And speaking of shining, the weather usually agrees with this tradition, which is lucky seeing as some of the theatres are completely uncovered. One might expect these productions to be cheap and amateur-made but this is so far off the truth that... I can't even come up with a piece of imagery to describe it. An expensive set or lots of special effects simply is not the point of summer theatre. That would be very much out of place, I think. Besides, the talent of the actors keeps the audience engaged.
Interesting piece of trivia:
The Finnish production of the musical The Producers had translated Max's line, which originally read:
"I am the director who invented theatre in a square."
"I am the first director who put on summer theatre in the winter."
It is a shame tourists do not particularly get to be a part of the Finnish theatre culture due to the language issue. In addition, the budget of shows is rarely of a size allowing the sets and costumes to be particularly flashy like they tend to be in the West End or Broadway, so most of the time there is not even a visual element for tourists to follow. The best bet, if one does not speak Finnish would be to go and see one of the musicals at the Helsinki City Theatre (as far as I understand, the productions of Broadway musicals they put on there, are of high quality and very enjoyable to watch, especially if you know the story beforehand).
I have a feeling that my blog (which I will try to update regularly) will take a slightly more theatre and musical theatre orientated approach. But cultural differences are such a curious topic that it will certainly feature.