Ending the run of ‘On Having No Head’ at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, it was time for some new work – so when an offer to join Flashpoint Collective on their new production came along, it didn’t take long to say yes. In the works was a newly translated version of the 1895 play ‘Anna-Liisa’ by Finland’s national treasure Minna Canth, to be performed as a staged reading at the Rada Fest in July, making it a UK premiere of the piece. I was cast as Johannes, Anna-Liisa’s fiancé and rival of local farmhand Mikko.
It was fascinating territory to delve into. One of the aspects the play touches on is the take on conventional hierarchies of late 19th century Northern European families, and though to modern standards it may come across as criticism at times (which makes it tempting to politicize the writing), it actually assumes no pretense or bias towards any of its characters, which only goes to show how far we’ve come. As anyone, Johannes has some flaws, such as his ways of assuming status over someone else or his tendency to rash decision-making that I needed to understand psychologically first before I could make them my own, but ultimately, he is no more than a product of his own time and age. How can you fault someone who is so very passionately in love? The more I studied him, the more I grew to appreciate his honesty, vulnerability, his passion for love and focus on security. Though it required a tremendous amount of research and imaginative work to fully interpret someone of a 19th century time-frame and setting truthfully, Johannes is just a young man with very human wants and needs, capable of both love and envy. It’s here that I found the things I could relate to. That always needs to be at the core of it all.
The production had a big ensemble cast of 12, 3 musicians and a fantastic crew orchestrating the whole affair. Glad to have been involved.