Jean Claude Idée: My professional theatre visit to Finland
  • Jean-Claude Idée & Myllyaho
11 July 2016

While visiting Finland in a professional capacity, I had the opportunity to tour Helsinki on 26 February 2016 where I had very successful meetings all round. Getting to know a new country is always an adventure and an emotional experience. Finland is familiar to me because of the plays that I have worked on for several years. So, it was wonderful to finally see Finland in reality.
Theatre is a great way to get to know unfamiliar societies and cultures. It acts as a mirror, through which people observe, criticize, reflect upon and laugh at themselves, and through which they reveal their shortcomings and defend their values.
I was introduced to the Finnish mentality through Mika Myllyaho’s work Panic. The play was funny and moving, and I identified with it. Through the Magasin d’Ecriture Théâtrale, an organisation I lead to promote dramatic texts, we had arranged a reading of Myllyaho’s play in Brussels at the Théatre de la Place des Martyrs in 2011. The event was a success. Through that same connection I also met the producers of Nordic Drama Corner, for whom I arranged meetings with local theatre directors. The play was presented again in a translated version at the Théâtre Saint-Georges in 2012.
That same year, the Magasin d’Ecriture Théâtrale partnered with the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux to organise a play reading festival at the Théâtre de Poche and the Royal Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in Brussels. Ten works were selected to participate: Mika Myllyaho’s Paniikki (Panic), Kaaos (Chaos) and Harmonia (Harmony). Pasi Lampela’s Markiisin Unet (The Dreams of the Marquis), Juha Jokela’s Mobile Horror (A Mobile Horror), Laura Ruohonen’s Olga, Yksinen (Island )and Kuningatar K (Queen C), Anna Krogerus’ Rakkaudesta minuun (For Sheer Love of Me) and Reko Lundan’s Teillä Ei Ollut Nimiä (Can you hear the howling?). The festival was a great success.
A number of playwrights were also invited to participate. For the festival, I had staged Myllyaho’s play Kaaos (Chaos), which found a producer in Belgium and which I directed to be performed at the Atelier-Théâtre Jean Vilar. Due to its great success, the play was performed for two consecutive seasons.
The following year, I staged Harmonia (Harmony), the final play in Myllyaho’s trilogy. The work was performed as a whole in Brussels at the Théâtre Poème 2 in 2013. Over the years, I had received several invitations to Finland, but because of my busy schedule the visit was delayed until the spring of 2016. However, I actively acquainted myself with the Finnish scripts that were presented to me.
At last, with the assistance of the director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, Aleksi Malmberg, the dates for my visit were arranged and I travelled to Finland. Finland reminded me a lot of the images painted by its plays, and my already high expectations were surpassed. After so many years, I was finally able to meet Mika Myllyaho in person. I also received an invitation to the Finnish National Theatre in 2018 in order to create networking opportunities between Finnish and Belgian playwrights.
During my travel, I was able to meet many Finnish theatre professionals and visit some fascinating information centres, agencies and theatres. Finally, we visited Q -teatteri to watch Saara Turunen’s excellent play Tavallisuuden Aave (The Phantom of Normality). Inspired by this work, I am thinking of directing and translating one of Turunen’s plays for the next festival taking place as part of the Magasin d’Eciture Théâtrale.
With a positive mindset and having gained many new perspectives and ideas for the future I returned from a much too short visit to Helsinki.

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Jean-Claude Idée

Idée is a playwright who has also directed and translated several plays for the stage. He has directed over a hundred plays over the last forty years. He has been mostly active in Brussels and Paris. In 1989, he established the Magasin d’Ecriture Théâtrale, a platform to bring playwrights to the fore. From 1998 to 2006, Idée was as one of the directors of the Spa Theatre Festival, and in 2013, he established the Universités populaires du Théâtre together with Michel Onfray. In addition, he has worked as a lecturer in Dramatic Arts at the Académie de Musique d’Auderghem from 1975 to 2009 as well as at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels.

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