It´s been a l o n g summer and Viirus Program Producer is quietly contemplating all the upcoming work to be done. She is walking calmly along the Välimerenkatu street towards the theatre when suddenly electric scooter in full speed hurtles behind her without any warning. At the same moment big black dog starts barking at her in front of the Alepa store and very persistent telemarketer is calling to her for umpteenth time to trying to sell her a designer collection of gilded Siberian kitchen knives. Damn it! Can´t one have some privacy here? She starts kicking small stones on the pavement and swearing to herself until she understands that it might be good idea to calm down a bit. It´s only Monday. She steps into the theatre lobby and her mood is already getting better. Schrei-collective have gathered there for their morning rehearsal and are sipping their coffee and tea before that. Program Producer decides to talk to Viola Othilie Tømte who is the artistic leader of the group. Maybe it will be a soothing thing to do.
Viirus Program Producer: Hi Viola! My day was already going gravely downhill, but luckily I saw you here! Your premiere is already this week´s Thursday, so you must be excited.
Just wondering, this topic of your performance, Schrei vol. 3, is about female anger. Very intriguing theme -not that I personally would ever be angry… From where this all started?
Viola Othilie Tømte: It came from the quriosity of exploring anger. And especially how women were portrayed in it. I was of looking it from the point of views of art and society and also from personal viewpoint.
I became interested in anger specificly because it felt for me the most misunderstood portraits. Often in [fictional drama] things were twisted or I did not really recognize what the portrait even was about. I want to understand more of this dynamic. And to understand these kind of portaits of anger or female anger that I did not necessarily agree on, I realised that, okay, maybe I have to embrace them a little bit and not just resist them: ”that´s wrong and that´s wrong”.
What happens if I can actually embrace this kind of thing, or this emotion: anger. And this twisted portrait that I don´t really understand. Can I see it from the other point of view?
Viirus Program Producer: That´s very courageous to go to the unknown paths of human emotions! What kind of material was inspiring you?
Viola Othilie Tømte: I have always been interested in Greek tragedies, ”the old theatre stuff”. They have their typical themes and problems, and there´s kings and queens and so forth. We don´t have that kind of culture today. But many things they were dealing there, like love and betrayal, are these very human things that we are still dealing with today, thousands of years later. Even though we advance in our society, the emotions are quite the same.
Nevertheless the stories of women in the Greek tragedies were written by men, as so many other stories of women throughout history. As a counterweight to these male-dominated narratives, in the 1960s and 70s, a feminist performance art movement developed in which female artists uncompromisingly created their own expressions, on their own terms, without men’s interference. Inspired by interviews in the book Angry Women [edited by A. Juno and V. Vale], we also explore this movement, how these women expressed female anger, by being just that, angry. In addition to this we also use autobiographical material in the performance.
Connected to the thematics of the performances is also Euripides´ Medea, this woman who is kind of symbol of raging woman. She is so mad that she kills everyone, she kills even her own children. She becomes this kind of this symbol of ultimate, mad, crazy woman and there is the anger there. Where does it come from? To where is it connected to? That is the historical reference I´m interested of. She is still coming back!
Viirus Program Producer: Do you think the portrait of Medea is just a twisted portait of woman without any connection to this time – or should we on the contrary embrace the Medea´s tradition?
Viola Othilie Tømte: Medea´s story in the beginning was just a myth and Euripides wrote a play about her, a tragedy. But there have been also modern writers that have been writing her story, like Christa Wolf for example. I think her story is much more complex than in Euripides´version.
And I think it´s little bit the same thing with anger itself. It is more complex than one might think and it might be more connected to social structures.
Viirus Program Producer: I guess you can notice in a everyday life how woman´s rage is interpreted different way than man´s rage. If a woman is showing her emotions in social situation, it is interpreted for losing your control. But if a man is expressing strong emotions, it is interpreted as firmness and showing your strenght. There´s a huge gap in there.
Viola Othilie Tømte: Yes there is quite clear difference in how we accept and receive intense or aggressive speech from women and men. And it´s something we should be aware of and start to make some changes. In everyday life, who do we listen to and who do we take for serious?
It´s somehow easier to make fun of woman showing her anger, it´s easier to make a silly drawing or whatever. I think that´s something we really have to change.
Also suppressing your anger and not really letting it out…I´m not necessary saying that we should be raving mad all the time. But holding it back and suppressing it is not right either. When suppressed anger comes out, maybe it comes so much harder than if you just let it out gradually. And that´s also something that interests me with anger. When we suppress it and suppress it and suppress it and when it finally bursts, it can be so big and so violent.
It does not necessarily need to be so. It could be something we could talk about more regularly and can also be allowed to exist. Then anger would not necessarily had to be this destructive force, it could also be more creative force. In the anger there is a lot of force and I don´t think that force necessarily needs to be just destroying. It can also clean the air. It can be creative force, if we just know how to deal with it. And not suppress it.
Viirus Program Producer: In your collective there is artists from at least three different nordic countries: Sweden, Faroe Islands and Norway. How did you meet?
Viola Othilie Tømte: I started the group itself after graduating from Norwegian theatre academy in 2016. My graduating performance from the academy was first ever Schrei-performance. Then I knew I wanted to keep working on the same concept, so I started this group.
I did another performance 2017, Schrei volume 2, together with light and sound designer Jesper Berger. These two performances were solo performances, just me exploring. Then I decided I wanted more performers on this theme. Basically the first two people that came into my mind were Mariann Hansen and Klara Wenner Tångring. I knew them as great performers, but they also had interest in the thematics of the performance. They have slightly different background than I have and I was also hoping to create meeting point between three of us. Meeting point where we could share both knowledge, but also our different techniques working with theatre.
It was basically the three of us who started working and then I asked Johanna Dahlbäck, our scenographer to join. She and I both went to the same school, so I knew her from there.
Viirus Program Producer: Mariann and Klara, where did you meet them originally?
Viola Othilie Tømte: Mariann was an exchange student in Norwegian Theatre Academy. So I knew her from there. Klara I know from way back. We went to summer theatre course at theatre academy in Sweden. We also worked with theatre company called Instabili Vaganti Compagnia Teatrale in Italy for six months. So yeah, Klara is an old friend.
Viirus Program Producer: You have been rehearsing this piece quite a lot in different residencies?
Viola Othilie Tømte: Yes our first residency was in November last year. It was in Norwegian mountain area, very beautiful spot in there! Then we also had working period in the spring. In between we were in our home countries Norway, Faroe Islands and Finland, but we had period where we would work and share our work through Skype. And then we got together in here, in Helsinki.
Viirus Program Producer: How does the fact that you are from different countries effect to the performance?
Viola Othilie Tømte: It does effect the performance I think. And then in another way, we don´t maybe notice this so much anymore. We use all our languages and the perfomance is mixing Swedish, Norwegian and Faroese. And as we are living in different countries, we also bring slightly different experiences to the theme of the performance. I think the topics of female anger and feminism are slightly different in the different countries we are living in. That´s also something that I think effects the work process and the performance.
Viirus Program Producer: What about the people who are not yet acquainted with the themes of the performance? Or do not identify it in their lives?
Viola Othilie Tømte: I don´t think that´s necessarily a problem, it could also be a good thing. With this performance we want to start a dialogue, to start the talk about these topics. And if this dialogue does not already exist, it does not mean that it can´t get started. It´s not that you have to have a specific background to understand this performance. It´s not like you have to have studied feminism for years to understand it. It is also quite visual and sensoric performance, so you don´t need specific background knowledge. I do really hope that if this discussion does not yet exist, we can awake those questions.
Viirus Program Producer: How about the visual side, what are we going to see – or feel, on stage?
Viola Othilie Tømte: We do have quite physical and vocal approach to our theatre work, so the performance is quite visual and sensoric. When you enter the space, you can allow yourself to not necessarily understand everything with your brain, but also being receptive with your body. It is kind of a journey we are taking together there. We are probably going to ask some questions from the audience, but if one does not want to answer or take part, it´s also ok. We are not going to go raging mad if you don´t! (laughing)
Viirus Program Producer: You are also touring with the performance?
Viola Othilie Tømte: Yes we are going first to Faroe islands to perform there [Mentanarhúsið í Fuglafirði] and then we are going to Norway after that. In Norway it´s in Fredrikstad where I went to theatre school, at Blå Grotte culture house. We are also hoping to tour more, but these are the places we know now.
Viirus Program Producer: It´s great that you decided to have the premiere here in Helsinki as part of Viirus GUEST programme! But what kind of people should see the performance, is it for everyone?
Viola Othilie Tømte: When we had working process showing in Norway, in the beginning of the project, one person said after the performance that he felt like the performance was not only about female anger, but dealing universally with anger in society. I thought it was very beautiful comment. Our starting point is the fact that we are women and we have felt this balance between male and female. Also kind of exploring this…
Viirus Program Producer: …rage in the society?
Viola Othilie Tømte: Yes!
Viirus Program Producer has regained her impeccable good mood. She heads back to the Välimerenkatu street to grab something for lunch from Alepa. If the angry, barking black dog is still there, she will definitely bark back. One should not always suppress your feelings.
SCHREI Productions: SCHREI vol. 3
World premiere 5.9 at 19:00
Other performances 6.9 / 7.9.2019 at 19:00. Only 24 available seats/performance.
After the performance at the 7th of september the audience is welcome to stay for an artist talk with the creators of SCHREI vol. 3.