Midwinter magic in Tallinn

  • 2006-12-20
  • By Joel Alas
TALLINN - Obtaining a ticket to a performance at the Tallinn City Theater (Linnateater) can be difficult at the best of times. When the theater hosts its annual international festival, it becomes harder still. Thankfully there are a handful of tickets left for the upcoming international theater festival, A Midwinter Night's Dream, but don't expect them to last.

"This festival is like a gift for our audience. Going to Japan or Africa to see a performance is very difficult, so we bring these performances here as a prize for our theater society," says the festival's director, Jaanus Rohumaa.
The four-day program includes companies from Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Ghana and Russia, as well as one home-grown production. All of the performances are translated into English and Estonian, making the festival the most accessible season for Tallinn's foreign audience.

According to Rohumaa, good story telling transcends language.
"Our idea was to invite companies who present a type of theater we have never had here before. We have an African performer who tells stories through dance, singing and instruments, as well as some groups from Japan and Iceland who present their theater in a totally different way from us. But the main thing is good storytelling, which is the same everywhere. It's the line that connects all these companies and the Linnateater," he says.

The Japanese performance "A Catalogue of City Life" comes courtesy of Issey Ogata, who specializes in off-beat one-man shows. Together with his long-time collaborating director yuzo Morita, Ogata presents the stories of ordinary people in ordinary lives, each extraordinary in its own way. His performances have been described as witty and funny, and as a result Ogato has landed roles in television and film both in Japan and abroad.

From Russia comes the oddly-titled "Sir Vantes. Donky Khot" 's a humorous take on the classic story of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Rather than actors, the production is presented by scene and stage design students from the Dmitry Krymov Creative Laboratory. Using puppets, shadow theater, stage movement, dance and drama, the cast retell the famous story in a very different fashion.

"It's hugely popular in Russia now. These aren't actors, they are stage designers, and they perform using totally different skills. We all know the story of Don Quixote, but they have turned it around," Rohumaa said.

Irish folktales feature in the performances of Neillidh Muligan and Vincent Woods who mix traditional music, stories and poetry to tell the ancient tales of Ireland. Two of their four performances at the festival will be exclusively aimed at children.
The Icelandic production "A Hundred Year-Old House" tells the story of three elderly people who share narratives to keep their memories alive. The characters reminisce, dance, listen to music and drink whiskey with charming results.

The local production is "The Tailor," written by Slawomir Mrozek and directed by Mart Koldits. Koldits is the Tallinn City Theater's youngest director, having graduated from the Estonian Academy of Music Drama School in 2004. The play is an intense struggle between a king, a tailor, a young idealist and a beautiful courtesan that is indicative of power struggles from across the centuries.
But the festival wildcard is "Somu," a dance and music performance by the Kusum Gboo Dance Ensemble from Ghana. Their stories are drawn from the rich cultural heritage of Africa. The name of their performance "Somu" translates as to "hold tightly to whatever you possess," a wonderful call to cling to cultural stories as if they were precious objects.

Although their production is not strictly theater, Rohumaa says it is storytelling nonetheless.
The dance troupe will also help end each night with a performance at the Festival Club, an intrinsic part of the yearly event. Other actors and directors will help enhance the festival experience by giving lectures and workshops across the four days. The event will be rounded off with a major New Year's Eve celebration that will take place throughout the whole theater complex starting at 7 p.m..

The festival will take place in the Tallinn City Theater's multi-story building in the Old Town, which features several theaters and spaces of varying sizes. Even the outdoor stage will be utilized for the President's Address, with plenty of mulled wine available to keep the crowd warm.

A Midwinter Night's Dream
Dec. 27 's 31
More information: www.linnateater.ee.
Tickets: www.piletilevi.ee