By Ivonne Carlos
A few days ago, I went to the play Tre Rum / Kolme Huonetta, written and directed by Filip Alexanderson. The play was performed at Schaumansali in Pietarsaari, northern Ostrobothnia. The innovation of this play is that it is performed real time in three different countries simultaneously. That is, on stage we see the performance of three actresses: Maria Salomaa in Pietarsaari (Finland), Ida Ingels in Trondheim (Norway) and Margareta Stone in Sundsvall (Sweden). It depends on what location you are in, it is the actress you see live. In Finland, Maria Salomaa was performing in person while we could watch the other two actresses perform from two screens on the stage. The three characters interact during the play, despite or rather thanks to the technology that allowed transmission from other geographical spaces. Although there are some interactions in English, three languages are primarily spoken in the play: Fenno-Swedish (which is not a language properly, as I understand it, but a variation), Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. I don’t speak any of these Nordic languages, so from there I was more on edge because I didn’t know what my experience would be like. I wanted to enjoy the play without the stress of not knowing the languages and my strategy was to relax and just be attentive to see what I caught from the plot. Another interesting thing was that those attending had the option of downloading an app that only worked inside the theater. This app translated the dialogues either into Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian.
The closest and more or less familiar language to me was Finnish, so I downloaded the app and chose to see the “subtitles” of the play in Finnish. And I say subtitles because this was very similar to what we do in the cinema, where you are watching and listening to the films in its original language and reading the subtitles in another language. Although in this case, it was a little more tiring to follow the translation from the cell phone. It was not terrible either, the truth is that it helped me a lot to understand a little better what the play was about. Additionally, the app had the option to adjust the size of the letters and I chose the largest one. It should be noted that the project is well thought out and worked on, at least in this specific presentation of the play, the connection worked very well and there were no setbacks in the projection or audio. That was one of the fears I had before the play began.
I would more like to talk about the play itself, about the story of the three white women of different ages that were on stage, but I don’t feel very prepared for it, since there are things that I understood but others were left in the air due to the languages. What I can say is that in the plot there was a touch of nostalgia that was captured with the rock songs that they sang on stage.
Mainly in the office, sitting at the desk continuing with the ordinariness of their work lives in the middle of a pile of documents and office supplies, the characters talked about situations they were going through with their mothers, with their families, at work and about some feelings they were dealing with. They are suddenly seen excited, rescuing memories, and talking about their dreams, especially about the what ifs… those unknowns that we all have at some point in life. I believe that some of the axes throughout the story are the paths chosen, the decisions made but above all, the alternatives that were not, but could very well have been. The three characters stop to think about what their life would have been like under different circumstances, and their imagination takes flight.
Another thing I liked is that the three can be perfectly different people interacting with each other but they can also be the same person reflecting to themselves with those different little voices that we all have in the subconscious. Or each one can even symbolize the possibilities that one has in front of a forked path.
The dynamic that occurs in the play with simultaneity, with overlooking borders, blurring them, does not remain only in the realm of the technological but is reflected in the philosophical and vital themes that are alluded to in the plot. Crossing those borders is giving ourselves the opportunity to choose the options, the unpopular decisions, which are for ourselves and not for others. Not for nothing, the three characters are women. In the West, women (and particularly racialized women) are assigned the care of others, the thought is imposed on them that other people come first before themselves.
Well, the play is not that deep and it didn’t change my life either, but it was entertaining and I enjoyed putting myself in an event that is worked on in languages that I don’t speak. It seems to me that these are the little adventures related to my own integration process that I should participate in, and that also reinforce my learning of Finnish. Furthermore, I had never witnessed a play that used the technological elements and strategies that this one uses and in this particular way, they took advantage of it quite well.