Unapologetic Theater : the sadsongskomplex:fi

In an era of overabundance, it’s important to remain focused on intimacy and emotion within the arts. When talking about the art medium of theater, it is especially pertinent to me. While large-scale live performances can be captivating in sheer massiveness of production, they can also be overstimulating and redundant.

There is a level of delicacy to small-scale live performances, and a recent marriage between an ensemble and a stage is shaping some important theater in Helsinki. This ensemble –appropriately titled the sadsongskomplex:fi — has nestled itself in the revolutionary Kallio district of Helsinki. 

The Komplex was born after its founding members’ debut performance of a captivating play entitled Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe. With huge goals and demanding implications, Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe laid the nurturing foundation for the Komplex to develop into an international movement.

Teatr Dramy Dostoevskaya 2016 - © Serg Gridnev
Photo credits : Teatr Dramy Dostoevskaya 2016 | Serg Gridnev

Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe packs some complex topics, ranging from forced prostitution to murder. It follows Sonya (the main character), and her journey through a heavily burdened life of desolation and responsibility. This play was written by Finnish playwright Kristian Smeds and is directed by Jari Juutinen. All characters are acted by the amazing Liisa Sofia Pöntinen, who has convinced me that there is hope within incomprehensible hardships.

I was lucky enough to grab a few words with Liisa, and here is what she had to say about life, the sadsongskomplex:fi and the stage:

HN: How did you meet Jari?

LS: I knew him as an exceptional dramatist and playwright, and as a leader of a theater that smelled like [true] art. Back then, Lappeenranta City Theater was one of the ”hot spots” of Finnish City Theaters, with a high artistic attitude. Juutinen chose very interesting pieces, such as Lars von Trier’s Dogville and contemporary versions of classics.

Straight from acting school I joined his brigade, and I’m happy how things turned out. I had a dream of doing a professional solo performance. Soon I was working with the play written by Kristian Smeds — Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe — that’s directed by Jari Juutinen. Shortly after that, Sad Songs received its first invitations to international festivals. Now in Helsinki, we’ve founded an independent theater company (sadsongskomplex:fi) to continue our interests more freely and artistically, while focusing internationally with artists in Helsinki and abroad.

HN: What draws you to theater and the art of live performance?

LS: The art itself. The mystique. Freedom. Metamorphoses. The demand of quality. Soul. Blood circulation.

Liisa Sofia Pöntinen - Sonya © Aki Loponen.JPG
Photo credits : Aki Loponen, Loma Graphics Oy

HN: Favorite cities in the world?

LS: Prague, Paris, St. Petersbourg…just to mention a few. And Helsinki, of course. My mother studied fine arts in Ateneum in the 1980s, and my father worked as a carpenter in Helsinki, so it’s a very sentimental city for me.

HN: How has it been performing at Koko?

LS: We had a great farewell show there last month, but you’ve got to keep the wheel spinning. Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe will mainly be preformed abroad this year. In France, at Festival Avignon OFF, Sad Songs will be renamed as Murmures de Sonia – Crime et châtiment (Whispers of Sonya – Crime and Punishment), and it will run 24 times in July…in French.

HN: Can you talk a little bit about the sadsongskomplex:fi and your upcoming tour?

LS: We have some big news, but are unable to speak about it yet. But, in the autumn after Avignon, there will be a small tour with Sad Songs from the Heart of Europe in Russia and Eastern Europe. This short tour will be part of Finland’s 100-year jubileum.

The Komplex is sort of an artistic octopus that makes art in all directions simultaneously. We have long-lived theater performances in Tbilisi, Novgorod, Helsinki, and now Avignon… I think it’s very beautiful. It takes my mind to kind of a romantic and rough Shakespearean time when theater caravans were on the move.

I am proud to say that often suffocating topics are being addressed by the sadsongskomplex:fi, and they are powerful. If you love intimacy with live performance — perhaps even some audience participation — then keep a vigorous eye on the Komplex and their movement throughout Europe.

Koko Theater 

Avignon Off Theater Festival 


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