Garage, written by Mika Myllyaho, comes to London as a part of the New Nordics festival in March. The play’s themes range from male friendship to social stratification and political polarisation. They come across as acutely topical in post-Brexit Britain.
It’s been over ten years since you wrote your previous plays. What made this a good time to create something new?
I have been running the Finnish National Theatre since 2010, which is why writing new plays hasn’t been at the top of my priorities. I don’t identify solely as a playwright so this hasn’t been a problem for me. Actors Jukka-Pekka Palo and Seppo Pääkkönen approached me and asked if I could write them something and that’s how Garage came into existence. I like to write about topics that I have a personal connection to. My own background served as an inspiration also for this play. When I was younger I went to vocational school and only later attended the Theatre Academy of Finland. With this play I wanted to explore the tensions between highly educated people and those with lower educational backgrounds. It might not be said out loud but people often judge others based on their profession or level of education. In Garage this is explored through looking at the relationship between two old friends. The play shows how it is possible first to play together and then profoundly insult one another when internalised attitudes and prejudices come to the surface.
Do you think Garage will work well within the British context?
I think Garage will do well in Britain. Many Brexit related topics, such as social stratification and political polarisation are present in the dialogue between the two main characters. I think it will be easy to relate to these conversations. It was not straightforward to adapt some aspects of Finnish society to British context. With Lucie Dawkins, the director of the English version of the Garage, we talked a lot about the different educational systems in the two countries, and how challenging it is to make sure important nuances are not lost in the adaptation. It was interesting to learn that, for instance, in Britain a person’s social class can be derived from their accent.
What brings Garage to London?
Garage is brought to London as a part of the New Nordics festival. The festival was looking for British directors to direct Nordic plays and out of all the applications they received, it was Lucie that was chosen to do the play. She wanted to come visit Finland and discuss the text and her interpretation of it. In Helsinki she also saw plenty of Finnish plays. English theatre culture is very strong, and it is hard to get your foot in the door when you come from outside. What’s good about the New Nordics festival is that its goal is to bring different kinds of texts to London and open doors to foreign artists. Lucie is very competent and sophisticated, she has, for example, translated and directed Greek tragedies to English. It would be great if it was possible to sustain this contact and work together on other projects in the future.
How do you think the British audience will respond to the play?
Even though the play deals with societal themes, there is still a lot of comedy in it. Garage has been described as a harsh comedy and tragicomedy. The characters are ordinary people and very relatable. My intention was to explore how people experience the world and how they might see each other in different ways. It always delights me when my humour and the way I write works in different places. I hope this is the case in England, too.
What plans do you have for Garage after London?
Garage has been performed in a number of Finnish cities and also abroad, for instance in Tallinn. It has now been translated into Danish and I just sent the script to Budapest. It’s always great when your work is wanted abroad. Still, conquering the world is not a priority for me so I don’t have a need to get my plays to run in specific places. When a play is translated and it travels abroad, it sort of starts living its own life and it is a bit of a consequence where it ends up. When it comes to the future, it’s also sure that it won’t take me ten years to put out a new play!
Written by Mika Myllyaho, English translation Eva Buchwald, directed by Lucie Dawkins
20/3 at 7:30pm
The Yard Theatre, Unit 2A, Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN
Text: Eeva Lehtonen