This 120 years old feminist play is, sadly, still very topical, says director Katalin Trencsényi.
The idea of bringing Anna-Liisa to the UK audience arose when Trencsényi was teaching Minna Jeffery at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Jeffery (who is named after Minna Canth) translated Anna-Liisa as part of her dissertation.
“The play’s very contemporary, feminist message caught my attention, not to mention the fact that not many 19th century female playwrights’ works are shown on stage”, says Trencsényi. “Minna Canth’s work is as important as her male contemporaries’ Chekov’s or Strindberg’s writings. Minna Jeffery’s fresh and modern translation does justice to this great drama”, she adds.
Anna-Liisa (1895) is about the way society restrains women, by creating a rigid framework for their existence. Those who decide to ignore this can only do so at their peril. Unfortunately, little has changed since its premiere, says Trencsényi.
“Sadly, a lot of women in our society today are still trying to navigate the system, facing similar issues. In the UK we are celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage movement, which is great, but there is still a long way to go.”
The performance was supported by the Finnish Institute in London.
“Minna Canth was an incredible woman and social activist, a way ahead of her time”, says director of the Institute, Pauliina Ståhlberg.
According to Trencsényi, the version that will be shown for the first time for a British audience at RADA’s Wolfson Gielgud Theatre on Saturday, 7 July, honours Canth’s original script.
“But there is a surprise in the end – our 21st century footnote to the drama.”
Minna Canth (1844–1897) is one of Finland’s most celebrated writers. Her prolific body of work, made up of short stories, novellas, and journalism, as well as plays, tackles women’s rights and social inequality. Having been widowed aged 35, Canth was left to raise her seven children and manage the family’s draper’s shop in Kuopio. She did all of this whilst maintaining a successful writing career and getting involved in politics and activism.
Text: Ninni Lehtniemi
Photo: Lilla Khoór
More information https://www.rada.ac.uk/whats-on/anna-liisa/?ref=rada-festival-2018