KokoTeatteri was founded by its artistic director, dancer-choreographer Anna Veijalainen, in spring 1997. There were 33 founding members, including dancers, actors, set designers, directors, choreographers and musicians. The idea of KokoTeatteri(Finnish for “the whole theatre”) is to make performances from all areas of art.
The theatre is run by the KokoTeatteri foundation and its board, where artists from all spheres of art work together.
Soon after it was founded, the group grew with lots of famous artists from Finland plus young talents just graduated from the Theatre Academy. The Valopilkku (Beacon of Light)-program on YLE gave Anna Veijalainen and the theatre a prize of the same name in 1997.
In its first year, the theatre had 3 premieres and one world premiere.
The year begun with Armon Arpajaiset – valitus ihanasta maasta, directed by Veijalainen, who was also responsible for the choreography. Armon arpajaiset had its premiere at the Full Moon Dance Festival in Pyhäjärvi, as well as the other choreography that year, Miss Julie now, a solo by Mikko Orpana. In Armon Arpajaiset, the focus was on mythical creatures, like Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and their quest for physical love.
Virve Balk, Niina Viitamäki, Laura Pylkkänen, Janne Marja-Aho, Jussi Nousiainen and Marc Gassot acted and danced in the first ever performance in KokoTeatteri. Miss Julie now was a solo by one man based on the play by August Strindberg.
In her years at the Academy, in 1996, Anna Veijalainen had written a dance theatre play, Seven Hunters in Me-land (Seitsemän Metsästäjää MinäMinäMaassa). By invitation of the Tampere Theatre Summer, this box office hit was transformed into a new version. Seven Hunters was a fantasy play, in which multiple fairytales and heroic sagas came together in a world of physical theatre. The play was also perfomed many times after this, for example at the Moving in November Festival and at the theatre festival of the Nordic Theatre Academies. The heroes of Me-land were Anu Koskinen, Mikko Orpana, Kirsi Saastamoinen, Jukka Rasila, Nina Lehtilä, Jari Järvi and Juha Kortehisto. The unofficial members of the cast, Anna Veijalainen, Tuomo Luhtanen and Janne Marja-Aho substituted the roles in the warm-up version.
The third new play of the year was a dramatised short story by Christine Bruckner, No Memorial for Gudrun Ensslin. The monologue was performed by Anna Veijalainen and directed by Mikko Roiha.
The first year of Koko was filled with Jesus, violence and terrorism. The theatre was exceptionally active from the start. As with all new groups in Finland, the first productions had to be made with almost nothing and funding was applied for intensively but received less so. A place for every performance was found with tenacity.
The theatre grew in the following year. The spring 1998 saw the premiere, in Tampere, of The Three sisters ?! – the end of the game, co-produced with Dance theatre Mobita/Dansco. It a play for dancers, written and directed by Anna Veijalainen. It starred Ari Numminen, with Anniina Kumpuniemi, Mari Rosendahl, Jari Karttunen, Suvi Eloranta and Laura Mäkelä.
Tampere also saw the premiere of Letters from Denmark, written by sound designer Timo Muurinen. It was ordered by the Tampere Biennale and based on Hamlet by William Shakespeare. In the play, the stage was filled by an orchestra, directed to act by Muurinen.
The beginning of the Red Night Clubs at the Cable Factory brought the theatre new challenges. These nights, co-organised with Paarma Inc., where sold out from the start. The performers included bands, theatre groups, dancers and also movies.
In the summer Koko invested in summer theatre. A play by Veijalainen, Nostradamus in Wonderland,was performed in Tomtebo, near Seurasaari.
Mikko Orpana directed and took part in a dance producers’ seminar in New York.
In the beginning of 1999, Ilja Peltonen and Mika Lehtinen perfomed a monologue called the Escapee. It tells the story of a young boy coming back from the army, trying to grow and become himself, struggling between his family, his father and his stepfather. The Escapee was performed in Tampere in Ahaa-theatre.
In the spring of 1999 KokoTheatre got a space from Theatre Venus on Kalevankatu. The unsuitability of the space for theatre use and the lack of technique didn’t stop the process of making fine arts. The first play on Kalevankatu was a dance piece by Mikko Orpana called April, and the second was Per Olof Enquist’s the Night of the Tribads, directed by Anna Veijalainen. It starred Taisto Oksanen and Kristiina Halttu. The Escapee was replaced by Me and the Others (Mie ja muut) by Teatteri Kamiina, written by Altti Outinen.
These performances were not found by the audience. Feelings of disappointment were common. Both plays were loved by the critics, but the unknown stage and minimal pr-budget were the two downfalls.
The rest during the summer holidays helped to find a solution for the coming autumn. Co-productions felt like the best solution. At least then the theatre would have a roof over its head and some help with production costs. The autumn of 1999 saw the premiere of Dear Vincent, written by Pasi Färm, Petri Manninen and Anna Veijalainen, and directed by the latter. The play was the story of an artist, a fan of Vincent van Gogh, and his friends in modern day Helsinki. Dear Vincent was performed in Fredrikintori on a stage owned by Teatteri Raivoisat Ruusut, which also co-produced it. Dear Vincent starred Petri Manninen, Hannu Kivioja, Miina Turunen plus dancers Metsälintu Pahkinen and Virve Balk.
The year 2000 started with a duet by actor Jouko Puolanto and dance artist Minna Kokkonen. They changed professional roles in a play called the Duvet (Peitto). It was about the everyday of a relationship: the small, difficult moments but also the laughter and tenderness. It was performed on Meritullinkatu in Kruununhaka. Koko’s first visit abroad was in 2000, when the aforementioned Miss Julie Now ! went to the Young Artists’ Biennale in Turin, Italy.
In the spring there were three premieres in Ateneum-hall in Helsinki. The first one was a monologue by the name of Eva B, directed by Kirsi Reinola and choreographed by Markku Nenonen. Performed by Anna Veijalainen, it told the story of Eva Braun, the mistress and later wife of Adolf Hitler. The music was played and sung by Sanna Kurki-Suonio.
The second performance was The Madman’s Defence by August Strindberg, directed by Henna Hyttinen and performed by Juha-Erkki Kantsi. The third play in the year 2000 was a new solo by Mikko Orpana, the Working man. The Tampere Theatre Summer called on Koko again, and thus Eva B. was performed there in the summer of 2000. In addition to this, the two first mentioned works of art went to the Free Groups’ Festival in Pori from the 19th to the 22nd September 2000.
In the summer Koko performed Look! Europe! by Mikko Orpana. It was ordered for the Full Moon Festival in Pyhäjärvi. Later it became part of the programme of the Center for new Dance – Zodiak.
Look! Europe! starred Carl Knif, Anne Hiekkaranta, Kaisa Niemi and Tuomas Vierula.
Koko’s vagabond life ended in the spring of 2000 when the community found its own space. Anna Veijalainen, Mikko Orpana and Miina Turunen went to see a run-down, old, darkKekoni’s solo Mini Super Babel by Mikko Orpana, Anna Veijalainen and Mikko Rasila’s Secundum – they who look into the sun plus Karaistus by Kati Kallio, starring Anna Karjalainen, Johanna Rantanen and Mia Malviniemi.
Despite having their own space, Koko performed partly elsewhere. In November 2000, as part of the Outlaws series in the Puoli-Q stage in Töölö, Helsinki, Metsälintu Pahkinen and Iiro Ollila performed two choreographies, There is no Queen and 4 Portraits of a murderer.
In 2000, KokoTheatre also co-operated with Theatre Circus Maximus, also from Helsinki. In the aforementioned Outlaws series, organised by Q-theatre, Maximus played the Hamlet Machine. Guest performers included Anna Veijalainen and Kati Kallio. Towards the end of the year the groups co-produced a play about computer genius Alan Turing. The title role was played by Jussi Lehtonen and it was directed by Miko Jaakkola.
In 2001 the theatre had multiple plays based on a ready script. The programme consisted of nine performances, of which 6 were theatrical and 2 dance performances. The rich year saw one more premiere that had more to do with circus.
Dance was clearly present in the everyday. From February to May, dance artist Metsälintu Pahkinen organised morning training lessons for professionals. The training went on in the autumn for one more month.
The idea of KokoTheatre to try and develope Finnish theatre and dance was visible in the productions that year. Each of the productions combined theatre, dance and singing expertise. Both receptions from the audience and the critics were very positive.
Plays with a ready script included Women on the Brink of Hormone Treatment by Marie Jones, starring Maija-Liisa Peuhu, Irina Milan and Jukka Rasila, directed by Satu Rasila and Deep Joy by Anna Reynolds. Deep Joy was co-produced by Miina Turunen and Yaba Holst together witg KokoTheatre.
It was directed by Holst, starring Miina Turunen, Tommi Eronen, Anna-Maria Klintrupp, Riku Kemppinen and
The third performance was a musical monologue by Kirsi and Marko Reinola, a Christmas card from South Helsinki. It was directed by Kirsi Reinola and all the roles were performed by Marko Reinola. The music in the play was performed by musicians Samuli Laiho, Tomi Nekljudow and Harri Virtamo. Actor Nora Shuller had a statist role. The music in “Christmas Card” was by Tom Waits, translated into Finnish and played by Marko Reinola and Samuli Laiho.
The fourth premiere that year was Cleansed by the deceased British writer Sarah Kane. Cleansed was co-produced by KokoTheatre and Circus Maximus and directed by Mikko Kanninen. It starred Henry Hanikka, Anna Veijalainen, Sami Saikkonen, Lorentz Backman , Jukka Puronlahti and Piitu Uski. Cleansed had a multitude of music performed by a choir led by Sanna Kurki-Suonio. The choir singers where
Taito Hoffren, Hans Toivanen, Hanna-Leena Haapamäki and Rebekka Suninen. The music was composed by sound designer Arttu Kontkanen.
The last performance of the year was a Finnish play. The Dark Woman was written by Susanna Laaksonen and directed by Marika Kuortti. The actors were Anna-Maria Klintrupp, Antero Nieminen, Tarja Omenainen, Metsälintu Pahkinen, Taisto Reimaluoto and child actors Mandi Lampi, Pekka Lehto and Vilma Mattila.
Some new choreographies were also introduced. Anna Veijalainen made a choreography for dance artist Suvi Ruotoistenmäki and a choir. It was called Odonata – related to dragonflies. The choir consisted of Sanna Kurki-Suonio, Tuula Niiranen, Anna Karvonen and Marko Puro. Odonata was premiered at the Full Moon Festival at Pyhäjärvi and performances continued at Koko in the autumn of 2001. Odonata was co produced not only by the festival but also by Masters of Dance, nowadays called MAD.
The other choreography was also a co-production. A solo by dancer Katri Soini, The Girl who always was, was co-produced with Nomadi Productions. The third dance choreography leaned strongly on performance art. It was called 3 so D me, starring Katri Luukkonen and Nina Viitamäk. It was choreographed by Mika Bruun.
The economical situation was still tough. The theatre was still based on passion for art instead of searching for profit. Living with little or no resources was still common. Already in 1999 KokoTheatre started cooperating with multiple small theatre groups, who all demanded a better situation for the so called free field. During the coming years, these groups formed the so called Outlaws group. The theatre people came together as one and started demanding proper funding for the free field.
In the autumn of 2001 the space on Unioninkatu, co-renovated by Koko and Teatteri Kamiina was left to the former. Teatteri Kamiina did not sign the lease agreement, and the whole sum of the rent was left without forewarning for Koko to pay. If the money was short before, now it was really short.
Despite all this, Koko wanted to keep the place on Unioninkatu and decided to stay. The name Room 45 was given up and the whole place was renamed KokoTheatre. The theatre was run by artistic director Anna Veijalainen and her producer Kirsi Reinola.
Koko started co-operating with the Baltic Circle festival, run by Q-teatteri, in 2001. Tnnhe first co-production was a festival of Finnish theatre called “Finnish Case”. The participants included 40 international guests from Europe and the Baltic Region. KokoTheatre was the meeting point of the festival and two performances from the theatre, Cleansed and the Dark Woman, were in the festival program. The festival brought Koko many invitations abroad. The visits could not be carried out, however, because funding for the export of Finnish theatre was extremely difficult. Despite hard work from producer Jukka Hytti, the funding was never received and the dreams of visits abroad had to be buried.
In 2002 The Dark Woman came back. The first new premiere was The Cotton Broom by Mari Mörö and Petri Manninen. Manninen also starred and directed. The other premiere of the spring was David Mamet’s The Forest, directed by Esa-Matti Long (former Pölhö). The actors Anna Veijalainen and Marko Reinola brought the play also to Pori.
A dance group formed the previous year performed a choreography at Zodiak. It was called A Night of
Slavic Irrationalism III. The dancers were Johanna Ekman, Riina Huhtanen, Katri Luukkonen, Metsälintu Pahkinen and Anne Raudaskoski and the music was sung by Anna Karvonen, Ilona Korhonen and Sanna Kurki-Suonio. A string quartet was also present: Outi Iljil, Marjut Kortehisto, Sanna Salmenkallio and Sanna Kaisa Ruoppa.
In the spring Koko had many visitors, including dance group Indictus with choreographies by Ari Kauppila, Teatteririntama with Heidi Räsänen, Marjaana Kuusniemi and Lauran Kosto plus Helka-Maria Kinnunen and her Sadetarinoita-group.
In the autumn Koko celebrated its first five years with a party and a performance gala. The autumn was opened with Sami Ylisaari’s direction of Sam Shepard’s States of Shock. This play, picturing the time after the Gulf War, was tragically timely: it premiered on the day the war in Iraq started. States of Shock starred Henry Hanikka, Sami Saikkonen, Anna Veijalainen, Nina Hyvärinen and Andrei Sandberg.
The next premiere was Mikko Orpana’s Klein, which was also invited to the Full Moon Festival in Pyhäjärvi the following summer. The Klein dancers were Aarni Kivinen, Anna Veijalainen, Anne Hiekkaranta, Anne Raudaskoski and Carl Knif in the title role. Another choreography by Orpana, Red (Punainen) was additionally performed at Koko and accompanied by Nina Viitamäki’s solo Amor! Goddamn! (Amor! Perkele!)
Red starred Orpana himself with Anne Hiekkaranta and musician Taito Hoffren. The last premiere that year was a two-show-night. The first show was a dance monologue by Koko’s own Sami Saikkonen, Mr.Saikkonen’s Basement (Herra Saikkosen kellari). The other one was The Big Shit, a multitude of theatre and dance. It starred Henry Hanikka, Jaakko Saariluoma, Mikko Orpana and Jari Hämäläinen plus Anna Veijalainen in the female roles.
In the autumn Koko had a visit from actor Valtteri Simonen and his Finnish-Russian theatre group with Thunderball (Pallosalama).
In the new year 2003, Koko joined the Theatre Centre as a member theatre to be better able to defend the free field of theatres in Finland.
The spring was opened by A Woman in Berlin, written by Anna Veijalainen and directed by Sami Ylisaari. It was based on an unknown author’s diary in Berlin in the spring of 1945. It starred Anna Veijalainen, Tuula Niiranen and Metsälintu Pahkinen. The male parts were played by Andrei Sandberg. A Woman in Berlin was a box office hit and it tripled the amount of audience usually present in Koko. The play visited Aleksanteri Theatre and during the Finnish Theatre Days in May, there were additional performances at Koko.
Also during the Theatre Days, Koko got visitors from Pori when Rakastajat (Lovers)-theatre came with their Vagina Monologues.
The second premiere that year was co-produced with Circus Maximus. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was directed by Tero Heinämäki and starred Lorenz Backman and Henry Hanikka. In the spring, Koko was visited by Ville Haapasalo and his Frida-group, Helsinki University of Applied Sciences Stadia with Metsälintu Pahkinen and her students plus Aurinkoteatteri with Miira Sippola’s Lapua.
In autumn 2003 KokoTheatre presented Proof by David Auburn. It premiered at the Outlaws (Lainsuojattomat) festival in Pori. Proof was directed by Sami Ylisaari, who had found a home in Koko.
The play was set in the world of mathematics and thanks to the subject, the play was frequented by for example, many university people. Proof starred Tapio Liinoja, Katja Kiuru, Matti Ristinen and Anna Veijalainen.
The other premiere that autumn was a 2-show-night. The Statesman II (Valtiomies II) and the Laugh of the Medusa (Meduusan nauru) were the new works of dancers Mikko Orpana and Metsälintu Pahkinen, respectively. The Statesman II opened Koko’s Finnish-Estonian co-operation with borrowed rapartist-dancer Päär Pärensson. Pärensson was accompanied by Mikko Orpana. The Laugh of the Medusa starred Metsälintu Pahkinen, Anna Veijalainen and Merja Snellman.
The race to the end of the year started in November ‘03, when Koko was taken over by the Baltic Circle-festival. The two plays seen were Finnish-Estonian co-production Taxi Drivers (Taksirengit/Taksojuhid) (Von Krahl Theatre), in which the only Finnish actor was Asko Sahlman and a German-Swiss-Norwegian co-operation Blue Moon (Plasma). In addition to these international performances, KokoTheatre arranged three club nights, of which the first was Höyryklubi with a sauna tent in Siltavuorenranta, Helsinki, the second a Edith Piaf-live music night with Tuula Niiranen and Marko Puro, and the third an evening of machine music with actors Lorenz Backman and Tuomas Rinta-Panttila.
From it’s own programme, Koko presented Proof and A Woman in Berlin at the festival.
The spring ‘04 started with the dance performances from the previous year and a couple of performances of Tuula Niiranen’s Hommage to Piaf, already seen at the Baltic Circle-festival. At the same time, rehearsals were started on Black Battles with Dogs (Neekeri vai koirat) by the French Bernard-Marie Koltes. It was directed by Raija-Sinikka Rantala, a frequent visitor to KokoTheatre. Black battles with Dogs starred Tapio Liinoja, Henry Hanikka, Oskari Perkki and Anna Veijalainen. The other premiere that spring was Cain and Abel (Kain ja Aabel) by Veijalainen, directed by Sami Ylisaari and starring Sami Saikkonen, Andrei Sandberg, Anna Veijalainen and child actor Wilma-Emilia Kuosa. During that spring, actress Katja Kiuru taught a course “Know yourself on stage” and a reading theatre event at Koko’s bar with Antti Jaakola and Matti Ristinen.
In the summer of 2004, a delegaton from KokoTheatre went to Estonia, to the BaltoScandal festival in Rakvere.
September saw the premiere of Disease of Florence (Firenzen tauti), starring Elina Raiskinmäki, Anne Raudaskoski and Tuomas Rinta-Panttila. In November Kom-teksti, Theatre Takomo, KOM-theatre and the Theatre Academy co-produced a reading drama festival together with Koko. The events at Koko were directed by Jari Hietanen and Esa-Matti Long (former Pölhö). Later that year Sarah Kane’s Blasted premiered and performances continued over the new year. Blasted was the second play by Sarah Kane at Koko, and it was directed by Sami Ylisaari. The trio of actors were Henry Hanikka, Ilari Johansson and Anna Veijalainen.
In 2004, for the first time, KokoTheatre could hire a producer. Isabel Gonzalez, who had done an apprenticeship in the autumn of 2003, stayed, first half-day and then a proper dayjob. Her presence ment a lot to the theatre. The other half-day-worker was director Sami Ylisaari. The small staff has included, from the start, artistic director Anna Veijalainen. She has worked during the years on many grants for the benefit of KokoTheatre. And, so typically for the free field, also for free.
The year began with Koko’s own Henry Hanikka directing The Road to Nirvana (Tie Nirvanaan). Hanikka got hold of the script via an email sent to Anna Veijalainen by writer Vesa Hämes. In the text field of the email, Hämes wrote: “I translated this thing to somebody else, who, however, thought it was too rough to start rehearsing. I assume you will not have these restrictions.” Hanikka wanted the play and hired actors Anna Veijalainen, Tarja Heinula, Matti Onnismaa and Jari Nissinen. The Road to Nirvana is about a crazy rockstar and movie producers trying to exploit him. Swear words are plenty, nuns sell drugs and the two movie producers fight for their hopes and dreams , their fight including self-harm and eating human feces.
The other world premiere in the spring was actor Matti Ristinen’s play On Nothing – or How I met Einstein (Tyhjän päällä – eli kuinka tapasin Einsteinin). The play joked with video art alongside the plot on stage. It also played with the relationships of the different characters played by Ristinen and the layers of the story.
The big autumn premiere was Koko’s first Baltic play, The Neighbour (Kaimynas,1998) by the Lithuanian Marius Ivaskevius. The author Ivaskevius knew director Veijalainen from the Baltic Circle-festival. The Neighbour starred Minna Puolanto, Mikko Orpana, Henry Hanikka, Jarkko Sarjanen, Tommi Liski, Pinja Flink, Virve Balk and Pirjo Moilanen. It was translated by Jussi Lehtonen. The Neighbour combined
dance, physical theatre, acrobatics, visual storytelling and a beautiful layered sound world by Koko’s sound designer Juha Tuisku. All this was very characteristic to both Koko and Veijalainen as a director. Metti Nordin’s beautiful set design could be used for many purposes. The costumes by Heidi Lågas represented a world at the end of the Soviet period and the beginning of an independent Lithuania. The theme of being neighbours was handled as a family matter, a living-centered philosophical question. The absurd text by Ivaskevius gave room for the actors to work diversely.
The Baltic Circle festival in 2005 was in November. Koko had visitors from Norway and, at many evening clubs, many foreign theatre artists. Koko presented the Neighbour at the festival, and Ivaskevius was also present.
After the critics praised the Neighbour, Koko started looking for more Baltic texts. After the Anglo-American years it felt refreshing and meaningful to present and solve new texts, varying from the usual foreign material played at Finnish theatres. The Lithuanian and Estonian texts were filled with absurdism, joy and playfulness.
In addition to its own productions, Koko made three co-productions with different groups. The first one of these was a solo by actress Meri Nenonen, Itselaukaisin, played also at the Outlaws (Lainsuojattomat) festival in Pori. The other co-production was directed by Jari Hietanen, a poem reading night of Henryk Skolimowski’s, Michel Serres’ and Wislawa Szymborska’s poems, read by Ella Keranto, Paavo Kerosuo and Antti Virmavirta. The third co-production was a dance work, Arja Tiili’s choreography No-one, which starred Giorgio Convertito, Heidi Lehtoranta, Kaisa Niemi and Esete Sutinen.
In addition to these, the year brought many visitors to Koko. From 2005 onward, the visiting performances have been a big part of the operation of the theatre.
In 2005, the economical situation was good enough to pay artistic director Anna Veijalainen wage for 5 months plus for the whole year 2006. The staff for the plays were hired per production in accordance with collective bargaining. The producer of the theatre was a paid employee.
The spring 2006 opened with Finnish absurdism. Director Janne Tapper, a visitor to Koko, did a play by two journalists, Mattiesko Hytönen and Matti Linnavuori. It was called the Search for the lost Baseball (Kadonnutta pesäpalloa etsimässä). Looking at the core of being a Finn, the play presented a Finnish-American man, Michael, adventuring in his ancestor’s Finland guided by his father’s ghost. It was full of crossfire between Russia and the U.S, poems from the Kalevala, choir singing and hiphop. The actors on this quest for lost Finnishness and the baseball were Asko Sahlman, Pinja Flink, Sesa Lehto, Antti Lang, Matti Onnismaa, Anna Veijalainen and Pirjo Moilanen. Musician Maija Kaunismaa played the piano and practised singing with the actors.
The second world premiere of the year was an example of societal group theatre. Anna Veijalainen dramatised 5 monologues from Anna Politkovskaja’s book Putin’s Russia. The monologues were directed by Veijalainen and Johanna Hammarberg. They were co-produced by Koko, Teatteri Vanha Juko from Lahti and Like Publishers, who have published a lot of Politkovskaja’s books.
The themes of the monologues varied from an army major’s destiny to a dead Chechen girl. The actors telling these stories were Koko’s Pirjo Moilanen, Anna Veijalainen and Pinja Flink plus Jarkko Mikkola and Markus Ranta (Vanha Juko). Actor Sami Lanki joined later on and had a silent part.
Politkovskaja, a Russian journalist and human rights activist, gave her support to the monologues for example by not accepting any copyright fees. On the night of the premiere, the author was ill and promised to come later in the autumn. Tragically, she could not keep her promise as she was brutally slain. Koko’s conversational events after each performance were changed into memorials for the author. They were attended by many journalists, politicians, human right activists and artists.
Life went on. In the autumn of ‘06, Koko premiered Romeo and Juliet by Andrus Kivirähk from Estonia. This version presented Romeo as an idiot shepherd and Juliet as a deer. Romeo (Sesa Lehto) and Juliet (Anna Veijalainen) were accompanied by Asko Sahlman and Tommi Liski plus students Sauli Suonpää (Theatre Academy) and Jenni Kokkomäki (Stadia Univ. of Applied Sciences). Director Mikko Kaukolampi had help from the actors. The play included a lot of music, composed by Koko’s Maija Kaunismaa.
Dance productions also continued. The next show was a 2-choreography-night by young female choreographs Heidi Masalin and Virva Talonen. The premieres were done in cooperation with the groups. Masalin’s Hotel Oblivion (Hotelli Unohdus) was performed by Satu Elovaara, Lilja Lehmuskallio and Satu Rekola. The other dance act was called Second hand shop. The choreography was by Virva Talonen and the dancers were Sofia Karlsson, Esete Sutinen and Vera Tegelman.
The tenth year begun with Mikko Orpana’s Petty Criminals (Pikkurikollisia), which he also choreographed and directed. The performers were Sofia Karlsson, Tommi Liski, Heli Meklin and Orpana himself. The musician in the play was Åke Denver aka Tuomas Rinta-Panttila. In the making of Petty Criminals, the group had collected news items of petty criminals, which abound in Finnish newspapers. You know, the robber who gets stuck in the chimney or the quarrelling gang of criminals who get caught on site.The artistic director Anna Veijalainen had the year 2007 off as a sabbathical. During the year she wrote a book, The collective scene – 10 years of KokoTheatre (Joukkokohtaus – KokoTeatteria 10 vuotta), published by the theatre and the aforementioned Like publishing.
Koko’s 10-year birthday play was The Man from the Drying Barn (Riihiukko). It was dramatised by Veijalainen and Jarkko Mikkola. Directed by Veijalainen, it starred Pinja Flink, Maija Kaunismaa, Sesa Lehto, Tommi Liski, Jukka Manninen, Mikko Orpana, Elisa Piispanen, Minna Puolanto, Juha Svahn and Edvard Lammervo (Stadia Univ. of Applied Sciences).
The Man from the Drying Barn is an absurd Estonian play set in the time of the land reform.People interact with different evil forces. People build “krats” out of rubbish and stuff they don’t need and buy a spirit for each one from the Devil. Lying and cheating are common and everybody is a con artist. The play served as an allegory of modern day life. In Koko’s adaptation, an actor could have up to ten roles.
The play featured lots of new songs by Maija Kaunismaa plus a multitude of dance and physical theatre. The choreography was built as a co-operation between the actors and director.
As the Outlaws Festival came closer, Koko decided to take part with Romeo and Juliet and the Man from the Drying Barn. Theatre orchester Pihlaja played a musical potpourri called Greetings from Andrus Kivirähk. Pihlaja consisted of Tommi Liski, Jukka Manninen, Maija Kaunismaa and singer Anna Veijalainen.
As far as festivals go, the Baltic Circle in November brought Koko visitors from Norway. The Verk Produsjoner-group came with their play Ifigenia. As always, Koko hosted many Baltic Circle clubs and seminars.
The year 2007 saw also the dawn of regular club evenings. Helsinki Meeting Point – an improvisation club for modern dance and music was arranged troughout the year once a month.
Stories were told in Wednesday Club in the spring, arranged twice and hosted by actress Sanna Stellan.
The second dance production that year was a co-production between Koko and the group led by Reetta-Kaisa Pirhonen and William Iles. Strange Fish Bits (Kumman kalan paloja) was performed by Alpo Aaltokoski, Esete Sutinen and Eero Vesterinen.
The spring also saw a co-production, the Narcissist (Narsisti) by Taina West. It was directed by Henry Hanikka and the actors were Katriina Honkanen, Paavo Kerosuo, Aarni Kivinen, Minna Koskela and Maija Kaunismaa.
KokoTheatre had now been in existence for 10 years. It had established its own way of being through having a home and an own stage. The regular performing of both theatre and dance was running at about 3-4 productions and about 150 performances per year, including visitors. The base of funding for the theatre has grown from the initial 20 000 mark grant, shared by the whole group, operating grants from the National Council for Theatre and the National Council for Circus and Dance (in 2007, total of 64 000€), the Cultural and Library Committee of the City of Helsinki (in 2007 26 000 €) plus the theatre’s own income (in 2007, 129 249 €). In 2007, after 10 years of service, 5 person-years total were realised at Koko.
The year 2008 began with a modern Russian drama the Chicken (Kuritsa, 1989), which continued on the path of the Lithuanian and Estonian drama performed earlier. The ensemble of the Chicken was exceptionally international, as was the whole year. The Chicken was directed by Russian-born director Viktor Drevitski, bringing with him not only the Stanislavskian tradition but also a Finnish-Russian set designer, Riitta Hakkarainen. The Chicken starred Sesa Lehto, Pinja Flink, Jukka Manninen and Anna Veijalainen and guest starring an Estonian actress, Eva Klemets. The Chicken is a love-and-fury-filled story about a small rural theatre. The new star, a young actress brings along a hurricane with all male actors courting her and their wives wanting to know the truth.
In Koko’s adaptation the small theatre was of course the KokoTheatre in Helsinki and the new actress came from across the bay (Tallinn).
The Chicken visited the Kolyada plays-festival in Yekaterinburg and the DOC Theatre in Moscow by invitation of the author Nikolai Kolyada. The adaptation was received with standing ovations and the Kolyada Plays-festival awarded the Chicken.
The other world premiere was Mikko Orpana’s Machine. The performers constituted a multi-faceted ensemble as all who had something to do with the making of it were part of the actual performance on stage. In addition to choreographer-dancer Orpana, the ensemble constituted of light designer Juho Rahijärvi, video artist-dancer Taavet Jansen (Estonia), rap-artist-dancer Päär Pärenson (Estonia) and sound designer and noise musician Renzo van Steenbergen (Holland). Man-Machine researched the differences and similarities between man and machine and the fact that they live side by side in this world.
Man-Machine made two visits abroad during 2008, the first to Estonia (Tallinn) and the second to Germany (Giessen).
A third play also premiered in autumn 2008. It was a performance by three women: author Sofi Oksanen, musician Maija Kaunismaa and artistic director Anna Veijalainen. It was called High Heels Society. The base of the performance were songs composed by Kaunismaa (lyrics by Oksanen), performed by Veijalainen and Kaunismaa. Around the songs, the ensemble had collected a performance combining cabaret, political theatre, talk show-, stand up-, and improvisation theatre.
The play talked about violence against women, the sexual molestation of children and the women’s own experiences of violence and bullying. High Heels Society was about the expectations against women by women, in the media and in books. The way of looking at these expectations was self-ironical and tragic.
High Heels society involved a lot of video material, done by the ensemble and light designer Juho Rahijärvi.
Co-productions also continued that year. The Helsinki Meeting Point-clubs continued and the Baltic Circle-festival was held in the spring instead of November. During the festival, Koko presented co-produced musical theatre, a series of dance performances and lots of plays. The first one of these was Hildegard Kneff-happiness knows only minutes (Hildegard Kneff – onni tuntee vain minuutteja), directed by Raila Leppäkoski and written by Taina West. It was about the German singer star Hildegard Kneff, whose life compares to another diva, the Finnish grand old man of modern dance, Jorma Uotinen. Uotinen played himself in the performance, along with Satu Paavola, Maija Kaunismaa, Sanna Uusitalo, Ilkka Villi and Eeppi Ursin, who also composed the music.
Happiness Knows only Minutes was part of a series called Memory Traces, which also included Kaunismaa’s concert A Moment inside the Wind (Hetki tuulen sisällä), a puppetry show by Satu Paavola (Bette’Sis O’Valley) and a flamenco performance by choreographer Rafaela Carrasco, called Estados Del Yo.
The other co-production was a three-show-night KokoTheatre Dances, in which three new Finnish choreographies were introduced. They were made by Alpo Aaltokoski, Ulla Koivisto and Sinikka Gripenberg. The co-producer in these performances was Alpo Aaltokoski Company.
The spring 2009 brought with it extra performances of High Heels Society. HHS was big at the box office, questions of gender roles and violence interested a wide audience. The new performance that spring was Mikko Orpana’s Visible Volumes, in which he danced himself alongside Katri Soini.
The new play on the theatre side was Carlos Corostiza’s the Tango Singer (Tangolaulaja), directed by Viktor Drevitski. It was co-produced by theatre ensemble Koitos. The Tango Singer starred Asko Sahlman and Jukka Manninen.
The second new production was the King Trilogy (Kuningastrilogia). The concept was made by the ensemble, Tommi Liski, Markus Alanen and Mirva Jantunen. The King Trilogy was an example of new stage esthetics.
The autumn saw the premiere of the Devil of Syktyvkar (Syktyvkarin piru), written by Teemu Kaskinen and directed by Anna Veijalainen. Drilling into the Russian society and the country’s complex soul, the text got its starting spark right in Koko in 2005. The author had been sitting and watching the Neighbour (see above), when he started thinking about the Finnish drama tradition as part of an Eastern European tradition.
The other premiere that autumn was La Voix Humaine, starring Laura Pyrrö, a famous opera singer. It broadened Koko’s horizon from theatre and dance to opera. La Voix Humaine was directed by Maria Oiva (nèe Ruostepuro).
Towards the ends of the end of the year, director Helena Kallio and actors Jussi Nikkilä, Hneikki Kujanpää and Anna Veijalainen premiered their play Star Ripped from a Flag (Lipusta revitty tähti). It combined moments from the lives of Anna Politkovskaja, Miklos Gimes, Jan Palach, Betty Peltonen and Yrjö Kallinen. The Baltic Circle festival went back to its own place in November.
The spring ‘10 was shorter than normal because the house in which the theatre was in decided to fix the plumbing. Before that started, Koko had time to perform extra shows of the Star Ripped from A Flag plus a new show called Luxury Bitches (Luksusmuijat), written by the ensemble: director Sesa Lehto and actresses Anna Veijalainen and Pinja Flink.
Luxury bitches was a pamphlet about sexual violence against women and girls in Finland, domestic violence and anger management issues suffered by women. The material for the play was collected from the own experiences of the group and from the never-ending sources of the internet and blogs.
At the same time as the plumbing was renovated, during the summer and spring, the staff renovated the theatre itself to be better suitable for its purposes. The lobby was connected with the bar and a complete surface renovation was made. On the stage, the framework was renewed and all the floors were reprocessed.
Living with the timetables of the renovation turned out to be difficult and both the programme and the timetables had to be changed over and over again. The losers of the renovation period were, not just the people at Koko but all the visitors, as shows had to be cancelled.
But out of everything bad comes something good. The remodelling of the lobby started the idea of Koko Jazz Club in August 2010. The repertoire designed by Timo Hirvonen and Jussi Lehtonen sparked interest right from the start. Before Koko Jazz Club, there was no high-class place to play and listen to jazz in Helsinki. Just like dance years before, jazz was a good companion for theatre at Koko.
In the autumn there were three world premieres. Shadow Finlandia (Varjofinlandia), written by Anna Veijalainen, was about two Secretaries of Treasury trying to save Finland. It starred Sesa Lehto as Jyrki Katainen and Eeva Putro as Iiro Viinanen. Shadow Finlandia started from a poem collection of the same name, sent to Veijalainen by poet Karri Kokko. The long trip between a poem collection and a whole night play was travelled together with the director and actors. Veijalainen wrote the play in the end.
The second premiere was Ari Wahlsten’s Don Hamlet, based on Shakespeare’s saga of the prince of Denmark. It got its inspiration from the mafia world. Towards the end of the year, Koko premiered Sleeping is for the Dead, a physical monologue about motherhood, starring Minna Puolanto and directed by Anna Veijalainen.
Just when all the renovations were supposed to be finished, the housing association got ever so excited. The next renovation made things even more difficult and eventually closed the stage. It concerned the road through the yard and the yard deck, regrettably situated next to the stage door. Short notice: empty the warehouses, rearrange your schedules and cancel all the visiting performances. The economical and emotional losses were great. The programme of 2011 consisted of Sleeping is for the Dead (extra performances) and Vote for me! (Äänestä mua!), a play inspired by the parlamentary election in the spring. The programme for the autumn had to be renewed with three days’notice when the renovation was late once again. In the end the whole Koko consisted of the small Jazz Club stage in the lobby. There, the theatre premiered The Thin Man (Laiha Mies), a visiting performance by Eero Ojala and The Professionals, in which Koko’s house band (Timo Hirvonen, Jussi Lehtonen and Severi Pyysalo) made their debut on stage alongside actor Henry Hanikka.
Koko Jazz Club on the other hand became stronger: live music was performed twice a week and international, big names played alongside Finnish top musicians.
Eventually Veijalainen & co. decided to look for a better place in Helsinki for the theatre-jazzclub. Luckily, such a place was available in the former Swedish Culture Centre, on Hämeentie in Hakaniemi. Moving to the new facilities was a happy end to the year and a welcome change after the eleven years in Kruunuhaka. The winds of change blew just before the 15th anniversary year 2012.
The anniversary year started with a self-performed miracle. The new facilities on Hämeentie were fixed and ready for action at the end of January. The theatre had a new stage, so did the jazz club. The new bar and lobby, office and 2 rehearsal rooms were being fixed. On the 3rd of February, everything was ready for the opening party and the 15th birthday. The anniversary year programme was started with The Fallen (Pudonneet), directed by Minna Puolanto and written by Anna Veijalainen. The story about a homeless man and his nephew starred Henry Hanikka and Paavo Veijalainen.
The other world premiere was SuperheroINE (SupersankariTAR) by Laura Gustafsson. Directed by Henry Hanikka, it starred Minna Puolanto and Pinja Flink with a house band (Kari Ikonen, piano, Timo Hirvonen, bass and Jussi Lehtonen, drums). SuperheroINE also visited the Outlaws-festival in Pori. The play was a
feminist comedy about the mysterious Alma Bang.
The autumn season started with communal art. The Mirror (Peili)-production was made in cooperation with the Lilinkoti-foundation. Professional actors and musicians performed with survivors of mental health problems and the result was a touching and funny journey to the human mind.
The last premiere of the season was a new version of the monologue by Anna Veijalainen, A Monument for Gudrun Ensslin (Ei Muistomerkkiä Gudrun Ensslinille) by Christine Bruckner. The original, premiering in 1997, was directed by Mikko Roiha. Now the partner and director for Veijalainen was Maria Oiva.
The co-existence of the theatre and the jazz club was peaceful from the start, because the jazz concerts started as late as 9 pm. Nowadays it’s possible to have theatre and jazz on the same evening, as there are no residential apartments in the entire block.
Anna Veijalainen had a daughter in 2012. During her mothering leave (1 year), Timo Hirvonen, head of Koko Jazz Club, acted as artistic director for the theatre.