Saari – The Island was succesfully performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 23-29, 2010 at the Zoo Venues. The actors in the performance are Kaisa Niemi and Yuko Takeda, script and direction is by Miira Sippola.

Theatre Review: Saari The Island at the Zoo

By Roger Cox, published 28/8/2010

IN THE middle of the stage, a grey pebble sits alone at the bottom of a glass fish tank. The cries of seabirds fill the air. An angry woman starts shouting at them in Japanese.

Then another woman starts singing folksongs in Finnish. If Beavis and Butthead were made to sit through this production from Helsinki’s Myllyteatteri company, they would spend most of the time wearing the horrified, uncomprehending expressions they usually reserve for the music of Michael Bolton.

However, if you’re willing to let your mind wander and fill in some of the blanks in what must surely be the most enigmatic production on this year’s Fringe, you’ll find Saari has a surprising amount to say about solitude, companionship and what it means to be human.

Yuko Takeda, speaking mostly in Japanese, and Kaisa Niemi, speaking mostly in Finnish, are two women who both seem to have travelled to the same remote island in search of solitude. At first they are distrustful of each other and try to keep to themselves, but gradually a bond forms between them as they weather storms together and tell stories.

Unless you speak Finnish, Japanese and English you won’t have a clue what’s going on here for about 75 per cent of the time but, if you’re patient, you’ll find your mind does some interesting things as it tries to make sense of it all.

Saari at Zoo, posted by Lorna Frost, Mon 30 Aug 2010

From silence to speech


An inhabitant of a remote, waveswept island is wracked by loneliness and despair, forlorn, driven even to talk to the birds to interrupt the emptiness. The arrival of a newcomer, tense and neurotic, speaking a different langauage, intent only on demarcating territory and staying apart, seems to promise little.

Yuko Takeda and Kaisa Niemi are powerful and captivating in communicating solitude, effort, despair and cooperation, interest in others, trust and joy in this piece written and directed by Miira Sippola. Everything is elemental and simple, emphasised by the monotones of the set, greys and fawns, reflecting water, fire, stone. Chants and song and lighting are used effectively to tell the story, the haunting sweet sadness of nightfall, the contrast of stillness and movement. The sound by Johanna Storm is perfect.

Gradually we build up a picture of personal memories, collective folk memory, social mores and laws, the intimate relationship of the island dwellers with the water and the other creatures, frogs, seals, who live on and around it. The characters are no longer islands but come to value and love one another. The company succeeds in its aim of communicating something that is forgotten and common to everything living on earth.

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