Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Being a Fan

Yesterday, I saw a play about a tail-less cat called Pekka Töpöhäntä. In Sweden, where he's from, he's called Pelle Svanslös. In English, he's known as Peter-No-Tail. He is often teased because of his eponymous lack of tail, but in the end, he always prevails over the bullies and shows us that kindness is the right way to go.

No, I'm not having a theatre burnout manifesting itself in a confused way. This isn't a nostalgia trip either – I didn't even like Pekka Töpöhäntä as a kid.

Instead, I have a favourite actor.

This guy here.

The path that eventually lead to me watching a show about the adventures of a tail-less cat begun when I first saw Jekyll & Hyde in Turun kaupunginteatteri. I can't remember the exact moment when I thought that hmm, here's someone who I want to see in everything they'll do from now on. But seeing how I gave Severi Saarinen a thumbs-up for is portrayal of John Utterson in my J&H review, I suspect it was theatrical love at first sight.

Jekyll & Hyde is a story about a man who literally rips his soul in half, and I find his lawyer friend the most fascinating character of the show? Yep. Partially, I suppose whoever's responsible for the changes in the script is to thank for: the Turku production had a revised script that gave Utterson plenty more lines than any of the other versions I've seen bootlegs of. Usually, the character's there just to give Jekyll someone to talk to. But here, he actually had a personality of his own, even in the script.

But it was of course the performance that made me fall in love with the character. Utterson felt so three-dimensional, so real, and so did his relationship with Jekyll. By the end of the show, my heart broke for all the characters, but especially for Utterson. I ended up seeing Jekyll & Hyde seven times, and while I loved the show as a whole and adored all the actors, I paid one particular performance extra attention each time.

After Jekyll & Hyde, I've indeed seen Saarinen in everything he's done. It's been a mixed bag of productions, with a couple of shows I definitely would not have seen otherwise. Wanting to see a favourite actor is as good reason as any to broaden my theatrical horizons, I guess! And still, no matter if it's a play for adults or a cat musical for kids, his performances have always been a joy to watch.

Another blogger said it beautifully. I quote:
do you ever get theatre crushes where you don’t necessarily fancy the person but you just fall in love with their performances and their singing and their stage presence and character interpretation and you could go on about how amazing they are for hours and hours and you know you’re gushing but you don’t care because they’re just so amazing at what they do

Glad there's a grand total of two photos available of Saarinen in J&H.

Despite all the theatre I see, it is not all that often I encounter someone whose acting lights up the stage for me like this. There are countless actors I really enjoy watching, people whose talents I truely admire – and then a few who touch my soul. It cannot be explained with reason, and it's such a personal opinion that I don't really even mind if others don't quite get my feelings. But I can feel the magic every time I sit in the darkened auditorium watching their performances.

And that is why I ended up watching a play about a tail-less cat showing others that bullying is not the right thing to do.

Photos by Kari Sunnari and Robert Seger.
Suomalaiset lukijat voivat vilkaista täältä, mitä mieltä olin Pekka Töpöhännästä.


  1. I completely understand going to see something just because your favorite is in it. When someone makes that much of an impact on you, you want to see everything they can do!

    I'm curious, do you ever stick around and try to meet them afterwards?

    1. Exactly!

      As for sticking around, I don't, not in the traditional waiting at the stagedoor way. Stagedooring is not really a thing in Finland. I've heard of couple of instances where people have stagedoored here, but personally, I've never done that. I've a feeling Finnish actors might think it's more creepy than charming if someone stands out there waiting for them...

      I've gotten chances to say hello to some of my favourite actors anyway, though. A couple of times, I've asked theatre personnel to ask the actors if they'd have time for a little meeting after the show. And recently, some theatres have been inviting me to events for the members of the press, and to some premieres. All good places for meeting your favourites! (And for babbling something incoherent to them because you're so starstruck and hoping the point comes across anyway.)

      But yeah, in general, meeting actors here can be a little more complicated than in countries with stagedooring culture... Hmm. This is turning into a ramble. Maybe I should write a full post about this sometimes. Thanks for the question! :D

    2. Ha, a full post about the peculiar nature of stagedoor culture would be interesting. You said some actors might think it's more creepy, and I know I do sometimes feel a bit creepy when I'm stagedooring. For the longest time, I didn't even know it was not only something you could do but something that lots of people actually did do.