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The Sauna

at Summerhall

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A Finnish pastime is given a mask and physical theatre makeover.

Image of The Sauna

From Start to Finish is a selection of six performances at the Edinburgh Fringe from a variety Finnish companies. It is an eclectic mix of shows and the physical theatre performance The Sauna combines a traditional Finnish past time with innovative mask performance and sound design. In Finland the sauna is considered to be sacred place and there is a supernatural element to the show. This otherness is presented with the use of masks, puppetry and object manipulation. 

The masks are understated and pale in colour. They cover the face of the performer, only leaving a gap for the eyes. The expression of the eyes give so much away. As the stage lights hit off the surface of the eyes, they reveal the inner emotion of the characters. He we see amazement, desire, confusion and contemplation. The Sauna is more than just a place of relaxation. The coals that heat the sauna come alive with movement. Object manipulation acts as a form of torment for the protagonist. With no dialogue or speech the performance relies on physical theatre to underline the emotions of the show and to present this torment. 

The two performers (Iika Hartikainen and Johanna Kultala) embody two old women, one of which intends to pass away peacefully at the sauna. Riina Tikkanen uses a singing bowl, harmonica and an array of objects to present live sound effects. This adds a comedic element to the performance and heightens the impact of mundane activities, such as moving a tired and lethargic body across a bench. 

The Sauna is a short performance, at only 45 minutes or so in length. Within this short duration the performers have presented a Finnish tradition in a distinctive and exciting method.  From Start to Finish have brought an actual sauna to Summerhall and it is open every evening for participants to enter and recreate the magic of the show. As far as promotional items go it’s quite an impressive one, and may be a total different experience to the excellent physical theatre performance that is The Sauna.