Sofi Oksanen (1977), a Finnish-Estonian writer and playwright, is considered a celebrity figure of contemporary European fiction. In her work she keeps revisiting a painful period of Estonian history marked by the Soviet and Nazi occupations. She is a also committed advocate of gender equality and an activist on behalf of LGBT people.
Her debut novel Stalin's Cow (2003), a brilliant depiction of Estonia in the 20th century, won her the recognition of Northern European readers and critics. Her international breakthrough came not long thereafter with the play Purge which premiered on 7 February 2007 in the Finnish National Theatre. A year later she adapted it into a novel which has been translated into more than 50 languages, including Slovenian (translated by Bibi Ovaska Presetnik). The novel made Oksanen one of the most prominent authors of her generation. In 2012, the Finnish National Opera presented an opera based on the novel. It was turned into a movie, a Finnish candidate for a foreign language Oscar.
With Purge, Oksanen crafted a poignant play that draws a rather different picture of the post-war and recent Estonia as is painted by official history. The story is told non-chronologically, alternating between the period of the Soviet occupation of Estonia at the end of the Second World War and the 1990s when Estonia declared its independence. The scenes present the events that occurred at the end of WWII, a period of great power shifts, until the period of transition following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The main protagonists are two women of different generations, Allide Truu, a simple old woman living a completely isolated life in the Estonian countryside, and Zara, a victim of human trafficking on the run from pitiless pimps. Under different jurisdictions, both women have experienced extreme violence, and have been struggling ever since to survive in the repressive world of extremely limited opportunities. Aliide finds a badly beaten and unconscious Zara in front of her house. It turns out that the women are related. Zara is the granddaughter of Aliide’s sister Ingel. When meeting young Zara, Aliide is forced to face her painful and cruel past and the crimes she committed due to her treachery. Aliide and Zara are scarred by different periods of Estonian history. Both have experienced the horrors of Soviet Estonia and have the same goal: how to survive within male political structures, and face the loss of personal and social freedom.
Purge is a gripping, harsh and cruel play about the cost of survival in a dehumanized and cruel repressive system. It is also a play about love, betrayal and sacrifice. It raises many questions about one’s intimate decisions and political responsibility in repressive regimes.
Translator Julija Potrč Šavli
Director Jari Juutinen
Dramaturg Alja Predan
Set Designer Teemu Nurmelin
Costume Designer Tinja Salmi
Composer and Sound Designer Ville Hyvönen
Lighting Designer Teemu Nurmelin
Language Consultant Jože Volk
Video Designers Teemu Nurmelin and Ville Hyvönen
Movement Coach Boris Ostan
Assistant Director Eva Kokalj
Aliide Truu, aged about 70 Živa Selan
Young Aliide Truu, aged about 20 Živa Selan
Zara, aged about 22 Maša Grošelj
Hans Pekk, Ingel's husband Luka Bokšan
Martin Truu, Aliide's husband, a Communist party organizer / a client, 10 to 15 years older than Aliide Aljoša Koltak
Pavel/Pasha, a Russian mafioso, aged about 20, Rastko Krošl
Lavrenti/Lavrusha, a middle-aged ex-KGB officer, currently a mafioso Damjan M. Trbovc
Opening 21 February 2020
Performance duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes. One interval.
The production was supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture
Stage Manager Anže Čater • Prompter Breda Dekleva • Lighting Master Uroš Gorjanc • Sound Masters Mitja Švener, Drago Radaković • Front-of-house Manager Dani Les • Make-up Designers Marjana Sumrak, Andreja Veselak Pavlič • Wardrobe Masters Melita Trojar, Mojca Panič • Props Master Manja Vadla • Head of Construction Gregor Prah • Assistant Technical Manager Rajnhold Jelen • Technical Manager Miha Peperko