First Slovenian production
Opening February 2020
Director Jari Juutinen
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.