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When the Doves Disappeared (play)

The presentation folder for the play When the Doves Disappeared

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“When the Doves Disappeared” tells about a world where things were different and where something as self-evident to us as a spectator’s freedom to choose was just a distant dream. The power of the two totalitarian systems, the Soviet Union and national socialist Germany, was based not only on terror but also on propaganda in which the image and the word were the most essential weapons. This meant harnessing an artist-armada for propaganda duties,” Oksanen says. “Because of today’s rapid information distribution we still have to be able to understand how news, truth and interpretations are constructed. The methods are the same as in Edgar Parts’s day. Through Edward Snowden’s disclosures we know that today, too, incriminating information useful for extortion is being gathered about people exactly the same way as in Parts’s world. We saw all these tools used also in Ukraine, when Russia invaded Crimea."
- Sofi Oksanen

The play When the Doves Disappeared is based on Sofi Oksanen’s novel by the same name, which belongs to her Quartet series about Estonia’s recent past and the division of Europe in two parts. The previous novels in the series are Stalin’s Cows and Purge.

The play differs from the novel both in structure and emphasis: the novel is written anachronically and portrays how historical truth is constructed with words. The play progresses chronologically and focuses on the image. The central figure, Edgar Parts, has been changed from the author in the novel into a photographer and director working for the KGB and the German security police.

In Edgar’s private life, conflict arises from his unhappy marriage, his wife Juudit’s affair with a German, and his resistance fighter cousin Roland, fighting for Estonian independence.

Sofi Oksanen: ”When the Doves Disappeared” appeared first as a novel, but the idea of a stage production was already there when the story’s basics were taking shape in my mind. The tale takes place in a world with a façade built from happy energetic images of Soviet realism and national socialist Germany. Behind the scenes, immeasurable camp networks spread out across Siberia and all the territory of the Third Reich.The story belongs on stage because it tells about lies presented as truth, about the  totalitarian states’ public truths, which were theatre in themselves. in theatre audience can choose whether or not to clap and decide for themselves how long to applaud, and for whom, or whether not to applaud, without consequences."

The play premièred on the main stage of the Finnish National Theatre on November 27, 2013. It was directed by Raila Leppäkoski. Matleena Kuusniemi (Juudit), Janne Hyytiäinen (Roland) and Timo Tuominen (Edgar) shone in the main roles.  The set was by Karmo Mende, and the music playing throughout the performance was Maija Kaunismaa’s. The music from the performance was recorded and is available in whole or in part for theatre use through a separate contract.

Before the opening night, the play was presented in a reading performance at Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm on November 23, 2013. It was directed by Nils Poletti and five actors took part. Edgar was played by impressively stonefaced Björn Granath.

The play is being performed at the Kuopio City Theatre in an interpretation by legendary Estonian director Priit Pedajas.

Translations of the play currently available

  • Estonian
  • English
  • Swedish

Reviews for Kuopio City Theatre production of When the Doves Disappeared

Director: Priit Pedajas (EST), premiere 28.1. 2016

"Little did Sofi Oksanen know when writing When the Doves Disappeared, how timely her subject would be within a few short years. The hardest task for a writer or a director is to tell the future, to feel the upcoming social currents."
– Savon Sanomat (FI) 

"In 2016 When the Doves Disappeared is more topical then ever: the whole of modern age is humming in this play. I am not talking about world politics only. Edgar Parts is a complete social media person. He is a total narcissist, with a glorious career in politics, as an editor and an actor. He is a monster, and he is successful."
– Savon Sanomat (FI) 

"The acting, the simple but beautiful staging, the gentle soundscapes and lightning are all worthy of  individual praise, but the force of the play is created by them all, in unision. The drama is seamless, simple and easy to watch, there is nothing unnecessary, nothing is included only for the shock value. Everything flies smoothly as a swing."
– Savon Sanomat (FI) 

"Based on Sofi Oksanen’s bestseller, the play tells about the tragic recent history of Estonia, about a loveless marriage and about an opportunistic chase for one’s own interests. Surprisingly enough, the story is timelier than ever now, four years after it was first published. When threatened by war and occupation you do not have too many options – you must either leave and stay. And if you stay, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to survive. When the Doves Disappeared can also be weighed against the recent discussion about immigration, refugees and instability in the world: it is obvious that history has taught mankind nothing."
– Uljas (FI)

"Mikko Rantaniva is very convincing in the role of Edgar Parts. The sweaty squirming and scheming of Edgar Parts is most enjoyable to watch, as played by Rantaniva."
– Uljas (FI) 

"One of the aims of Estonian director Priit Pedajas has been to illuminate the recent history of Estonia, and he has succeeded. The play gives us a horrible view to a world where everything can be manipulated and truth can be moulded into anything. Experience is even more shocking when you know that the world of the play actually did exist. One hopes all Finns would finally realize that Estonia is more than just a country with cheap booze. As a whole, When the Doves Disappeared is a very stylish drama. Periodical melodies create atmosphere and mood, all costumes are impeccable. Simplified staging heightens the desolate feel of the times. The way the props slide to the stage with the actors already sitting in them underlines the feeling of a world, where individuals have little say or choice."
- Uljas (FI)

Earlier reviews

”Juudit is perhaps Oksanen’s most complex character to date, one whom it is difficult to like but easy to understand.”
– Amanda Svensson, Sydsvenskan (Sweden, 2012)

”In Edgar Parts Oksanen has created an unsparingly charming, totally unprincipled and deeply frightening character.”
– John Sjögren, Uppsala Ny Tidning (Sweden, 2013)

”At hand is great drama that draws on the power of the word and at the same time an exciting multi-layered story about Estonia in the 1940s and 1960s .”

What they’re saying about the Play

”A significant event.”
– Eesti Päevaleht, Estonia

”The whole play is brilliantly constructed to depict the two-facedness of not just one man but of Estonian society of that time: the same actors are on stage the whole time, as is the same set. Only the flag flying over the backwoods changes.”
– Savon Sanomat (November 28, 2013)

”With the play’s script, Oksanen did it again.” 
– Aamulehti (November 29, 2013)

”Oksanen’s forte is depicting tragic intersection points that force people into cruel decisions humanized by circumstances.”
– Turun Sanomat

”A complete and haunting whole.”
”Continually jolting the audience, the story progresses to its unforgiving close”
– Ilta-Sanomat

”No one can be unaffected by this powerful story and its dark historical framework. The production’s extensive interweaving of multiple arts and media is another of its merits. Cruelties are exposed against a background of moving lyrical music, countless charcoal drawings propel the war – and the visual arts – forward in the audience’s minds, and when the weeds of evil run rampant, love unfolds its own flower, big and pure and fragrant. At the bottom of the pocket of inconsolable desolation, hope for a new tomorrow hides, waiting.”
– Länsi-Uusimaa (December 3, 2013)

”When the Doves Disappeared’, a play adapted from Sofi Oksanen’s own novel, serves as a healthy reminder of the hell and trampling the Estonian people endured. It also tells what kinds of scoundrels and heroes rose out of the long period of martial law that lasted until 1991. The play does not so much tell of war and its consequences on the political and state level as from the individual’s point of view. Seen from this perspective, the painful events hurt even more.”
– Demari (December 2, 2013)

”Today the greatest marvel of theatre occurred. An invisible bridge grew from the performance to the audience. The message hit home. I saw again how the Estonians were deported or shot for reasons that have made me proud: the blue and white colours, and the national anthem of freedom.”
– Kulttuurilehti Akku (November 30, 2013)

”Set in the time of the national socialist Germany occupation and Soviet Estonia, ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ is an impressive play. Despite the fact it lasts for almost three hours, the play has its own mysteri-ous power and atmosphere.” (November 28, 2013)

”Neither the novel nor the play is simply political history. This is a movingly precise picture of human relationships and a love that remains unfulfilled.”
– Apu (November 28, 2013)

”It feels as if the interwoven stories, characters and themes have become tighter and clearer and to some extent even brighter once moved to the stage. At core is humankind’s desire to get recognition, to love, and, in the end, to pull through, no matter what it takes.”
– Turun Sanomat (November 29, 2013)

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