It is noon and the sun is close to the horizon. It has just risen, Erika tells us as she is picking us up from Oulu airport. It will be a matter of hours until it goes down. It gets us in a weird mood of feeling like it is either 7AM or 5PM.
The Finns seem to have no trouble drifting over icy roads, so does Erika in her neon blue car. After parking she connects it to the electricity so she is able to start it in 3 hours. Oulu is way up north in Finland and the weather shows.
After a quick rehearsal we get to the stage with the Unicorns. In bar/restaurant Tuba we are programmed after everyone’s dinner and before the band. We play shortform scenes and games and have fun with the Finnish language, the Swiss and Dutch prejudices and a certain amount of stage kissing. Later we hear how the latter is very unusual in Finland. At your service, I guess :)
The next day we have our open workshops: Gerry teaches Theatre & Improvisation and I teach Dancing for Dummies. The Finnish seem to take stuff seriously and their conviction for the dancing style ‘stripping’ is impressive. One woman tells me afterwards that she always thought she couldn’t dance. “This is truly mind opening. And heart opening. And even ‘body opening’!”
That night, our guest family has organized a typical Finnish house party. The table is full of Finnish snacks (e.g. chocolate with liquorish) and after a while we go in groups of 3 to the in-house sauna. All very standard, so we hear.
I am in a lucky position of sleeping in while Gerry is teaching the Unicorns for a full day. One Unicorn ‘truant’, Henna, takes me through a tour around the town, on a hill and through the snow. It is cold but totally worth it.
Later we get together with Unicorns and other improvisers to cook, eat, talk about improv and witness a live hypnosis session at the kitchen table. Astounding. No other words.
The next morning we take the plane back. We would love to stay longer but Helsinki is waiting. The northern city and its people are nothing less than lovely. Or as Gerry put it: “Oulu, the place for people who like sleeping in and then see the sun rise.”
With big and warm thanks to Tanja, Sinimaria, Anne, Erika, Henna, Saija, Teemu, Annti, Daniel, Tampani, Seppo, the other Unicorns, the workshop participants and all the lovely Oulu'ers!