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Saturday 13th September 2003

I had a very early start for my trip to see the Finlandic Talking Cock(“Kikkelikiekuu”). The premiere was tonight in a town called Kotka, which is two hours drive from Helsinki and Finland is two hours ahead of us, so I was up at 5am. The tiredness just made the experience even more surreal.
I was met at Helsinki airport by Kari the director and unexpectedly also by Antti, the actor who is being the Finnish me. They both seemed very regular and down to earth men and after the glitz and glamour (and expense) of the Norwegian production I am ashamed to admit that I feared that the Finlandish version, in a small provincial theatre, rather than a swanky Oslo night club might not be up to much.
However it was clear immediately that both men were committed to the show, and possibly because they didnÂ’t have their own money riding on its success there wasnÂ’t the same tension in the air as there had been throughout the Norwegian trip.
Finland seemed to be a land of few people and many trees. It was even from first impressions, clearly not as affluent as Norway. I knew nothing about Finland, and unlike in Norway I didnÂ’t have Alison and her Lonely Planet Guide to fill in the gaps for me.
I had a couple of hours sleep once I got to my hotel and then I met Kari and his heavily pregnant wife in the bar. We also met up with the translator, a student called Emilia who at 21 seemed young to have been asked to translate a show about cocks. I felt embarrassed, like I had done when my mum and dad had seen the show. All that talk of spunk and anal sex is all very well to a room of strangers, but can seem shameful when personalised like this. I apologised. She said she didnÂ’t mind and had enjoyed translating the show. I told her of my theory that she could just have written a load of rubbish to make me look like an idiot. She didnÂ’t say anything and looked a me a bit oddly. I think that that was maybe what she has done. We walked up to the theatre together.
The lack of glitz and unfamiliar foreign celebrities now seemed like a positive thing. It already seemed less fake than my only other experience of seeing my show in a foreign country. It suppose that it is unlikely that I would even have visited Kotka (and possibly even Finland itself) had it not been for this unlikely event. My Cock has led me to some strange places.

The Kotka theatre was impressive and I suppose it seated around 300 or so. It was not full, but was well attended. Apparently the theatre has a “Premiere Card” which is sold to regular audience members and means that they can come to any premiere in the theatre for free. Consequently there was probably a higher proportion of more elderly and conservative people in the crowd than the show might normally get. I wondered how they were going to take this.
Overall I much preferred the Finlandic Show to the Norwegic one. This is possibly partly to do with the fact that it seemed to be a much more faithful translation. Antti had added a few gags and they had taken out a few sections that would be confusing to the audience, but it was essentially the same. It made me realise just how different the Norwegian show had been. ItÂ’s been a while since IÂ’ve performed it and it wasnÂ’t entirely fresh in my mind on Tuesday, but seeing it done more faithfully made me appreciate how much the Norwegians had dicked (geddit) around with it. Antti wasnÂ’t afraid to include the more serious bits and perform them seriously. I think the show needs this balance or it becomes something a bit cheaper (cheaper than a show entirely about penises? That is cheap!). There were some directorial flourishes and additions of music and movement, but from what I could tell it was a good performance and I got a kick out of my jokes making a load of elderly Finnish people (from a town IÂ’ve never heard of before this week) laugh.
At the end I was asked to go up on stage with the director and translator and the technical directors to join in with the bowing. I awkwardly waved at the Finnish people. They seemed to have enjoyed it (though there were about three walk-outs I discovered later. One man harumphed his way through the first twenty minutes before leaving and exclaiming "I don't want to watch this").
I now appreciated that the provincial and unpretentious nature of the company at the Kotka theatre was very much a positive thing. Not to knock the Norwegians, I think the show did work despite the changes, but it was much more fun to be with people who were doing their best to do a good show, without worrying about monetary issues or whether 60 year old, near paedophiles with orange skin would be attending.
We went to the green room and there was a genuinely charming exchange of gifts and speeches, before we went to a restaurant for a relaxed and boozy dinner (but no more boozy than Norway, there was no drinking vodka til we fell under the table as Nils had promised me). There was reindeer meat in my pasta. SantaÂ’s sleigh will be running a bit sluggishly this Christmas.
We then went drinking in a bar. Kotka is a small town and everyone seems to know each other, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming to me. There was no performance the next night and so everyone was happy to have fun. But donÂ’t worry England, I didnÂ’t let you down. I drank more than any of them. We donÂ’t want to let the Finnish think that the stereotype of us being drunken idiots are wrong. Stereotypes are very important.
Then some of us went to a night-club which was good for many reasons. It was full of beautiful Finnish women, it served alcohol, it was connected to my hotel which meant I didnÂ’t have far to stagger to fall comatose into my bed, but best of all there were three casino tables actually in the night club. I played for a few minutes and astonished my hosts by winning eighty euros (I later lost 20 of those attempting to prove that I was superhuman) and I bought cocktails and vodka shots (I thought it was important that these Finns lived up to their stereotype too whether they wanted to or not) and danced to poor disco music.
Even though I may have been slightly merry I still could not escape the feeling of how weird all this was. I had made new friends in a country that I would never have thought of visiting, in a town I had never heard of, all because of this stupid cock based thing that IÂ’d written. That I nearly hadnÂ’t written. Because I thought it was bound to be rubbish.
It made me think again of all the rooms there are in the world and of all the things that are going on in them that you will never know about. Of all the towns that you will never hear of and all the people that you will never meet unless chance throws you together for whatever bizarre reason.

It made me wonder which room that flamenco dancer was in tonight and whether anyone was appreciating the passion in her eyes. Or if she danced unnoticed and alone.

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