Ágnes Kaszás wants to provoke discussion

“I wanted to address modern problems and be useful. An increasing number of foreigners are moving to Finland, and the situation is the same elsewhere in Europe. We must accept that this is really happening and find new ways to regard these people and think about how we can live with them,” says Hungarian actress Ágnes Kaszás.

She starts the conversation by sharing her own experiences of what it is like to live in Finland as a foreigner. She moved to Finland three years ago, after falling in love with a Finn. The past three years have held wonderful experiences in the world of theatre, but also unemployment, disappointments and confusion about Finnish culture and the Finnish mindset. Kaszás has turned her experiences into a hilarious but deep and thought-provoking one-woman STANDUP! show.

The performance is largely based on Kaszás’s own experiences. Sharing personal experiences takes courage. “During the last few weeks before the show, I was afraid that no one would be interested: who wants to hear about my life? I simply had to have confidence in myself, and that sharing my own experiences is a way to address something greater,” she explains. The difficult experiences of other foreigners motivated her to go on.

The purpose of the performance is to address broad cultural and social problems that foreigners encounter when living in Finland. In addition to outright racism, they have to deal with many other issues. For example, securing a job is difficult even for highly competent applicants if they do not speak Finnish. Finding friends can be difficult as well, as Finns tend to be quiet. In addition, homesickness can remain even though many things work better in Finland than in their home country.

I felt that comedy and self-irony would be the best way to address these difficult and serious issues,” says Kaszás. Her show is delightful, full of witty humour and tragicomedy. She pokes fun at Finns and Hungarians alike, criticising her home country about its chauvinism in the theatre and casting light on the difficult political division in Hungary. She plays with stereotypes and self-irony to a great extent. The rants of an actress tired of unemployment and loneliness are tragicomic.

The main language of the performance is English, but Kaszás uses Hungarian and Finnish as well. She also performs melancholy Hungarian songs. At one point a balkan band Ajmo unexpectedly steals the show, but the main character soon tires of their songs.

“My purpose is to start a dialogue. My main goal is not to criticise. We must meet each other halfway and focus on understanding each other to solve our problems. I hope my show helps Finns see that there is no need to be afraid of foreigners. I have problems as well, but I’m truly trying to adapt and find my place in Finland.”

Ágnes Kaszás

So far, she has given two performances at the Pop Up Art House in Helsinki. Part of the STANDUP! show canbe seen in Rooli-Festival in KokoTeatteri on the 31st of May. The performances will continue in fall 2014, after a suitable venue is found. Kaszás would even like to take the performance to places where people are openly critical of foreigners. “I would like to perform at a meeting of the Finns Party or to an extreme right-wing or highly conservative audience. Such performances would be truly beneficial, and we could talk,” says Kaszás.

Ágnes Kaszás graduated as an actress from Kaposvár University in Budapest. She has worked as a freelancer in Hungary and Finland.

Kone Foundation awarded funding for the performance in 2013 in the Multilingualism and art call.