"I can't afford to be unfaithful. To myself ", says Onerva, the main character in this play of the same name, as she leaves her first husband to join her lover abroad. "Everyone should take care of themselves."
Onerva's lover, poet Eino Leino (1878-1926) awakes in her the passionate woman and unconventional poet. But Leino's instability drives Onerva to seek solace with reclusive composer, Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947). Loving these two very different men tore Onerva into pieces but she never gave up, not even in the darkest moments of the depression.
She was demanding and combative as she searched for her own balance of independence and equality. She never wanted to be anybody’s muse.
Her conflicted life made Onerva a powerful and sensitive artist. The first remarkable female poet in Finland. In the last years of her life she searched comfort in alcohol and her final years were spent locked away and forgotten in a psychiatric hospital.
Loneliness can be a companion and this was the companion that stayed with Onerva to the end of her life. "I am not unhappy. Lonely. Yes. But that is another story. To be firm but delicate, is a dangerous task for she who undertakes it. The inside of an oyster cannot be seen. How many secret curves are hidden inside?"
The play takes off from a room in a psychiatric hospital where Onerva is confined but her soul is not. Here, with her, are the most important people in the poets life, Leino, Madetoja, father, grandmother and nurse who for a long while is Onerva's only contact.
Structurally the play moves freely from moment to moment, memories and associations allow us to live in the past and present simultaneously. Time, place and persons move seamlessly without order. It could be said that ONERVA is staged stream of consciousness.
Fast moving scenes with quick cuts from scene to scene are loosely bound by the important events in Finnish and European history from 1905-1947.
ONERVA is not a historical cavalcade but more the personal drama of a woman who fights for right to her personal existence. It is a love story and triangle drama. It is a story about a brave woman, who did brave solutions in her life.
"To be a poet is not a profession. It is a gift. Precious and without measure. It is something that can never be taken, stolen, away from me. "
This play won second prize in the national Playwrights Competition organized by the Keskisuomalainen newspaper and the City Theatre of Jyväskylä. It was chosen from 399 competitors, the most ever in a competition of this kind in Finland.
The world premiere of ONERVA took place April 25th 1996 at the City Theatre of Jyväskylä. It was an undisputed success with critics and audience alike.