Haapoja tells the story of one of Finlands most famous and cruel convicts Matti Haapoja and of the baroness Matilda Wrede, a preacher and healer of prisoners. However, the play is not a historical document, but a ballad which works by theatrical means through its subplots and songs written in the rich dialect of Northern Finland. Haapojas story sets out to ask if people are able to change for the better. What can cure a hardened criminal? Faith? Love? Or can they? Does something like an act of selfless support really exist? What is at the origin of passion and murder?
The director of this troupe of artistes and actors announces that he himself once wrote a play about Matti Haapoja as a wedding gift to his wife and that he himself performed the role of Haapoja while his wife, the snake enchanter, played Matilda Wredes part.
As we all know, History
is cruel it keeps repeating itself.
We must understand that Man is half beast, half something higher, something eternal…, the director now tells the people in the market square to whom the bones and skull of Matti Haapojas convicted father are presented.
In the Kakola prison Matilda Wrede makes the warden open Matti Haapojas cell. Haapoja tries to frighten her with his words and with his naked appearance but his behaviour is matched by the sharp tongued Matilda: I havent yet tamed your equal… I can open that door for you. But youll have to get down on your knees to crawl out of here! I can kill you right here and now so quickly you wont have time to even squeak replies Matti when he cannot make Matilda leave his cell. By reaching for their respective goals they arouse each other. Mattis weakness is finally revealed to Matilda when she finds the pyjamas that he has twisted into a rope under his sheets: Now you stand there so cocky with your chains, strike poses for the world. But alone with the desolation of your own soul you fall to pieces. Matilda leaves Matti knitted woollen socks.
Alone in his cell, Matti is praying but when he doesnt get a reply he starts undoing the socks to make a noose. He asks Matilda: What has made you one of those… who dont live, dont suffer, but find their glory in tormenting others… what is the price of your life? Reading the bible Matilda finally makes Haapoja fall down crying and trembling.
Having become a believer Matti Haapoja begs to be transferred to Siberia. He wants to retrace my steps along that road I littered with dead bodies. His request is refused, Mattis only alternative is execution to which Matilda is strictly opposed. Matti tries to escape. When his attempt to cross the prison wall fails he stabs himself with a knife but only hits his heart with the tip of it. Matilda visits him in his cell and gives herself to him, she kisses him and is strangled. However, she recovers and is for ever barred from entering a Finnish prison. In the end, Matti Haapoja hangs himself on the hinges of his cells door.
Great was the fame of The Haapoja Kid
all over Suomi land.
But the shackles and walls of Kakola Prison
were more than he could stand.
The truth? We dont know it. All we know
at best, is this: the truths not one and indivisible,
not of a piece but theres enough of it
for everyones great need.