The Sauna review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘celebrates and ritualises a woman’s role in giving life’

The Stage / Thom Dibdin

The idea that your life flashes before your eyes as you die is given a distinctly contemplative air by Finnish company Teatteri Metamorfoosi in this wordless dance piece.

An old woman, her body sagging and frail, takes her last sauna, throwing water on the coals with abandon, before pulling a sheet over herself in preparation for her imminent death, only to be disturbed by the sauna’s spirit ghost with memories of her life.

Here we see the slight girl who prepared for her marriage, the voluptuous woman who gave birth and the suckling of her children. The moments of great importance, the turning points of life which took place in this sauna are recalled and revealed.

Using models, puppets and whole body nude suits, this gives each crucial point of the woman’s life a concrete existence. Performers Iika Hartikainen and Johanna Kultala give each stage a distinct feel through their use of movement, only their eyes unconcealed under the nude suits, to create a strongly meditative celebration of a life passed.

Riina Tikkanen’s live sound effects of the ablutions and rituals of the sauna are added to with the chiming of mystic bells and intrusion of natural life from outside the sauna’s wooden walls, emphasising that sense of meditation.