Theatre NO99 is a theatre in Tallinn, Estonia with a troupe of 10 actors at the centre of it, lead artistically by Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper.
Theatre NO99 is a theatre, but it is also much more. Theatre NO99 is a serial work of contemporary art. At the beginning of it was an idea that considering the inherently finite nature of time and its finality, time should instead be measured backwards. This served as the impetus for Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper’s idea for a theatre where only 99 stage productions will open and which thus moves along sequential numbers to zero, towards oblivion. This, in 2005, brought into being Theatre NO99, the artistic directors of which they have now been for 10 years already.
The nature of theatre, this naturally ephemeral and temporal art form, is contained in that immutable disappearance. Theatre cannot be preserved. It cannot be carefully placed on a moisture-proof museum shelf. Theatre is risk. Every stage production at Theatre NO99 is prepared with the feeling that it is the final production. The energy and beauty of the final battle waged by the actors and directors, artists and technicians is contained in this collective concentration.
Theatre NO99 is a theatre, but it is also much more. Over the years many of its productions have achieved considerable success at the most prestigious European festivals. To be sure, everything that belongs with contemporary European performing arts production is here, but the actors are at the centre of everything. They are active and indispensable co-authors of the productions. Over the years, curators and critics, fascinated audience members and international colleagues throughout Europe have searched for words to describe the impression made by our troupe, how they work together, how intense their stage presence is: in its home theatre and at festivals, in Estonia and Germany, in France and Russia, in Switzerland and Finland. They have found the words, but it's really more about the sparkle in their eyes when they tell them.
Theatre NO99 is a platform for different types of works of art. A simulacrum can be born here that theatralises all of society, brings together 7500 people to witness the birth of a new fictitious political movement and shifts the limits of the role of performing arts in contemporary democracies. Or a stage production using dialogue based on a chrestomathic play. Or a dystopia that elucidates the dark sides of globalisation. Or a musical with the depth of an antique Greek tragedy about a tyrannos of an Eastern European polis. Or an internationally co-produced stage production that brings together actors from different theatrical cultures. Or a theatre building made of straw in the middle of the centre of the city, with the world’s top names performing in it. Or a documentary film. Or a television series. Works by Theatre NO99 are linked by what is mistakenly thought of as social sensitivity, but it is really that we see poetic energy as the central criteria for projects tackling issues of the contemporary world.
Theatre NO99 is a theatre, but it is also much more. Theatre NO99 is public space. In a globalising and atomising world, there are ever fewer places that belong to everyone and which would bring together people who do not know each other already in advance. Places that would unite society. Theatre is not a product, the spectator is not a customer. It is precisely performing arts with meeting at their centre that have a special role in creating public space, be it spiritual or physical, in the era of the brave new world that is spreading its wings. NO99 Theatre is just such a space.