The Merchant of Helsinki
Out of the Shadows Festival performing the Jewish archive

Merchants of Helsinki: Yiddish Cabaret from Finland

9 Aug

The Merchants of Helsinki is a classic pre-war cabaret that has been recovered, restored and lovingly prepared for a performance at the Seymour Centre.


Jac Weinstein’s (1883-1976) cabaret show from 1930 depicts – with dollops of characteristic Jewish humour – the economic and existential crisis of the Jewish community in Helsinki in the late 1920s. With funny, cheeky and tender songs – many set to well-known traditional melodies ranging from cantorial music to foxtrot, swing & folk – the show also features a short satirical play about the Jewish nouveau riche.


Originally named “Revue Evening”, The Merchants of Helsinki follows the tradition of annually updated New Year’s revues, which had been popular already in Paris and became widespread also in Berlin in the early 20th century.  Besides much good-humoured krechtzing (moaning) about the economic depression, Weinstein’s revue deals with other social issues of the Jewish community in that time and place, such as the challenges of  maintaining traditional Jewish lifestyle and the future prospects of the younger generation.


The Merchants of Helsinki is performed in a mix of Yiddish and English (with full translations supplied!) by a cast to di-di-di for!


The Merchants of Helsinki is performed by Joanna Weinberg, Geoff Sirmai, Doron Chester and Dani Mirels. Joanna is the force behind (and the voice up front of) a slew of award-winning cabaret, stage and screen hits including Lifeforce, Every Single Saturday, the Piano Diaries, Baroness Bianka’s Bloodsongs, 12 Shoes and Sinksongs – the inspiration for her feel-good international feature film Goddess. Geoff is a well-known stage and screen personality in music, theatre and comedy whose recent appearances include The Laden Table, The Diary of Anne Frank, Appls & Pears and The Merchant of Venice. Doron (The Laden Table, The Original Grease, Keating! The Musical) will soon be seen in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, opening at the Lyric Theatre in September. Dani is a recent graduate of the Australian Institute of Music and recent star appearances include (The Original Grease, Into The Woods, and shortly, FAME).


The Merchants of Helsinki is part Out of the Shadows: rediscovering Jewish music and theatre funded by Performing the Jewish Archive, a British Arts & Humanities Research Council project.


Head Researcher: Dr Simo Muir

Curator: Dr Joseph Toltz

Designer: Dylan Tonkin

Starring Joanna Weinberg, Geoff Sirmai, Doron Chester and Dani Mirels.