A STRONG AND IMPORTANT WITNESS FROM THE CIVIL WAR

Pekka Railo’s experiences from a prison camp in Dragsvik became material for his brother’s grandson’s physical portrayal on stage.

Tove Djupsjöbacka, Hufvudstadsbladet, 19 October 2018

Glims & Gloms Dance Company go their own way on stage and create performances that are unique, but very different from each other – perhaps it’s not always so easy for the public to find a gem among performances for children, bubbly fireworks like the musical of Helinä Rautavaara or serious and very topical performances, like the one on the Breivik case.

The latest work Valkoisten vankina (Imprisoned by the Whites) is closest to the latter, a serious and thought-provoking witness portrayal from The Finnish Civil War. One points no fingers and makes no direct connections to the present, but between the lines I’m reading a certain concern for the society today – for example: look what can happen if the judiciary is totally hollowed out. History reminds us also of some details. Leakages to the media can have an important role in making changes.

Tuomo Railo is behind the script, direction, projections, and the intresting true story he wants to tell is the story of his father’s great-uncle Pekka Railo’s different testimony from a prison camp in Dragsvik on how one as a Red prisoner really can contribute. The older Railo starts a pharmacy on the camp and keeps a list of the dead and the causes of death. This information lands finally in proper hands and helps the public to find knowledge of the horrible circumstances on the camps. Later he helps to rebuild the country as a member of the parliament and a assistant city manager in Helsinki, among other things.

Physical theatre

As a performance, this falls in the category of physical theatre. Dance is present throughout but totally subordinate to the text. The dramaturgy has a nice flow, and the first scene is performed brilliantly – one gets at once the idea behind the role casting: everyone plays all roles, e.g. the role of Pekka Railo is constantly moved forward from one person to the next. One might think that this would water down the character of the role, but instead, it helps to make the lead complex, especially as it is played by both men and women.

The flow continues and the dramaturgy is, for the most part, successful. At times, there is a little too much text – it feels like one might need a little more air within the text to really take in the story. It is based on Railo’s journal portrayl, and the text is therefore concise and matter-of-fact, amazingly objective in many places. Sometimes one clings to drawing caricatures seasoned with thoughtful language of movement, especially when it comes to the judges. The time leap in the middle feels also a little sudden. The ensemble is even throughout and expressive in their performances.

The performance catches especially well the apathy on the prison camp, how hunger draws nearer the prisoners and makes them pine away quietly. Such moods are not dramatic, so this suggests that here the combination of text and lyrical movement do themselves justice.

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