Glims & Gloms dance company’s new production Valkoisten vankina (Imprisoned by the Whites) is based on Pekka Railo’s memoirs by the same name. The performance portrays Railo’s experiences on prison camps for Red prisoners in Kokkola and Tammisaari in the aftermath of The Finnish Civil War in 1918.
Eeli Vilhunen, Demokraatti, 19 October 2018
Railo’s brother’s grandson, the dance company’s artistic director Tuomo Railo, has directed the performance and answers for the dramatization of the play as well.
Glims & Gloms combines the means of performing arts in their works, but their roots are in dance. This shows in the strong physical expression in Valkoisten vankina. Railo, who has his background in dance, not only alternates speech drama and movement in his direction, but these go one on the other throughout the story.
The scene that opens the performance, the interrogation scene, where the punishing of the prisoners is done using movement, is great, and it makes the spectator at once to witness what it meant to be a prisoner for the Whites. In scenes like this the parallelism of movement and speech flows and physicality strengthens the drama.
The collaboration of movement and speech is rewarding to watch throughout the whole 1,5 hours of the performance. The physicality absorbed into the scenes is, at its best, resourceful and adds an interesting level to Pekka Railo’s story, a level which functions also as a lightening factor when describing a cruel period.
Valkoisten vankina is visually beautifully controlled and simplified. For the most part, there are only four chairs and a table on stage in addition to the performers. The projected drawings from the prison camps created by Tuomo Railo dominate the staging. The colours of the projections are in beautiful harmony with Karoliina Koiso-Kanttila’s costumes and create a complete whole. The plain and wide stage produces the space needed for the performers’ physical expression as well.
Pekka Railo’s memoirs have been transposed to the stage in an excellent manner, even if at times the source work shines through in a disturbing way. In practice, this comes out as excessive narrativeness, when one is forced to explain the background for important events to the spectators. At times, the performance shows itself more like a series of isolated events, which makes the dramatic impression thinner and thus alienates the spectator too much from the performance.
The portrayal of the times is, however, plausibly dramatized. The everyday life of Red prisoners and the inhuman conditions on the prison camp and the poor walk of life are portrayed touchingly. The performance brings associations to the present day’s invariably toughening political values.
Valkoisten vankina is a performance run by an ensemble. The five-person performer group works fantastically together and changing roles on the go from one performer to the next works well in an equal company, which brings an airy addition to the performance’s tapestry of speech and movement. Not even the fire alarm which annoyingly interrupted the performance had an effect on the intensity of the group’s expression, and eventually, one hardy noticed the break.
As a whole, Valkoisten vankina successfully exposes an important period of our history and makes us, as Tuomo Railo says, ”feel gratitude towards the great and the silent who built our society.”