Imprisoned by the Whites
Imprisoned by the Whites
Dance and theatre melt together in a harrowing prison camp depiction – the result is ensemble theatre at its best.
-Jussi Tossavainen, HS
Tuomo Railo’s play Valkoisten vankina (Imprisoned by the Whites) is based on his grandfather’s brother Pekka Railo’s memoirs by the same name. In his memoirs, Pekka Railo relates his experiences as a Red prisoner, first in Kokkola and then in Tammisaari prison camp in 1918.
Tuomo Railo has dramatized the memoirs into a dramatic work in which the dialogue, placed on many time levels, and physical theatre bring out shocking prison camp experiences clearly and directly, appropriately and without scandalizing.
To me, my great-uncle’s practical and yet unyielding attitude has be a significant lesson in moderation, truthfullness and strenght. In difficult and unjust circumstances, he held on to his ability to act. By setting up a pharmacy at both camps he could, to some extent, relieve the distress of his fellow prisoners. The statistics of the deceased he collected and passed on helped to create political pressure to end the prison camps. – Tuomo Railo
HATRED WILL NOT MAKE US FREE
Minna Tawast, Teatteri & Tanssi + Sirkus -magazine, 6-7/ 2018
Tuomo Railo has been combining speech and movement in his works in a creative way for long already, looking for the common force of language and movement. In Omnipotens, which premiered in 2016, Railo seemed to take the use of speech to the extreme; it was there more than in a traditional theatre monologue. The lates work Valkoisten vankina (Imprisoned by the Whites) works with the same principle, but the relation between movement and speech is less provocative, smoother. Narrative monologues and dialogues that carry the storyline change or are organically united with movement. Sometimes one forgets totally which one is in question.
Besides Railo, the story is told by Sanni Giordani, Kaisa Leppänen, Jukka Tarvainen and Jussi Väänänen, who are outstanding. They act skilfully, too, from a little distance.
It fits the story’s dispassionate narration, which feels especially valuable because Valkoisten vankina is based on the memoirs of Railo’s grandfather’s brother by the same name. He
recounts his experiences as a Red prisoner at the prison camps in Kokkola and Tammisaari in 1918. Out of the memoirs, Railo has dramatized, choreographed, directed and staged with drawings an appropriately paced, breathing work.
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.
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.
VALKOISTEN VANKINA CONVEYS FORCEFULLY THE HELL OF A PRISON CAMP FOR REDS
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.”
DANCE AND THEATRE MERGE IN A PRISON CAMP PORTRAYAL THAT SHAKES – THE RESULT IS ENSEMBLE THEATRE AT ITS BEST
Tuomo Railo’s Valkoisten vankina (Imprisoned by the Whites) is based on his great-uncle’s experiences.
Jussi Tossavainen, Helsingin Sanomat, 19 September 2018
Shocking start. One at a time is taken for interrogation or rather for torturing. Most of them are journalists. The case is freedom of speech – the analogy to the present is clear. We are on a camp for Red prisoners, where there is no human dignity. Most of them deny having committed any crime, but one is a traitor trying to save his own skin.
Valkoisten vankina is based on scriptwriter/director Tuomo Railo’s great-uncle’s own experiences. The theme fits therefore well into the present year. “Well” might not be the correct word – a better one might be ”deadly”.
This is the story of a camp where Red prisoners a concentrated. So it is a concentration camp, where staying alive is the only hope. For food, one gets a little piece of bread and water. To somehow survive, people try to make themselves useful in different ways, by cleaning or by using their medical skills.
The exciting thing about the performance is the way it’s done. Speech combined to continuous movement, even dance. A genre like this is quite rare. This does not mean that first comes a monologue and then a bit of dance. Movement runs continuously next to speaking. It does not illustrate or underline it. They are equal.
Melodrama is a type of music where speech and music go one on the other. Here you could speak of dancing melodrama. The story and the plot run smoothly forward, but the movement runs by their side. This does not at all distract the story, but forms a well-balanced synthesis. This synthesis is very powerful, even though it’s horrible as well. As a traditional play, this would only be a historical image.
In some places, overdoing the movement lightens the serious theme so much that it makes one laugh. In the court martial, the court decision is read by chanting aloud and dancing Rumba to the rhytm of Besame mucho. Colliding the serious and the comical creates a strong and resonating effect. These moments of comic relief ease the spectator’s excessive feelings of angst.
The Tammisaari camp was built from nothing without any existing structures or infrastructure, as one would say nowadays. The prisoners had to create it themselves, starting from bookkeeping of the dead. The story is shockingly ghastly, but it is alienated by physicality, movement and dance.
Valkoisten vankina is a kind of tendency theatre, preaching like e.g. Lapualaisooppera, but instead of singing and music, the means are physicality and dance. At times, dance seems to be separate from the text, but partly, it brings into mind Asian theatre, where every gesture has a corresponding thought or emotion.
The actor-dancers have all in their many roles excellently taken in the idea of the genre and the thought. This is ensemble theatre at its best.