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BWW Finland Review: REvolution by The Red Nose Company

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BWW Finland Review: REvolution by The Red Nose Company

Directed by: Niina Sillanpää
Text: Minna Puolanto, Hanna Seppä & Niina Sillanpää
Dramaturgy: Minna Puolanto, Milja Sarkola, Hanna Seppä & Niina Sillanpää
Performers: Minna Puolanto & Hanna Seppä
Light & sound design: Juha Tuisku
Costume designer and seamstress: Virve Karoliina Balk
Stage design: The crew
Production: Red Nose Company
Co-production: Kanneltalo, Lahti City Theatre, Lovers Theatre

"RÈvolution is here and ready to give the stage to the Invisible Ones! RÉvolution is the second performance from the clown-duo Babylon and RÉ. The performance studies the meaning of being seen through clownery and comedy. How one finds an own voice and how to make it heard? Whose responsibility is it to talk about oppression and can guilt be the force of change?" - rednose.fi

Babylon wipes the floor with a wet rag meanwhile we pick our seats at Kanneltalo. She glances curiously towards the audience every now and then, her presence building up as the theatre gets filled by more and more people.

Babylon is the expert and entertainer by nature - she tells the facts on Asian theatre tradition, how floor is the place that connects the performer to the audience and all the way to the Universe, and is very keen and happy to perform again.

But now it should be Ré's turn, Ré's show, Babylon notices. She goes to search for her. After a small silence Ré is found in a box with a beautiful symbolic text written on it: "Props - don't throw away".

In the earlier show Babylon (2018) Ré was the assistant, sort of a prop - during this show she tells how the plant that is brought on stage reminds her of being at the back, being an assistant. Even her clothes are black, as if a stageperson's. Babylon also explains this when Ré is offstage. If the background is dark and black, the main characters have brighter clothes - she waves at herself - compared to the stagepersons, who have black clothes so they blend in with the background.

But Ré wants to do her own show, in her own way.

The performance studies power-dynamics, but vice versa to the Babylon performance, it's from the view point of the "smaller one", the shy assistant.

Music is a big key to this and from my point of view it also represented the most common way of "mixing media". Let me explain: Ré explained timidly during the performance if she was able to say the words her idols have said, to lay out the message in terms of language. "They're not my thoughts", she says, so does she have the right to share, mix and express them? On the contrary music is more accepted way to express and mix already existing "media" or material. Notes are global and no one owns them, but they're just laid out in a different order.

She was very confident in playing music but not saying words. It's a good way to start.

All along the performance Babylon does her best to help Ré, but is destined to fail. She either hasn't listened to Ré or takes too much space. And in the end the ones who have been degraded and dominated easily become bad leaders as well: "Don't do it like that. No, that's wrong" Ré scolds Babylon as she tries to clean up the mess she made.

Just like before in the Red Nose Company's shows our clowns emote basic human feelings distinctively. It's very therapeutic to watch: joy, anger and shame are laid on stage. They also do their own sound effect as they go off stage and can modify the tone in terms of their feelings.

My favorite part of the performance was definitely the Rite of Spring dance. It was very intense to experience. First the explanation of the historical context of what we will soon hear and see ; the pauses also worked and the explanations in the between.

Also the dialogue where our clowns just stood on the front of the stage and discussed on how Ré wants to create a show for the invisible ones. In that scene we were able to see how the actors trusted each other and the text, there was nothing extra.

Also details were brought together, things were repeated, for example the tapping of the shoes in the beginning and also at the beach, or how Ré started processing the tomato cans (her shame) with an "indirect, modern object" as Babylon has described the broom rather than picking them one by one with her hands. Effective, but also symbolic.

I also liked the idea how new themes and topics were as if pulled on stage from the different boxes and suitcases.

In comparison with Babylon performance this performance was as if a meta-version: the clowns didn't create scenes, but paused to discuss the real-time happenings on stage. Personally I waited for Ré's own "fantasies" to be brought on stage, how she would be a leader and Babylon would take the assistant's role. It kind of happened with her DJ dreams, but it wasn't a "staged clownery scene", but part of the performance.

Thus it was at times difficult to follow the storyline at times because the show stayed as if a meta-show. The themes of power structures and being seen were shown in terms of the past's balance, the dynamic's from 2018's Babylon. Babylon is the main character and finds it difficult to give space and Ré is at times insecure and cannot stand her ground.

I feel that the current theatre trend is "showing things as they are". There are rarely original shows that have a katharsis, a clear outcome or success in an agenda rather than showing real life. I feel it's the same in this piece: Ré just stays silent in the end when Babylon starts blabbering about her buyings, instead of saying: "See, you're taking up space again."

Personally this trend is not my cup of tea but in spite of that I can come to conclusion. The show was able to deliver their message. The worry on power structures was seen, whether the power is on monopoly companies, the more extroverted person in the room, in the pockets of the rich tourists in a developing country or in the sayings of someone else: where is my place in this world, do I have a own voice or any power of my own?

Text: Rosanna Liuski
Photos: The Red Nose Company




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