BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Suomenlinna

BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Suomenlinna
Kristo Salminen is Hercule Poirot

Based on Agatha Christie's book, original adaption on stage by Ken Ludwig.
Translation Laura Raatikainen, Director Juha Kukkonen, On Stage Minna Suuronen, Joel Hirvonen (TeaK), Kristo Salminen, Johanna Kokko, Sara Paavolainen, Helena Vierikko, Asta Sveholm (TeaK), Lasse Viitamäki, Jari Virman and Toni Wahlström
*
Set Design Janne Siltavuori, Costume Design Ninja Pasanen, Sound Design Jussi Kärkkäinen, Lighting Design Ville Mäkelä, Prop Design Viivi Kuusimäki
Makeup Design Pia Mikkonen

Copyrights overseer Näytelmäkulma / Nordic Drama Corner

Alrighty then.

No worries, no major spoilers.

I went to see a performance based on Agatha Christie's book Murder on the Orient Express (Idän Pikajunan Arvoitus) at Suomenlinna by The Group Theatre (Ryhmäteatteri). The Plot's outline is this: Travelers from different classes and countries hop on a train to spend the next three days together, sharing the same destination-- until a sudden murder ceases the joy. Luckily Hercule Poirot is present and begins to solve the mystery.

I think theatre has to surprise and invite one to think deeper on the things of life. This performance does just that!

I think theatre has to surprise and invite one to think deeper on the things of life. This performance does just that!

BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Suomenlinna

It's 3.7. and the show is fully booked. This would be my very first grasp on the story for I haven't even seen the most recent film adaption.
Me and my avec try to find a comfortable place at the audience and manage to find one too, quite near the stage on the right hand side. The eager audience mumbles until the show is set on: Hercule Poirot (spot on Kristo Salminen) stomps on stage and begins to narrate the pre-happenings of the story. I notice his graceful accent: French! Oh, no, yes of course: Belgian.

Accents and phonetics are my other passion besides theatre so I'll save you not-so-interested from trouble and will be intently commenting on them at the end of this article!

Now to you who just came to read a little more simpler review, let's go on:

First it's a little hard to hop onto the storytelling, to listen to why Poirot is traveling, though his walking before the audience is well planned and rhythms his narrating. But when he finds a comfortable seat from the train, I myself at least get adjusted, just like he does, and can view the set and everything else more comfily.

The character introducing is neat; how they communicate with the conductor and how many bags they carry tells a story about them. And oh, do I enjoy viewing this costume drama! Especially Countess Andrenyi's outfits are beautiful to look at, kudos to Ninja Pasanen for the costume design. Also, it took a while to get used to Mrs Hubbard's cheeks but after a while it did fit into her dramatic character and backstory. Kudos to Pia Mikkonen for the makeup!

BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Suomenlinna
Countess Andrenyi (Johanna Kokko) on the right in orange. Ninja Pasanen's costume design!

Actors' work and chemistry bubbles in this performance. Lasse Viitamäki's conductor Lecklerk has some good physicality as every gesture from smallest to biggest flickers of emotions and trains of thoughts. Pun intended. Minna Suuronen's Mrs Hubbard's drama and grand expressions are interesting to look at and I think this is her best character I've seen from her so far! Very enjoyable. Joel Hirvonen as Mr MacQueen doesn't hesitate to take a little extra pause and time in his emotional scene where he looks into the distance. Those kind of pauses are important and somewhat rare in nowadays theatre where big emotions are at times passed by rather too quickly. Toni Wahlström as Monsieur Bouc is very hilarious and living character and his doings gets a peek when he shouts: KATSOKAA TÄTÄ TUHHHKAKUPPIA! (Look at this ashtray!) I couldn't hold back my laugh. Also, in his dialogue scene with Mrs Hubbard they had some excellent chemistry in terms of comedy and text; the back-and-forthing flowed very neatly!

The show is nice to look at and has some fine details too: smoke comes from the moving train just a little after I began wondering how they could have managed to work out its movement. The white stones underneath it transform in our imaginations from mere stones to crackling snow just when needed. The sound effects are charming and enjoyable add, but should have been focused on at times a little better by the actors. The light switches, also worked out by imagination and timing, are delicious as well. Kudos to Jussi Kärkkäinen for sound design and Ville Mäkelä for light design, and naturally Juha Kukkonen for directing this magic!

The countess Andrenyi's (delicate Johanna Kokko) emotional scene outside the train is also very touching, but should have needed a little more distinctive leading (nostatusta) towards it to make it more affecting, to suck us into it a little more earlier, perhaps choreographically differently. Also, most of the background musics should have been a little louder in my opinion.

All in all Murder on the Orient Express is a performance filled with excitement, colorful characters and a plot that opens up to the audience bit by bit, just at the right times. The performance doesn't leave you could though Suomenlinna could, but surely gets you on an emotional ride if you are just willing to take the train.

All abroad!

Bonus: The Accent Analysis:

Acting is hard and acting with an accent is even harder. Nevertheless, all of the actors in this with a foreign accent did quite an enjoyable job that fit into the atmosphere of theatre! All of our characters spoke Finnish, though in the story they're referred of speaking English.

Let's start off with Poirot, our Belgium fellow. The s's sound like z's and the h's are dropped at the beginning of words: Hamlet sounds like 'amlet. The n's and t's are quite at the front in the mouth too and the L's are soft. Quite good work; at times solid and continuous-- especially during those moments when the discussions are set on him-- yet at times just a little unfocused, little forgotten. Nevertheless, quite good!

I'm thankful, Kukkonen, that you didn't direct the typical french r pronounced in the throat into his or any other's dialect.

The ability to sound accent-less is based on the character's skill to "Speak English". That's why I didn't recognise any specific accent on Mrs Hubbard who's from Mississippi, Mr Ratchett (good, somewhat wobbly character, Jari Virman) or Mr MacQueen from somewhere of the U.S, or on conductor Lecklerk who's apparently French but has been working on the train so long and rehearsed his English so that his original accent won't show up. The same goes with the waitress (Tuulia Eloranta) and also with Monsieur Bouc's accent, which was a little more sophisticated French one, a little accent-less than Poirot's.

Her highness Dragomiroff (Sara Paavolainen of whom my avec liked the most) from Russia gave out her accent only when she told her name, so her "English skills" must have been quite honed too.

To be more specific about Mrs Hubbard's accent, at times I thought I heard some kind of Mississippi twang and loudness in her speech, but there could have been more of it; made on purpose.

Mrs Andrenyi was from Hungary and occasionally her e's turned into either ä or a and her accent was generally heard just in those moments.

At first I thought that Colonel Arbuthnot (now wonderfully stiff Jari Virman) and Mrs Debenham (excellent Asta Sveholm) could have been from Germany because we heard them "shouting" at each other, though they didn't fight or anything-- though Colonel shouted at everyone. But after a little research I grasped that the characters were from England and Colonel shouts because he's used to do so in the army, I guess.

And then, finally, the cherry I preserved: Mrs Ohlsson performed by Helena Vierikko! Faultless Swedish accent with a comedic value, at least what my 5 years of accent enthusiasm can tell. It stays on all the while and never drops, it's placed neatly in the front, lips a little pursed, so that the oral posture's correct too! Thank you Helena, you deserve a bunch of flowers-- I very much enjoyed throughout the show to listen to your fine doing!

Thanks for challenging us and the actors to listen to and rehearse accents, Group Theatre!

One more reason to come abroad to Orient Express at Suomenlinna!

Article: Rosanna Liuski
Photos: Mitro Härkönen

BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Suomenlinna



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