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BWW Review: THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY at TURKU CITY THEATRE

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TÄMÄ ON RYÖSTÖ

My journey to this work started by Turku City theatre's Teosavaus, a preview panel with the director Snoopi Siren and two of the actors, old-timer Taneli Mäkelä and newcomer Elias Keränen, interviewed by the head of art department Mikko Kouki. It was a good set of people in terms of hearing about the rehearsal process from different perspectives.

"The text itself is very naive and childish", Snoopi started, "which is very freeing for a director. It is a combination of many styles such as slapstick and farce and so on."

"The group behind this (Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields) are originally actors and it seems to me that they've written this as if thinking what's the one thing I've always wanted to do on stage?" Taneli explains.

"The baddies in this play aren't bad in "Black and White" style, they also have a heart." Snoopi nods.

"The comedy in this is created by firmly believing in the doing, in the acting - that you're absolutely serious about the business! It's not about "making faces" or anything for that matter."

Snoopi, tell us about your directing method since the play has so many styles in it? Did you - for example - give an exact timing like "here you count for 5 seconds and then say your line" or did you have any improv exercises and so forth?

"Yes, I actually did have to direct in various methods because the styles did vary. We studied the music and its affect on scenes, we had discussions, personal/character directing (henkilöohjaus) and yes even improv. For example I've asked Taneli and Teemu Aromaa to fill in some scenes with improvised text. It has also been a very dialogical process with me and the actors. Challenge me I've said and at least Taneli as an old-timer was the first one, almost in the first five minutes into the rehearsal, to blurt that yeah, I disagree with you on this..."

Everyone burst in a jolly laugh.

Then what about Elias, you said this type of comedy is new to you? How did you feel about the directing of Snoopi?

"Well, at times I was very insecure: I can almost always imagine what my acting looks like from the audience, but in this show there were many very technical moments that I didn't have a clue what they looked like or should look like. And from a viewpoint of an actor it varies if we like that the director theirselves shows how it should be done (näyttää/näytellä eteen). But I liked it myself and it worked for me from Snoopi."

"There has also been a lot of cross-directing (ristiinohjaus) so to speak. That the actors have directed each others" Snoopi tells.

It really needs a good team spirit to be able to do that, right?

"Yes", Taneli says, "But when the common goal is a good show it's more than natural to work together like this, I think."

So let's dig into the review:

Snoopi stated in the preview panel that the big stage was a challenge in terms of directing the piece and I saw it too. Because the performance had a lot of witty self-consciousness, self-commentary - which has been in fashion for a while now in theatre and I love it - I wonder if it could have helped in this case too: "Goddamn this cell is huge!" Someone could have said in the beginning and glance up and on the sides.

Later in the performance comes a scene that plays with perspectives, which is amazing, but I noticed the same perspective play was brought on stage as a sneak peek in the very beginning. It therefore remained a little random and not understandable. Could it have worked as a slow motion? That there could have been a board on the floor as a piece of ground and the dogs could have jumped on that in the same perspective as the man climbed, for now they tried jumping on the fence, which in the real world is logical but doesn't bring the perspective. Nevertheless I loved how the scary hounds on screen were turned into the dog plushies.

The huge screen with all its effects and projections ended up being a little too much at times but worked perfectly for example as the night sky with city lights. The beginning's prizon escape was a little full and confusing when audience's gaze was moved from side to side.

Instead of having the escapees in a doll form in a rope from a stick, grasped in an actors hand, could the dolls have been dropped from the ceiling so that the background screen would have been the prison itself? Could have the actors holding the car lights reflect the emotions of the main characters instead of just staring blankly into the distance?

Okay, there were my critical notes, let's go to the things I found entertaining and good:

First off I have to hype up Mika Kujala's and Riitta Salminen's chemistry the same way I did in the Cabare review. And just now I grasped to google if they're together, a couple - and they are! Well I full heartedly enjoyed both of their work. Riitta was very rooted and articulated beautifully as Mika had a very good comedic doing especially with his eyes.

Linda Hämäläinen gave goosebumps to me with her jazzy take on Good Feeling. Linda, keep on singing those low notes, it sounds amazing!

Everyone did a great job and the characters were great, but my favorite bits that still bring a smile on my face remained to be Miska Kaukonen's Kauppinen as a whole but especially this part: he kept saying the "password" in the same tone though the other things he said around it varied when he was behind the door. Very secretive and hilarious! Later in the play I also noticed some Niilo22 (a famous Youtuber) vibes in his speech when he said meitsi pelastellee (this buddy saves). Inspired by Niilo or not? I guess we'll never know.

Also Teemu Aromaa's Aarne and his um... Sliding into Hell was a spot on and the whole minute before it when everyone left from the scene. Just the contrast and absurdity that a man whose been bullied all his life didn't even get to rest but ends up in Hell? And then he just mumbles ah, I should have guessed (no niimpä tietysti). I laughed so much I teared up, oh my.

Also, a thing that connects these two actors is that their story as if continued every time they stepped off the stage. They spoke improvised text in a way that gave us an illusion that they have life in between the scenes.

If you hear loud squeals during funny performances, it's always me.

Now I also have to thank the costume design by Tiina Valkama and makeup design by Anna Kulju. In one scene three of the character stood in a line and their colors were in harmony: the yellow tones in the upper body of Sami and Raija Mononen linked them together visually as family members. Then also the lower bodies of the characters that were pink, blue and then green just looked so good in the line where they stood.

BWW Review: THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY at TURKU CITY THEATRE

The one scene where Sami's character is greeted with different titles he has lied about himself reminds me of Catch Me if You Can, the real story of the famous con man Frank Abagnale Jr.

One of my favorite aspects of the show was the daring realness and surprise element they were able to create with small details like the line that bank sucks (se pankkihan on ihan paska!) or the karaoke scene in the car, which was awfully relatable and how the seagull had a birthday... Well done!

All in all The Comedy About A Bank Robbery (Tämä on Ryöstö) is a fairly good combination of distinctive talents of all the areas a good show needs. Some bits could have been polished a little more but certainly don't prevent us from having a good laugh and enjoying the show.

I've been writing theatre criticism for over three years now and Turku City Theatre is somehow a place I always feel extra good when returning to. You have somewhat distinctive atmosphere and visuality in your pieces not to mention the kind staff from cloakroom to the heads of departments. Thank you and I'll be back for Bilbo, to which my partner saw some references in this too. We shall see!

Script Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields
Translation Mikko Koivusalo
Director Snoopi Siren
Set Design Hannu Lindholm
Costume Design Tiina Valkama
Makeup Design Anna Kulju
Light Design Mika Randell
Sound Design Eero Auvinen
On Stage Teemu Aromaa, Stefan Karlsson, Elias Keränen, Hilma Kotkaniemi, Linda Hämäläinen, Miska Kaukonen, Mika Kujala, Markus Ilkka Uolevi, Taneli Mäkelä, Riitta Salminen

Photos: Otto-Ville Väätäinen
Review: Rosanna Ilo Liuski

BWW Review: THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY at TURKU CITY THEATRE


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