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Review: The Hobbit at Turku is a Solid Fantasy Adventure

The Hobbit at Turku City Theatre

Review: The Hobbit at Turku is a Solid Fantasy Adventure Directing Mikko Kouki
Set Design Teemu Loikas Costume Design Pirjo Liiri-Majava
Theatre makeup Minna Pilvinen
Fight Choreographs Oula Kitti
Sound design and composing Iiro Laakso Lighting Design Janne Teivainen
Projection Design Sanna Malkavaara, Puppet Design Pia Kalenius Pyrotechnics Tero Aalto On Stage
Teemu Aromaa Stefan Karlsson Kimmo Rasila Markus Ilkka Uolevi Minna Hämäläinen Ulla Reinikainen Iiro Heikkilä Miska Kaukonen Antti Kyllönen Ville Seivo Marko Pekkarinen Janne Sundqvist Sakari Saikkonen Annika Heinonen Hanna Närhisalo Jemina Hyökki Katarina Suviniitty Kira Leppälä Helmi Pirkola Charlotta Ingraeus Henri Kannisto Vilma Turku

I love when people are passionate.

Four years ago Turku City Theatre brought us Lord of the Rings and by the end of the last performance they announced that we'd all return to Middle Earth.

Fantasy adventures on stage are understandably quite rare, but moreover it gives a challenge to the whole group and a chance to use imagination.

Unlike the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit is a book targeted for children. Thus the crew had seemingly made a choice to stay true to its source material. Things are kept simple and even the most scary stone-trolls are made less scary with a funny accent. Gandalf comes forth to tell the story as if a narrator and fight choreographs by Oula Kitti are witty and flowing rather than violent-looking.

I think it was a good choice to make the adventure family-friendly, a performance that everyone can enjoy.

Therefore my top three favorite elements that really made the performance spark were set designs by Teemu Loikas, lighting design by Janne Teivainen and the stunt work of Turku Art Academy's circus students Annika Heinonen, Hanna Närhisalo, Jemina Hyökki, Katarina Suviniitty, Kira Leppälä, Helmi Pirkola, Charlotta Ingraeus, Henri Kannisto and Vilma Turku.

Set designs were believable yet simple enough with nice little details. I loved how the mirror in Bilbo's house brought depth and movement on the set and how the Lake-Town's background was as if a Finnish nature scenery. But now when I write I want to top my hat to pyrotechnics also by Tero Aalto, the drama on the tree was fascinating with all the fire, though it was a little shame the wolf puppets that Pia Kalenius designed were left background. I would have wanted to see them in the battle of the Five Armies too. Also I loved the thrush knocking on the stone and how it echoed through the auditorium, there was a good tension in that scene.

The Hobbit was a totality to say the least, the dream of team work was seen, all the little elements built up the story and the World.

What it comes to lighting it was definitely an important element to set the tones of different places. Dim down or lighten up according to the day's time. When the dwarfs had gathered by the fire it was evening, but soon it was night just by the change in lighting.

Review: The Hobbit at Turku is a Solid Fantasy Adventure
The lights, the sets!

I was so excited to see our circus performers in their craft: everyone were so earnestly engaged and did an excellent work and as I described before the movements were flowing and full of joy whether it'd be a vicious orc, spider or an animal friend of Beorn.

Some parts that clicked the best with me were definitely the stone-trolls, a scene with Gollum and the scene of the secret gate to the Lonely Mountain with its thrush that I already mentioned.

Stone-troll costumes were amazing and the way they transformed themselfes into stones. Also the actors seemed to enjoy the laid-back and chuckling dialogue. Miska Kaukonen's work as Gollum had no hesitation and Teemu Aromaa as Bilbo did precise yet relaxed work throughout the show. It was so well done of how Gollum came from the back of the stage (amazing set and lighting design once again) and how he moved and lurked from behind the spiky stones. There could have been a little more of that lurkiness I think. The scene started well but then began to repeat itself just slightly in terms of movements, though it was one of my favorites. I would have wanted to see more breaths taken, more small silences and more connection between the actors.

There were some scenes that weren't that clearly paced or where the rhythm didn't tick that well. In the beginning when the first dwarf emerged to Bilbo's the music stayed the same as if nothing happened. When the hobbits tried to escape from the Stone-trolls and the way they went around the stage was just phoney. Also the very ending was also a little disappointing: the eerie music and the drained feeling stayed from Thorin's dead all the way to Bilbo's home and well, to bows to say the least.

To me personally one of the most important apects of The Hobbit is the returning to home and how Bilbo survived. Also the contrast of how in the Lord of the Ring our protagonist Frodo did want to go to an adventure, saved everyone and then got damaged, his life was never the same. On the other hand Bilbo didn't want an adventure, went anyway but got back again and his life stayed quite the same and peaceful, though the ring was there. So I would have wanted to see some peace as Bilbo got home. Maybe hear some birds tweeting, see that he's back again and all is well. No music, just breathing and strolling. And then, ooh, "I could try the ring a little". A-ha! Would have been my reaction. But now the atmosphere was a little too hasty. Oh, Thorin died, now let's rush to the end, A-ha the ring, haha, and now we bow. No no, darlings, the tea remained too bitter for me this way. There was no katharsis.

Review: The Hobbit at Turku is a Solid Fantasy Adventure
Mood when an adventure has no katharsis. Oh well!

So to crystallize my argument on why some things didn't work, I suppose it was because of a possible thought of "well, it's good enough like that". Fair enough and some parts were, but some things could have been made better with a little more preciseness. For example Smaug could have blinked a little more, though thoroughly it was well crafted and the voice-acting was impressive. I at least looked at the scene with jaw ajar. Just a simple add would have made him a little more alive. The Smaug animation was a nice detail in the beginning on the map, but then on the treasures it was a little awkward. Then when I noticed they used the same animation throughout it started to annoy me in the long run.

Well, these remarks are simply just details and personal preferences. And as I wrote before the great work of all the professionals was greatly seen and it is very special to bring fantasy stories on stage with big passion like this.

All in all The Hobbit at Turku City Theatre was a solid fantasy adventure with amazing effects and great work. There could have been a little more thought behind some aspects but overall I can recommend it.

Text: Rosanna Liuski
Photos: Otto-Ville Väätäinen

From This Author - Rosanna Liuski

Rosanna Liuski has been passionate about theatre for the past decade. Her biggest achievements as an actor have been in Rambo at Finnish National Theatre, directed by Elina Kilkku, 2015; SKAM... (read more about this author)

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