MR HILLO SUCCEEDS IN CONFUSING
Jussi Tossavainen’s review in Helsingin sanomat 4th of September 2017
translated into English
JAM – Mr Hillo’s Confusion. Choreography and music by Simo Heiskanen, visualization by Karoliina Koiso-Kanttila, stage lighting by Ville Virtanen, production Glims & Gloms Dance Company. Espoo Cultural Center, Louhi Hall.
I thought I would say that Glims & Gloms Dance Company’s Mr Hillo’s Confusion is not theater for children. I want to correct my opinion. This is specifically for children, and especially intended to be seen by teenagers and their educators.
Here Espoo has an artist couple that the city perhaps does not deserve. Simo Heiskanen and Tuomo Railo ventilate attitudes on every front: as dancers and as makers of children’s theater, and Railo as a physically strong dancer as well as a talented artist.
Going to see the performance of Heiskanen’s new JAM – Mr Hillo’s Confusion, I thought I was going to a jolly, traditional Finnish children’s theater performance, but it turned out to be anything but that. Drawing from the tradition of Commedia dell’arte, the performance presents the archetypal roles, but mixes them merrily. It doesn’t matter which role each and everyone is playing.
Heiskanen himself acts as the master of ceremonies who presents the characters, wearing a classical clown’s makeup, of course. The court jester has always gotten to tell the truth in a clown’s costume.
The performance confuses how you think and how you could think in a different way. Mikko Makkonen plays the role of the charming Esmeralda without making the character a drag show travesty. In his floaty skirt and princess costume he does not taunt girlhood.
Jonna Aaltonen in the role of Urho does not choose the most obvious path, either. She has realised that being a man doesn’t mean chortling and groin rubbing. Urho is, despite his name, a small person who is carried and tossed around by others. Gender stereotypes get mocked without a trace of bitterness.
I’ve always loved Eero Vesterinen’s natural way combining motion and expression. Now he has been given, according to my interpretation, the role of Arlecchino. In this role, you can say anything without gendering. And he certainly does! Vesterinen’s motion and body language feature every little nuance that you can imagine to be expressed. I could watch his physical presence forever.
Heiskanen himself has composed the music for his work. As a renaissance character, he manages to make pastiches of the piano music accompanying silent movies and sound effects all the way to the strong ballads of the political song movement.
The style chosen for Mr Hillo’s Confusion – combining classical theater style with silent movies, miming and slapstick – works perfectly. The name of the work tells and does not tell something of it. This does, after all, create confusion.
MR HILLO'S DELIGHTFUL CONFUSION
Anniki Alku’s review in Savon Sanomat 28th of June 2018
translated into English
Kuopio Dance Festival has usually mainly focused on performances for adult audiences. That is why it is very good that this year, Glims & Gloms' JAM – Mr Hillo's Confusion is in the festival's programme. The performance for the whole family premiered last autumn.
If the name sounds funny and absurd, so is the performance. Simo Heiskanen, one of the two founders of the theatre, created the choreography and composed the music for JAM. It is wistfully humorous and progresses using the logic of association. It is the story of a Chaplin-like hobo, Mr. Hillo (”jam”). He carries all his belongings and memories with him in a pile of suitcases that contain everything from flowers to a big top.
When Hillo's most precious treasures, Esmeralda, Vilivili and Urho, come to life, things start to happen. Nothing very extraordinary, but mishaps, a little blustering, singing and beatboxing as well as eating jam, of course. The point of view is a little bonkers and based on clownery.
Heiskanen, who plays the role of Mr Hillo in a warm-hearted manner, has three strong personas. Jonna Aaltonen's Urho is a very charming little man, who will not let anyone walk over him. Eero Vesterinen's Vilivili is an adorable big clown, and Mikko Makkonen's Esmeralda is a shy girl with surprising talents.
In addition to the titillating role portrayals, each one of the characters is a brilliant dancer whose precision of movement and stage presence enchant.
The visual design created by Karoliina Koiso-Kanttila is colourful and has a pinch of fairy-tale. The costumes meander mischievously, but they take a stylish bow to circus tradition.
JAM can be watched only as a well-made dance comedy, but under the surface there are deeper tones, too: the justification of being one's true self and the transience of life. Big matters that are not imposed, but made visible.