Hamlet in Turku

The Department paid a visit to see Hamlet in the Turku City Theatre in March 2019. The production has garnered good reviews both by critics and audiences, and it was great to have an opportunity to see it, especially as the season is, alas, short.

SPOILER ALERT – what happens in Hamlet

If you like to keep up suspense, do not read further as I am about to give some spoilers. First of all, Hamlet’s father’s death turns out to have been murder by poison rather than an accidental snakebite. There are also other deaths: Ophelia, Polonius, and – in the end – practically everybody dies. (Not Horatio, though.)

This is good for the undertaker’s business – in the show presented in a very provoking, even thought-provoking way.

One of the most striking elements in the Turku Hamlet is the set. It combines traditional and contemporary elements in a very inventive way. In the programme booklet, the scenographer Markus Tsokkinen comments on the Finnish terms for building the set – ‘lavastaa’ and ‘kulissit’ – as derogatory terms for deception whereas he considers the set a way to enhance the truth elements of a play. Considering this, the amalgamation of old and new functions very well in bringing Shakespeare’s vision to us today.

Hamlet is one of the Bard’s big tragedies. In Finland it has been produced almost once in a decade after the first production in 1906, and it has been translated several times: by Paavo Cajander (1879), Yrjö Jylhä (1955), Lauri Sipari (1975), Eeva-Liisa Manner (1981), Veijo Meri (1982) and Matti Rossi (2013). The Turku Hamlet is based on Manner’s translation but with noticeable changes in the dialogue.

For a tragedy, Paavo Westerberg has direected a highly humorous – but in no way banal – version of Hamlet’s story. (Although Yorick might disagree.) It is multimedial, multilingual, intertextual, intermedial, intercultural – in short, multi-inter!

One of the most surprising things, personally, was Claudius. Eero Aho’s acting here was excellent, but Carl-Kristian Rundman as Polonius (very much like Gollum), Pia Andersson as Ophelia (rebel girl) and, especially, Jussi Nikkilä as Hamlet were even better. (Esko Salminen’s ghostly presence as Hamlet’s father’s ghost is also brilliant.)

To conclude, you would love to see the way they have done “To be or not to be” …

Text by Joel Kuortti
Photo by Otto-Ville Väätäinen/Turku City Theatre

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