Originally published in BusinessWorld’s Weekender, November 20, 2014 (Link here.)
JANNE RAUDASKOSKI is a very unusual man. He dreams of talking phones and animated pictures, and while some of us may have had similar dreams in our subconscious, he takes it a step farther than most by turning these dreams into interactive children’s theater.
As Wally Watthead, a charming lamp that has “lost his glow” (read: his light bulb is busted), Janne combines magic, clowning, and mime with theater and technology to bring common bedside objects to life. The stage becomes Polly’s nightstand and on it, there’s Simon, a curmudgeonly mobile phone SIM card that reminds us of our once-cherished Nokias, and there’s Polly, a beautiful redhead portrait that comes to life. Wally forms unlikely friendships with these different objects and resolves the problem of his lost glow with their help.
Things like moving pictures and talking phones do not seem out of place in Janne’s world. As a professional magician and a Finnish and Nordic champion in this field, he delights in bringing magic to everyday life, even if it means pulling money from a startled cashier’s ear at the supermarket takeout lanes. Thankfully, he confesses to having gotten rid of this habit, but this is reflective of the wonder and genuine pleasure he derives from the melding of enchantment and reality. Janne breathes and lives magic and theater, a not-undesirable quality in one on a personal crusade to open children’s minds to curiosity and marvel.
In Wally Watthead and His Lost Glow, Janne is technically a one-man show. He performs all magic and, yes, stunts (try levitating, shrinking, and even jumping into a screen), by himself, save for the ministrations and directions of Simon SIM card, voiced by Jonathan Hutchings, and Polly the Picture, played by Tuija Nuojua. He fumbles a bit — intentionally, of course — and he gains the trust of the little children in the audience with his shy, bumbling clowning. He squeaks and squeals in a funny voice, and even the cries of wee ones suddenly turn into peals of laughter. He swoons over Polly, and the kids whisper their highly audible oohs and ahhs.
Wally Watthead may be a giant lamp, but obviously, he is as much a child as the little ones in his audience. His feelings are transparent and easy to discern; his actions are honest and clear of intent. While Wally hardly has any spoken lines, he speaks to his viewers with his actions.
With a seemingly uncanny knack for understanding how a child thinks, Wally turns his young audience’s befuddlement into joy and uneasiness into comfort. Small wonder, then, that even a nine-month-old infant was able to sit through the intermission-free 50 minutes without fussing or crying.
Wally Watthead and His Lost Glow is brought to PETA Theater Center by Finland’s Amazing Magic Theater after astonishing audiences — young and not-so-young — in Finland, England, the US and China. This limited run is on its second and last weekend this Nov. 21 to 23. Stow those iPads and game consoles for a while and make sure to bring the family to experience the magic of Wally Watthead and His Lost Glow. –