Kaspar Hauser is alive – in Helsinki

What do Kaspar Hauser and a Finn in her/his late 20’s have in common? Everything. This became evident in the explosive performance “Kaspar Hauser” of Q-teatteri in Helsinki.

Original Kaspar Hauser was found wandering in a confused state in the city of Nuremberg, Germany, in May 1828. He was about 17 years old and could only write his own name. According to his own words he had been held in a dark room all his life and fed with just bread and water.

Kaspar_hauser_denkmal

Statue of Kaspar Hauser in Ansbach, Germany, by Friedrich Schelle. Photo by Michael Zaschka (taken from Wikipedia).

Our era is full of desires and suggestions as to how we can fulfil them. Like Kaspar, any young person is bewildered in front of small and big choices: what can you choose to want when you know nothing yet? You must not want nothing, because our society is built on the cycle of desiring and a temporary relief of desire by fulfilment.

In a brilliant way, Q-teatteri combines the story of Kaspar with the modern ideologies of brands, consumption and performance. The three young actors bring a cavalcade of contemporary habits, obligations, gestures and clichés on the stage. You must go to the gym to be fit, achieve three university degrees, have children, be sexually active, find your real self in meditative retreats, be conscious and ecological, make your own bread of organic flour, work like hell. Your only goal must be success in life.

Despite of all these serious ponderings and sharp observations, the play is enormously funny and I found myself laughing aloud half of the time.

Kaspar can like or dislike things and people without being restrained by conventions. Nevertheless, seeing young men lying on the sofa with a joystick in one hand and a pizza in the other we ask ourselves if online games are what these guys really want. Or are games just an artificial escape from this artificial world? Falling in love with characters of a TV soap opera is just one step deeper in that escape.

Lotta Kaihua, Jussi Nikkilä and Eero Ritala in ”Kaspar Hauser” at Q-teatteri, Helsinki, in 2014 (Photo: Q-teatteri, All rights reserved )

But if games and TV provide means for escapism, what better can “real life” offer? On the other hand, the anxious young generation, searching for pleasures of a moment, refuses to take responsibilities. Having a baby changes everything in a couple’s life; not everyone is ready to give up the freedom and partying, which is possible for the childless. Like any child, Kaspar is despaired hearing his (adopted) parents quarrel. The persons who should stand as the support of his entire development turn out to be spoiled children themselves.

Many physiological and psychological facts indicate that original Kaspar had made up his life story himself. He was not malformed despite the alleged diet, darkness and lack of exercise. Also, he learned to read, write and speak astonishingly fast. By several sources he loved to exaggerate and tell stories. He died in 1833 by a wound, probably caused by his stabbing himself.

Evidently, Kaspar wanted to be a celebrity, at whatever cost. Is this not the dream shared by millions of young people today?


The event I attended on 30 April, 2014: Kaspar Hauser at Q-teatteri. Written by Akse Pettersson & Johannes Ekholm. Directed by Akse Pettersson. Actors: Lotta Kaihua, Jussi Nikkilä and Eero Ritala.

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