Outstanding Danish and Finnish comedy duo Ivan Hansen and Pekka Raikkonen look like two schoolteachers. Hansen, with his wild hair and squeaky voice, is the batty chemistry teacher you worry will blow up the lab one day. Raikkonen is the serious, silent English teacher all the girls have a crush on. Between Hansen’s gregarious storytelling and Raikkonen’s excellent mime, this is a comedy show that’s so much more than comedy. Next Door is a gently humorous, poignant look at life, death, and childhood. To non-Scandinavians, Danish and Finnish comedy might sound pretty esoteric, but this charmingly simple and deeply heartfelt show will make anyone smile.
Hansen has just found out his next-door neighbour has died. This prompts his memories of growing up in 1980s Denmark with his gang of friends, who all lived in the same apartment complex. Their adorable misadventures are acted out with assistance from Raikkonen, who is a brilliant mime. He’s never hammy and has the same smile and level of craft as Dick van Dyke. Even people who hate mime will love him— his characterisations of Hansen’s various 9-year-old friends are as funny and distinctive as the Peanuts characters. Hansen is a clever storyteller and his character is endearingly nutty. He takes everything literally and obsesses over getting the details right, which leads to lots of amusing situations, like mapping out Scandinavia onstage, telling the audience, ‘and you all are the rest of Europe.’
There isn’t much of a plot and Hansen doesn’t tell jokes. This is a show about life and the lovely, unscripted comedy that comes with it. Hansen’s boyhood tall tales are told with plenty of wit, warmth and very innovative staging. Using only a scant collection of props, (including lego), some chairs and assortment of boxes, the two men re-create the exaggerated landscape of childhood, where a summer storm becomes a typhoon and a bike race is a battle for the ages. The impeccably timed sound design adds whimsy to an already very pleasant show.
Fans of the online comic Scandinavia and the World should rush to see this—it’s like SATW with real people- but you don’t need to be Scandinavian or know anything about Denmark or Finland to appreciate this thoughtful, unusual piece about growing up. Hansen wonders why our life changes so much when we get older—how someone can go from being best friends with all his neighbours to not knowing when the man next door drops dead. These two cold-climate comics bring a little slice of childhood to everyone’s evening. They hand out liquorice sticks and turn on the house lights so audience members can meet their neighbours. At the end, there are shared shots of Gammel Dansk liquor, which certainly beats juice boxes.