BWW Review: THE TIN SOLDIER, Festival Studio Theatre, Edinburgh
The Tin Soldier is the first children's show to come from Birds of Paradise Theatre Company. The story is set in somewhere called The Place. It isn't a Home, because none of the children there call it home. It's where you go when nobody wants you. When the adults go to bed, the children tell each other stories and on this occasion, the book opens at Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier.
Jack (played by Robert Softley Gale) doesn't want to read this story. He hates it. However rules are rules, and they have to read the story that the book opens at. A young boy who had endless toys is given a set of 25 soldiers. The last one made isn't perfect and is missing a leg. During a tantrum, the boy throws the soldier out of the window because it doesn't fit with the others. As Jack uses a wheelchair, it is easy to see why he doesn't like the story.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a very sad story. In the programme, director Garry Robson explains why they chose it for their first show for young people. He states that children like the story because it is truthful. Not everyone gets a happy ending but the most important thing is to be kind and look after one another.
The story is beautifully told. Five performers onstage make excellent use of the space around them and its a very physical show as they unveil different things hidden in the boxes that make up the set. There is a big window in the middle of the stage with a winter scene that changes as the story unfolds which is a lovely touch. Having the story set within another story and inside The Place where the children have important friendships means you're not leaving the theatre feeling too sad!
My endless enthusiasm for the work produced by Birds of Paradise Theatre is getting embarrassing. Employing both disabled and non-disabled creatives, they ensure that their productions are accessible to all. Every performance of a BOP show has audio description, BSL and subtitles as standard. These aides are used to enhance the show for everyone rather than distract from it and it once again begs the question- why isn't every theatre company doing this?
One element that makes this production particularly enchanting is the music that accompanies it. This is the first show in a long time where I've found myself hunting for the soundtrack on Apple Music on the train home. Created by Glasgow-based Novasound, the tracks have a lovely folky quality and are beautifully sung by Lauren Gilmour who is also in the role of Soldier in the show. Also present onstage is Audrey Tait- the other half of Novasound, playing drums and acoustic guitar throughout the performance.
If this all sounds a little heavy, don't be deterred. For small people, this is a highly entertaining, funny, happy show with nice songs and a cockney rat puppet. The Tin Soldier is never patronising and manages to put across a sad but truthful story and make it joyful. It has more heart than anything else you're likely to see this Christmas and adults will love it just as much as the kids.
The Tin Soldier runs at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre Studio until December 23rd.
Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic.