Review: Peut-être Theatre - The Tin Soldier - Roundhouse Studio Theatre

Performance: 13 December 2014 - 4 January 2015
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Monday 29 December 2014

Peut-être Theatre - 'The Tin Soldier'

Hans Christian Andersen was a charmingly brilliant storyteller. His stories and characters are among the most iconic in children’s, and world literature for that matter. However, they often don’t end very well; Andersen was definitely no strict adherent to the ‘happily ever after’ ethos of fairy tales. Peut-être Theatre’s The Tin Soldier, playing in the studio theatre at the Roundhouse, is an engaging and colourfully chaotic dance/physical theatre version of the Andersen story it adapts with surprising faithfulness. Surprising because most interpreters of Andersen soften or completely rewrite his darker endings [see Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl], and because in this case our hero the soldier and the paper ballerina with whom he is in star crossed love, end by burning up together in the playroom fireplace.

Although narrative driven, director Daphna Attias creates a swirling world of oversized playthings, brought effusively alive with athletic marching and acrobatic ballet. Bubbles and shower caps, a paper boat on a rushing river made from a length of fabric; the cast are like kids at play with their toys. Attias uses the images of the story (my little boy and I were duly inspired to rush home to re-read it that same afternoon) as an odyssey of surreal sequences through which the steadfast soldier braves his way, ever faithful to his love. Original music by Yaniv Fridel and Lemez Lovas, and sound effects that are often created live, provide a textured depth and rich fantasy feeling.

On our way in to the theatre my five year old spotted the painted building blocks of the set and reminded me that we had seen this production last year at Jackson’s Lane. Although the movement is inventive and the fall-down slapstick of the humour had the young audience giggling throughout, the performers were often bumping into things and each other, and for a show at least a year old it felt a bit under rehearsed. Big kudos though, to Peut-être for the loving and faithful adaptation, and for having faith in the kids, that they could handle an ending as bravely tragic as the protagonist of the tale.

Continues at Roundhouse until 4 January

Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a transplanted New Yorker living in London; an artist and writer who has studied art, performance and aesthetics at New York University, Central St Martins and Birkbeck College. Find him on Twitter @jeffreyGordonB

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