[author-post-rating] (2/5 stars)
Hans Christian Anderson’s rather tedious tale of the steadfast tin soldier who battles adversity to return to the love of his life is performed in a sweet but ultimately lacking version by Paper Finch theatre company. Through a combination of live action, puppetry and songs, the young cast take us through our tin soldier’s travels and adventures from initial forging to fiery end.
Some elements of the show work rather better than others. The music, for example, is fine (if a bit repetitive) and it’s enjoyable to see the musicians at the back of the stage. The cast sing well and there’s some nice interplay between actors and musicians. The voice-overs are over-used but generally effective, and allow us to imagine the scale of the soldiers as human voices boom from above. It’s a clever way to suggest smallness without an elaborate set, and showcases the inventiveness of this young company. The script contains a number of modern touches which raise smiles, but although the enthusiasm of the cast shines through their simple tale it’s just not very well done overall.
Other parts of the show are less successful. The shadow puppets are clumsily done and used too often. It feels as though the design hasn’t been quite thought-through. The paper ballerina, with which the tin solder falls in love, is also, inexplicably, a puppet. Given that the other toys (an amusingly louche jack-in-a-box and a brittle china doll) are played by real people, it seems an odd choice to make the ballerina a puppet – and not a very good puppet. Requiring three people to operate it, the paper ballerina is awkward and, oddly, without feet; it’s hard for this puppet to convey the grace and beauty with which the tin solder is supposed to fall in love.
It’s a pleasant enough show, that does its job of telling us a story. The story itself is not one of Anderson’s most exciting, and it’s not easy to see what draws a young company to such an old-fashioned story. However, having chosen it, Paper Finch could have done so much more to make it come alive.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier is at C until 26 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.