The first thing you should know about The Tin Soldier – and in fact the first thing I said upon leaving the theatre – is that it is absolutely charming. Its an unusual choice of source material for a show aimed at youngsters, not least because Hans Christian Andersen’s original, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, doesn’t have the most cheerful ending – but Birds of Paradise’s adaptation written by Mike Kenny is heartwarming, funny, inclusive, and cleverly realised. It might well be the show you didn’t realise you wanted to see this Christmas.
Five children living at “The Place”, for their various reasons different and on the edge of society, tell the story of the steadfast tin soldier, with only one leg. A warm-hearted reminder that our individualities are worth celebrating, The Tin Soldier is all the better for recognising that not all stories have a happy ending, but that they’re still worth telling, and telling well. With a five-strong cast of disabled and non-disabled actors, this story of the tin soldier who was different feels truthful and emotionally resonant, at the same time as it’s entertaining. It’s a delicate balance to strike. To mix my metaphors, I’m happy to say that Birds of Paradise knocks it out of the park.
Robert Softley Gale is a charismatic and likeable lead as Jack, although it’s hard to pick a favourite – their rapport and enthusiasm is infectious. The collection of live music, intermittent puppetry, and clever staging (including some excellent use of helium balloons) make for great variety. On top of that, the show is captioned, and the whole cast integrates British Sign Language into their movement. It feels less like an added bonus and more like an extra layer of depth to the storytelling, well as providing some great comic moments. This really is a show with something for everyone.
On another note, but if you’re an Edinburgh-based theatre lover who likes finding the good stuff, the Festival Theatre’s studio venue is a hidden treasure. Everything I’ve been lucky enough to see there this year has been some combination of unexpected, affecting, and deeply thought provoking. The Tin Soldier is a jewel. Take your whole family.
Photo courtesy of Mihaela Bodlovic.
For more information on The Tin Soldier and tickets click here. It runs at the Festival Theatre Studio, Edinburgh, until 23rd December.