The Little Soldiers by the international physical theatre group Theatre Re is a brave telling of the rivalry of two circus performers, loosely based on the legend of Cain and Abel.
In general, the show still feels like a work in progress that would benefit from taking more risks and further exploring the relationship with the props it puts such emphasis on. For example, the microphone is used to represent the reins of a horse and the lead as the circus ropes, but other than that it is just a microphone.
The step ladder (used so brilliantly by James Thieree in La Veillee Des Abysses) is just that - and we are left underwhelmed by the production's ability to magically transform objects and thereby the imagination of the audience.
The director and performer Guillaume Pigé adopts a haunting musical soundscape to narrate; combining the fiddle, keyboard, accordion and live recorded relays of the actors breathing. This supports the wild antics of the brothers and the ballerina as they soar above the circus top - from tightrope to trapeze - but it lacks depth and colour by relying on either a melancholic or overly impassioned tone.
This means the performers can only ever engage with the music (rather than expressing their struggle through their physicality) and therefore neither fully govern the space nor win over our hearts.
A critic is of course engaged in the analysis and interpretation of a show. Lyn Gardner in a recent article talks of the importance for actors and directors to judge their own work honestly (Try again. Fail again. Fail better - Beckett). This is as important, if not more so, as listening to what the critics think and say.
With this in mind I feel there is big potential in the storytelling techniques used by Theatre Re in The Little Soldiers. It's just a shame I didn't get as caught up as I would have liked in the magic of the circus.
- Bertold Wiesner