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Tin Soldier (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Royal Exchange
Where: Manchester

Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Steadfast Tin Soldier, this short adaptation by Noel Grieg would seem an ideal Christmas treat for youngsters and a good alternative to pantomime.
The story of the one legged tin soldier who, cast aside by its fellow toys, falls from a window and thus embarks on an epic journey to return home to his beloved ballerina, only to suffer the ultimate fate, is simple, but sweet and has a relevant acceptance for a young audience today.

Gary Lagden, who tells the tale, is a superb story teller capable of mastering a vast array of different characters. I would challenge any audience member not to warm to his exuberant and energetic presence.

He is supported by two musicians, whose names I do not know as programme notes were not available at the performance I attended. The two musicians play several instruments and provide all the sound effects that serve to enhance the storytelling and evoke the magical and mystical atmosphere.

There is no set, other than several stools and the musical instruments, which are also used to good effect as props.

All the elements are present for a terrific piece of theatre, but there is one area that significantly lets the piece down and that’s Grieg’s script. The narration is not concise, nor does is make use of appropriate language for the young audience it is aimed it.  On several occasions I was unsure as to what was going on despite the best efforts of the excellent performers.

Overall, Tin Soldier has much to recommend it but I feel that this is a work in progress which is not yet reaching its full potential.

- Malcolm Wallace

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