The Tin Soldier – Gate Theatre – Review
Runs Until Saturday, July 2nd 2022
Photos by Ros Kavanagh
World Premiere from the Gate Theatre and Theatre Lovett
This production explores the life and work of Hans Christian Andersen through dance, mime and song. We meet Hans Christian Andersen as an old man on a walking stick early on in the production. He slowly moves across the stage, talking directly to the audience and telling them about his many stories. There is a casual mention of Disney and the other updates to his tales. He then takes the audience on a journey through his early years.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on the 2nd of April, 1805. During his life, he wrote 156 stories across nine volumes, including such beloved tales as The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Red Shoes, The Princess and the Pea, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina. One of his most famous works is The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the tale of a tin soldier’s love for a paper ballerina. This production uses the structure of this short tale to tell the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s own life.
This is a joint production by the Gate Theatre and Theatre Lovett. Theatre Lovett is a theatre company with joint artistic directors of Muireann Ahern and Louis Lovett. They produce theatre for all ages and are known for shows such as The Girl who Forgot To Sing Badly and They Called Her Vivaldi. This production is aimed at an older audience with an age recommendation of 12+.
The play is not a linear version of the writer’s life and some knowledge of the protagonist and the short story would be helpful before you see the production. Many of the events are hinted at rather than explicitly discussed and since it is often told in song, it is quite demanding of its audience! The piece explores the early death of the writer’s father, the writer’s time spent at the Royal Danish Theatre, along with the writer’s sexuality. Hans was said to “experience same-sex attraction” although possibly never acted upon it.
The staging is relatively simple, with a series of proscenium arches, one behind the other and all at slightly different angles. A series of lights on the stage and surrounding the arches allow mood changes, occasionally bathing the stage in light. There is a piano on one side of the stage. Conor Linehan takes his place behind the piano early on in the production and accompanies the singers throughout in a multitude of different pieces.
This is a stylish production that uses the world of cabaret and Brecht to create something fresh. The performance of dancer Kévin Coquelard is central to the piece. He appears as the tin soldier and also as a Goblin in the form of a Jack in the Box. He is an evil spirit that explores the inner angst and pain of the writer. Kévin does not speak in the production, instead, his parts are voiced by Louis Lovett in an impressive feat of lip-synching. Ukrainian singer Olesya Zdorovetska also features in several segments, which change the mood of the production. The performance of Louis Lovett links together these various strands. He is a metronome, constantly moving, singing and voicing the various characters. It is a very demanding part and he is hugely impressive in the role. The text is a complex mesh of ideas and insights which are difficult to keep up with, the alternative is to let it wash over you, with so much imagery, dance and song. Either way, it’s a visual and musical delight that will send you home with a warm glow inside.
The Tin Soldier Company
Directed by: Muireann Ahern
Set Design: Jamie Vartan
Costume Design: Sinéad Lawlor
Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels
Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Composer: Conor Linehan
Choreographer: Kévin Coquelard