Hans Christian Andersen’s story of a broken tin soldier, rejected by his owner, is given an inclusive twist in this new staging by Birds of Paradise.
Mike Kenny’s adaptation, set in an institutional home where disabled children are dumped and forgotten, focusses as much on the telling of the tale as the story itself.
Emerging from a set of cardboard boxes, five children from the home recall their time there and explain how they told stories to each other. Then they tell the tin soldier’s tale one more time.
This framing device allows for a deconstruction of both Andersen’s story and the circumstances the children find themselves in. The different layers of storytelling, as the characters remember their childhood, says much about difference and how society views the disabled.
Robert Softley Gale plays the comically egotistical Jack. He hates the story of the tin soldier as it reflects his own life too much. This is Birds of Paradise’s first show for a family audience and director Garry Robson focusses on the joy of storytelling. He’s helped in this by Lauren Gilmour and Audrey Tait’s exuberant delivery of their melodic (if not particularly memorable) songs and Victor Nikonenko’s clever set.
Though Kenny’s adaptation could stand to put more trust in the power of the audience’s imaginations, it remains a celebratory and thought-provoking piece of Christmas theatre.