The bad guy in The Tin Soldier is a maniacal Jack-in-the-Box. In a nightmarish sequence, he emerges from his container, forcing each of the toys to play an instrument until the auditorium is overwhelmed by jarring, off-key, devilish music. Obsessed with the music box ballerina, he forces her to kiss him on the cheek and to dance with him – when she tries to get away, he chases her through the auditorium until she is caught. For the rest of the play, the Jack-in-the-Box is on a crusade to keep the ballerina and the Tin Soldier, who have fallen in love, apart; they are little match for his possessive, power-abusing ways. His sinister villainy is central in a fairly grim and ultimately hopeless plot; rather than deliciously dark, The Tin Soldier is genuinely unnerving.
Peut-Être’s production is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1838 fairytale, and in many ways the company’s blend of movement and sound is an apt medium to explore the story. There are the toys with their individual quirks, like the smiley, shuffling doll who squeaks each time she moves, or the Tin Soldier himself who only communicates with a military ‘Hup!’ and showcases incredible skills as he dances with only one leg and a wooden crutch. Later, we meet the two children who find the Tin Soldier after he has been expelled by the Jack-in-the-Box: they create a mad mix of beatboxing and quasi-didgeridoo-playing, whilst they expertly balance on rolling tubes and break-dance. The show’s comic master is the ballerina (Maya Politaki), who is outrageous in her demands for applause, fastidious about pulling up her tutu and pulling out her leotard wedgie, and excessive in her wailing tears over the Tin Soldier (throwing used tissues into the audience). But much like the ballerina can’t avoid the Jack-in-the-Box’s grasp, this play can’t escape the overwhelming creepiness it creates.
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