The Little Soldiers “Disturbing and Charming in Equal Measure”
28th – 29th at 7.30pm and 31st May at 4pm 2014
On Wednesday evening, The Warren showcased international physical theatre group Theatre Re’s latest masterpiece: The Little Soldiers. Set in the musty, sawdusty magic of the circus, it treads a fine tightrope between beguiling and disturbing.
The story is based loosely around the ancient tale of Cain and Abel. Two brothers and circus performers locked in a struggle over a beautiful ballerina who leads them ever deeper into fantastical lands of desire and dangerous obsession. Beyond that, the finer points of the plot were lost on me, though perhaps plot-line is beside the point.
The Little Soldiers creates a lot out of very little. An other worldly fantasy is conceived out of just a piano, violin, accordion, 4 performers, a ladder and a microphone.
Mime and dance are used to create spellbinding and haunting illusion as the microphone becomes the strings of a puppet, a tightrope and the reigns of a horse. These ordinary objects are transformed into the stuff of dark fairytale, a feat achieved by the intricate and expert mime techniques of the performers as well as the lighting that shifts, shifts and shifts again to affect movement, beauty, fear, then despair. This show is just as unsettling and horrifying as it is intricate and graceful.
Integral to The Little Soldiers is a weighty live musical accompaniment which works as a substitute for dialogue and weaves in and out of the story, lending a narrative and an emotional weight. Particularly haunting here are the ballerinas ghostly, wailing notes that are live recorded and laced into the rest of the stunning musical score.
I felt that there was an arena of untapped potential here. The transformative and creative relationship with props wasn’t pushed to its limit and I wasn’t completely consumed by the fantasy world that the performers created. The show relies on a very basic set of props and apparatus to tell a story. With no dialogue and a simplistic storyline the performance has to do something special to hold the audience’s attention throughout. It was very nearly there but you were left wanting for very slightly more solidity and creativity.
This said, the simple aspect and the skilled performance creates a haunting, ghostly space that is atmospheric and dark as well as vague and dreamlike – and it works! The Little Soldiers is a performance that stays with you and one that’s definitely worth going to see – It’s a stunning and intricate piece of physical theatre that strikes a fine balance between light and dark and disturbs and charms in equal measure.