Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Soldier's Tale" - November 2007

The Soldier's Tale at The Tron didn't initially feature in our plans for this autumn. To be honest I don't think either of us actually read anything about it, just saw it was classical music and moved on. A strong recommendation from Bluedog made us take a second look, and we decided to step outside our comfort zone. A production by the renowned Academy of St Martin in the Fields, this also featured Anthony Marwood as the eponymous lead. He's apparently a big deal with a violin (is our ignorance showing yet?)

The tale itself is simple. Boy goes to war, ends up making an unwitting deal with the devil and wealth doesn't bring happiness but love does. If it stopped there it would a be pretty familar tale, but it doesn't. Humans are never happy with what they have, and they always push things that little too far in search for just a little more 'perfection'.

What makes this extra special is the way in which it's told - through perfectly balanced acting/narration, dance and music. No element overwhelms, and they're woven together to form something that is greater than the sum of its parts. You wouldn't think a stage could be filled with just 4 actors, but it certainly is here. The ensemble of 7 musicians at the side interacting beautifully with the action in the centre. The usual way of presenting this is to have an actor miming the violin playing, whilst the violinist in the ensemble provides the actual music. Not in this production as having Anthony Marwood in the role puts the violinst centre stage - though not at the expense of the quality of the music produced.

There's not a wasted moment in this hour long piece, as the tale unfolds. Agnes Vandrepote as the Princess and Iain Woodhouse as the Devil deliver strong dance and physical performances that balance the music out, whilst the narration by Walter Van Dyk holds the tale together. You get the impression that every element of this has been given loving care and attention with beautiful small touches like the light from the book (see photo), the highly effective use of confetti and playing cards and the devil's whipping of the horses. Often productions can be let down by neglecting an aspect of the staging, but a strong but simple set, lighting and costume design meant this wasn't the case. This was close to perfect and the cast and musicians richly deserved the 3 curtain calls.

As someone who went knowing nothing of the tale, and whose knowledge of classical music is poor I thoroughly enjoyed this and came out grinning.

Photo by Nobby Clark - used with permission.

1 Heckle

Statler said...

This was a stunning production by a number of hugely talented artists on top form. Perhaps the tale itself wasn't everything it could have been, but the realisation of it was flawless and worthy of the reception it received - from my view fairly high in the small theatre I spotted several audience members who were right on the edge of their seats desperately wanting to give this a standing ovation but not wanting to be the first to stand up.

Well done to the Tron for bringing this short tour to Glasgow, and thanks to Bluedog for bringing it to our attention.