Review of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, a performance by the State Puppet Theatre – Yambol

About the tin soldiers and paper ballerinas
Desislava Vasileva
Production team
Dramatization Teodora Georgieva
Directed by Lubomir Kolaksazov
Scenography and puppets Tsetska Ivaylova
Composer Hristo Namliev
Choreography by Maria Dimitrova
Participants: Anna-Valeria Gostanyan, Hristo Petev

“The next day the maid found a small leaden heart in the ashes of the stove. Only the star was left of the ballerina, but even that was blackened like coal.”

“The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, Hans Christian Andersen

Andersen’s fairy tales are loved by young and old all over the world. Not only because of the fascinating stories that children and their parents get excited about, but also because of the moral nature of the stories and that slight tinge of sadness that remains after the end.

One of Andersen’s best fairy tales – the one about ” The Steadfast Tin Soldier”comes to life on the stage of the State Puppet Theater “Georgi Milev” – Yambol. The leader of this journey with the soldier is Lyubomir Kolaksazov, who has already proven himself with his successful missions in the puppet theater (“The White Crow”). The puppets and scenography are the work of Tsetska Ivaylova, who debuted on the professional stage with this performance, and the adaptation of the fairy tale is by Teodora Georgieva.

Figures in puppet-like costumes straight out of a steampunk magazine spin in a dance reminiscent of an enchanted spiral. These are the actors Anna-Valeria Gostanyan and Hristo Petev. They come out of the box, like the toys in the fairy tale, and then hide back in it to introduce us to the soldier Hans and the ballerina Jenny.

The relationship between a doll and an actor is curious. Their partnership is equal. Here it cannot be given precedence who is the leading figure in the performance. The doll complements the actor and vice versa – the actor complements the doll. Their very appearance also contributes to this feeling – as if Ivaylova managed to intertwine their being and connect them into one. Their faces themselves are identical, although that sounds strange and somehow even impossible. Sometimes we see an actor and a puppet communicating with each other, asking each other questions, as if checking to see if the other is still here. Such a strong relationship, in such a tandem – is rarely seen.

The puppets that Ivaylova creates look just like from a children’s book, even the illustrations have materialized and come out to tell children the story of the brave soldier Hans. A curious detail in the dolls is how the ballerina Jenny looks – with only one leg, just like the soldier Hans. In Andersen’s fairy tale, it is mentioned that the ballerina has one foot on her feet and the other is raised so high in the sky that the soldier does not see it and therefore thinks that she is like him. Definitely a very interesting insertion and decision by the set designer.

Teodora Georgieva’s adaptation takes us into Andersen’s magical world as we have never seen it before – starting with the polished dialogues, passing through the added character of the Fairy and the prison scenes, and arriving at how the essence of the tale was extracted.

Moving from scene to scene, whether it’s a soldier, ballerina, goblin, rat or fairy, each doll is crafted in a different way, style and color scheme. At a certain moment, we see how one of the actors (Hristo Petev) disappears in the smoke screen, and the soldier Hans appears in his place, and we never stop believing that what is happening before our eyes is real. Such is the magic of the stage.
Although it’s been a while since I was a kid and I don’t really know what kids like today, I know that this show filled me with euphoria that doesn’t need words. Unlike most children’s productions, Kolaksazov’s is not sugar-coated to make it easier to swallow. On the contrary, it is as bitter as Andersen’s fairy tale. But no matter how much I wiped the tears from my eyes, the smile did not leave my face. Just like in fairy tales.

Translation is funded by National Culture Fund.