When I went to see The Soldier’s Tale I wasn’t sure what to expect. Described by the Open Corps Theatre company as a spoken word opera, the piece uses the Casa Loma stables as a backdrop for an entertaining show combining dance, spoken performance and music.
The Soldier’s Tale follows the story of Joseph, a soldier on leave, who meets the devil in disguise while on the road. Joseph ends up trading his fiddle for a book that promises untold wealth. Joseph eventually realizes that wealth doesn’t equal happiness and he has to fight the devil to regain what he has lost.
The plot was a little bit hard to follow, but the creative staging, dance and music combined to make an incredibly entertaining show. The three main performers constantly switched roles, each of them taking turns portraying Joseph and the devil. While I enjoyed this artistic choice, my show partner Adam found it made the already confusing plot more difficult to follow. However, Adam said Tanya Charles’ violin performance was so good it would be worth going to the show just to watch her play.
As a visual artist, I found myself drawn to their creative use of props. The fiddle that Joseph trades was a simple metal cutout that, when scraped along the pebbled stable floor, acts exactly like a tuning fork. Equally marvelous was the way that lighting was worked into the movement of the performance. Actors would stand still while the lights moved around them, casting beautiful and at times creepy shadows along the walls and ceiling of the stables.
During parts of the show, audience members are crowded into different stalls in the stables, which can make watching the action difficult depending on where you sit. But Open Corps makes creative use of this difficult and awkward stage.
I felt that Open Corps , a self-professed young company, was trying a little bit too hard to prove that The Soldier’s Tale fit their mandate of providing a socially conscious theatre experience – particularly their choice to include a conversation series that invited different artists and performers to respond to the themes of the show.
While the evening’s artistic guest, Madeline Leon’s piano rendition of Sunday Bloody Sunday was enjoyable, and her version of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth made me want to sing along, I’m not sure I understood the connection between her song choices and the play. However, each evening’s performance will feature a different conversation, so some of them may have a stronger connection.
The Soldier’s Tale is definitely worth checking out, and I am excited to see what this theatre company does next. If the weather is nice it also might even be worth going a bit earlier and taking a walk around the grounds of Casa Loma.
– Shows run Thursday through Sunday June 17-20 and June 24 – 27 at 8 pm.
– Tickets are $15 for students and art workers and $20 for adults
– To order tickets call Casa Loma at 416-923-1171, ext 205 or 215
– Photograph courtesy of Jason George