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Review: The Little Prince at The Sydney Opera House (on Gadigal Land)

Review By Jerome Studdy

The Little Prince is undoubtedly one of the most cherished texts in the literary canon. It’s rare to say you’ve met someone who has encountered the text who doesn’t have a soft spot for the blonde prince in his green overalls, traversing the planets with the migration of a flock of wild birds. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the text is its unique brand of magic and storytelling, that appeals to the fancies of children while speaking to the pains of grown-ups. But magic and storytelling require passion and energy.

This Parisian production of The Little Prince (presented in association with Broadway Entertainment Group) is a wonderful melange of aerial circus performance and contemporary movement. In adapting the text for the stage, the production is nuanced, heartfelt, and does well to honour the soul of the original. Choreography and Direction from Anne Tournié is well considered and ambitious, collating numerous styles and skill sets into a colourful showcase of character and charm. Associate Direction and the role of The Narrator are undertaken by Chris Mouron. Mouron’s performance is so delightful. The carefully considered vocalisations, ability to express unique characters whilst still maintaining a narrator’s voice, and clear passion for the text are Mouron’s fortes. However, the performance would arguably be elevated by presenting it in the original French. Mouron’s English was occasionally laboured and meant that some moments lost their charm; with surtitles already being used throughout the show, why can’t the show be in its original language?

The cast comprised a number of incredibly talented physical performers, each with their own distinct skill set and physical language. Lionel Zalachas as The Little Prince was outstanding; his physical prowess and technical mastery matched by his brilliant smile and dedication to character. Dylan Barone as The Fox was also captivating in his performance, and the duet of The Fox and The Little Prince was enjoyable for its chemistry and playfulness. Also brilliant was Charlotte Kah as The Rose. The straps duet of Kah and Zalachas during the Prince’s Farewell was nothing short of sublime. It is rare to see two performers duet with such flawless harmony. The Ballet of the Lights was also wonderful to behold, perhaps because it was allowing dance to just be dance. It didn’t need to communicate narrative or character; it was just allowed to sing as spectacle.

The show was not without its flaws though. Occasionally there was a strange emptiness and lack of energy and passion. It’s hard to pinpoint where this came from. At times it felt as though costumes were inhibiting movement, or cast were lacking enthusiasm, or perhaps a live band might have driven more excitement, or tighter precision of ensemble from the cast to nail illusion work was required. The danger of the original text, to which, unfortunately this production seems to fall victim, is the individual worlds of each character. The desire to make these worlds different from one another; in their visual aesthetic, performance style, musical language, and costuming, means that the show at large feels like a vignette showcase, almost as though you’re skipping through television channels.

Two other areas that challenged this show were pace and projection. Often, characters were introduced with large, energetic dance movements, and then had nowhere to go. Characters seemed to plateau with no development or arc to their routines and were forced to keep an unchanging pace which failed to move the audience. Similarly, the projected visuals were sometimes lacking in finesse and depth. However, Sydneysiders are spoiled for choice when it comes to large scale visual projection thanks to Vivid, so perhaps this is why it was easier to be critical of what is, objectively, a very impressive display of visual projection and lighting.

Ultimately, this is a lovely adaptation of the text, but it requires a lot of energy and passion to tell the story and create the magic. If the performance lacks these crucial ingredients, it begins to sag at the seams. These criticisms aside, it is a lovely night at the theatre, and will appeal to those who are grown, or those still growing.

Image Supplied


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