Willem Wassenaar has, with one of the two current classes of Long Cloud Youth Theatre, adapted Antoine de Saint Exupẻry’s classic children’s story The Little Prince (the other class presented a very well-achieved, very physical and present workshop selection of scenes from Romeo and Juliet). It is the story of a curious young man (Patrick Carroll) who lives on his own small little planet. With a rose (Fran Olds) that is in love with him. You know how it is. He explores the solar system meeting several rather peculiar grownups. These include an oddly fair-minded but still rather eccentric King (Lucy Suttor), a tragically conceited man (Jonathan Price), an even more tragic tippler (Ben Crawford), a very job-demarcation oriented Geographer (Isabelle Stewart), a sociopathic Business man (Ngakopa Volkerling) and heartbreakingly steadfast Lamp Lighter (Jonathan Price). He then arrives on Earth in the middle of the desert in Africa and meets a pilot (Jack Buchanan) who also serves as the narrator of the story (this narratorial role was taken by the whole company). On Earth, the little prince learns many worthwhile lessons and meets some rather inexplicable animals. Then he has to go and tragedy really begins to set in.
The Little Prince‘s power as a story sits in how gently and simply it expresses some profoundly important and complex ideas about human nature and how people interact and how simply we can harm people without thinking. While it may superficially seems to be little more than a childish tract on how grown-ups simply don’t understand, it is, in fact, about ideas of loyalty, understanding, love, sharing and all their inherent complexities when people get involved. It is one of the triumphs of this production that all these ideas are just as present on the stage as they are in the original text.
Presented in the round with the cast sitting with the audience sharing the story as they would with a large group of friends. The only design feature is that all four walls of the space are covered in child-like drawings which feature heavily in the work. The feeling of intimacy that this setup and the performances build was really quite delightful and one has trouble thinking of any other way that this story could be presented.
The cast show skillful-beyond-their-years style, élan and teamwork. This excessively good kind of performance is, of course, now routinely seen in Long Cloud’s productions. While all the performances are all incredibly watch-able and nuanced it would be remiss to not mention Patrick Carroll’s performance as the titular wee prince. A wonderfully pitched evocation of the naivete of childhood that never dipped into laughable ignorance.
Over the 75 minutes or so, Long Cloud weft a wonderful, truly captivating work and one can only hope that it will return for a longer run perhaps in a slightly more refined – design-wise – production.
The Little Prince
wri. Antoine de Saint Exupẻry
dir. Willem Wassenaar
perf. Patrick Carroll, Jack Buchanan, Isabelle Stewart, Ben Crawford, Fran Olds, Jonathan Price, Lucy Suttor, Ngakopa Volkerling and Michael Boyes
At WPAC on 28 & 29 May 2010