Writer: George MacDonald
Adaptors: Thomas Eccleshare and John Nicholson
Director: John Nicholson
Reviewer: Chris Oldham
How do you make a Princess fly? There are surely less daunting tasks to undertake on stage. But this year, for Christmas, the Tobacco Factory is going for it anyway.
George MacDonald’s fairy tale, The Light Princess, is the story of a girl (Suzanne Ahmet), cursed as a baby by her evil Aunt Makemnoit (Julie Black) to lose her gravity, meaning that she floats away on the slightest gust of wind. By chance, she discovers that she’s safe in water,so she swims in the lake every day. When a Prince (Richard Holt), arrives in the Kingdom in search of a wife, the pair strikes up a friendship. But Makemnoit is determined to drain the land of waterand claim the throne she thinks is rightfully hers.
The Factory Theatre has been transformed for the occasion into a fantastical landscape of castle turrets and leafy forests, with Phil Eddolls’ design including deliberately pointless trap doors, talking moose heads, and even a pool.
But what about the small issue of a flying girl? Not afraid to shy away from a challenge, director John Nicholson and his production team do a good job of bringing the illusion to life. The intricate stick puppet projections that crop up throughout work particularly well, while the clever use of angles, perspectives and movement just about fills the rest of the gaps.
The energy of the small cast is infectious, helped along by most of them playing multiple characters – unafraid to make mistakes, relishing in missing props and accidental slips, and playing off the audience. Amalia Vitale is a subtle comic mastermind – while it’s hard to call which of Rew Lowe’s creations is the funniest – the great French thinker Kopykeck, or the Prince’s Bristolian horse with a love of equine puns. As the Princess of the title, Ahmet is bubbly, inquisitive and untethered – an innocent danger to herself and others around her without knowing it – and her sweet journey towards realising why we need something to hold onto in the world isn’t lost among the mayhem.
After an oddly flat first 10 minutes, the momentum starts to build, moved along by silly songs and smoky, sometimes haunting, vocals from Verity Standen – a scene in a dive bar when Kopykeck and Humdrum drown their sorrows being a particular highlight.
With elements of pantomime, and enough content to please children and adults alike, the journey through the kingdom of the Light Princess is one well worth taking.
Runs until 10 January 2016 | Image: Farrows Creative