Writer: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Choreographer: Luca Silvestrini
Luca Silvestrini’s Protein brings to the stage Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince. It is a charming piece which uses dance, spoken word and some gently pantomimic moments to engage its young audience. The piece won the Fantastic for Families Best Family Event Award in 2020 and was nominated for Best Modern Choreography at the National Dance Awards, 2021.
Saint-Exupéry explores big questions about the world through the eyes of a curious child, the Little Prince, who has fallen to earth from a tiny asteroid. In the desert he finds the Pilot, whose plane has crashed. For company they have two creatures: Fox, engagingly embodied by Andrew Gardiner and the more sinister Snake, performed with sinuous movement and chilling rattle by Donna Lennard. Gardiner and Lennard between them play all the strange, Alice-in-Wonderland-like occupants of other planets whom the Little Prince describes to the Pilot. Lennard, with fabulous voice and comic timing, is hilarious as the imperious King, trying to recruit audience members as his subjects, and the impossible-to-please Rose.
The staging is simple – this is a touring production – but highly effective. Balls of different sizes are variously floated, swirled around the stage or scrambled over. Video projection creates a sky of stars or shows representations of Saint-Exupéry’s familiar line drawings (famously the hat which is in fact a boa constrictor digesting an elephant). The most magical scene shows the Lamplighter sweeping his wand against a violet night sky, lighting the hanging planets.
Faith Prendergast is compelling as the Little Prince, believably conveying the exuberance of a young child in her effortless gymnastic movements. Her duets with both Gardiner’s Fox and Simon Palmer’s likeable Pilot are masterpieces of sweetness and delicacy.
The Little Prince itself is undoubtedly a strange story and it’s hard to know just what young children make of this stage production. There was much happy giggling at the start when the Pilot and Fox talk directly to them. But the children seemed primed for a more straightforward pantomime experience, especially when an eager but misinformed little boy spontaneously cried out “It’s behind you!” The narrative is hard to follow and the ambivalent ending – does the Little Prince die? – a bit of a dampener. But all is forgotten when children and cast finally get to chuck paper planes. The Little Prince is certainly no Peppa Pig, but has a distinctive charm.
Runs until 24 December 2021