A Visual Feast of Magic and Movement for Everyone’s Inner Child
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Thursday May 27
Reviewed by Sarah Navin
A giant moving picture book appears on the Sydney Opera House stage, as a lone aviator plummets through the atmosphere, spinning through the clouds. The curtain lifts to light projections illuminating the entire length of the backdrop and floor, as if the book’s spine is lying on its side – and the pages of The Little Prince are brought to life.
Narrator Chris Mouron leads the show, which offers circus mastery and plenty of quirky colour; requiring just one thing from the audience – a wild child-like imagination. Mouron is also the co-director and adapted the story for the stage. The aerial acrobatics are the real showstopper in this live spectacular of The Little Prince, with performers suspended from the ceiling, spinning inside hoops like a starfish, and slicing across the stage – as we journey to each perplexing planet.
The Little Prince follows the story of an aviator, played by Aurelien Bednarek, who crash lands in the desert and meets a little man who tells him about his adventures through the universe. Lionel Zalachas plays a curious and peculiar title character in The Little Prince, with hair spiked – channeling Einstein, dipped in peroxide. He rolls onto the stage standing on a planet barely bigger than him, where he boasts about tenderly caring for his three volcanoes and a rose.
Then we journey to a regal planet filled with jewels and grandeur, another with a man drinking his sorrows with alcohol, and a frenzied mathematician obsessed with crunching numbers and solving formulas.
The lamplighter sequence is a favourite. A planet with one minute of daylight, and a terribly busy lamplighter, Marcin Janiak, saying a romantic ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’ every 60 seconds. Dancers holding globes twirl and roll across the stage, as the lamplighter swings on his post above a checkerboard floor. It is a creative lightshow that’s visually alluring, with a touch of street/breakdancing thrown in for good measure.
The lighting design is very impressive. Dancers burst out of darkness, jumping in and out of light boxes on the floor, while lit pathways direct dancers in angular patterns across the stage in the chaotic Railway Switchman scene. The show would have half of its brilliance without the clever graphics by video designer Marie Jumelin – creating moving atmospheres, floating planets, geometric cities, disappearing staircases, and the flourishing garden in Planet of the Roses.
The production is a mish-mash of mystifying ideas for anyone not familiar with Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s 1945 book, but it moves quickly, so there’s barely time to grasp the meaning before there’s another distraction – and as the author poetically says, only children know what they are looking for anyway.
The choreography by director Anne Tournie is stunning. The contemporary solo performance by The Rose, Charlotte Kah, and later the Cluster of Roses, is delicate, feminine and striking. A gorgeous moment of weightlessness is created as The Rose joins the Little Prince in the suspended straps and they embrace, collapsing backwards into a gentle swing.
The unfolding of the rose petals through layered costuming is beautiful. Costume Designer Peggy Housset is also to be applauded for the weird and wonderful sheep costumes featuring hunchbacks, humorous padded bottoms, and different ragged wool combinations, making for a highly textured scene. The sheep move in a group, crouching and jumping with bobble heads and angular wrist flicks – choreography that is both adorable and intriguing.
The characterisation of the fox deserves special mention. Dylan Barone’s sky-high leaps and realistic animal mannerisms as he scurries across the stage are delightful. The acrobatic snake, played by Srilata Ray is equally believable. The duet performed by Aviator, Aurelien Bednarek, and the Little Prince, Lionel Zalachas, nearing the end of the work, is almost flawless, as they shadow each other’s movements in unison, but the timing in the group Lamplighter sequence lacks some cohesion.
The Broadway Entertainment Group’s production The Little Prince is awarded with a standing ovation by the opening night audience, including the likes of musical genius Tim Minchin (composer and lyricist of Matilda The Musical) who was among the crowd.
The Little Prince transports you to extraordinary worlds through skilled acrobatic feats, amplified by immersive video projections. It’s packed full of dance sequences from soft and emotive, to abstract and gravity-defying.
You’ll leave the theatre ready to gaze at the stars a little longer, with the knowledge of the magic that exists beyond the stratosphere.
The out-of-this-world masterpiece is playing at the Sydney Opera House until June 6.