As a children’s story known and loved by many, The Little Prince at Arcola Theatre opens up and reimagines our childhood memories of this cherished tale. Arcola’s Queer Collective reinvents the book, performing a muddled and somewhat cheeky existence of the little prince and the characters he meets along the way. It allows us to reminisce on what was once one of our favourite bedtimes treats but also reminds us of those important lessons that we may have forgotten to apply to our adult lives along the way.
For those of you that know less about Antoine de Saint- Exupery’s cherished work, we follow the story of the narrator as he crashes his plane in the Sahara desert discovering the little prince. Here, he shows the little prince a picture from his childhood, which adults used to continually interpret wrong. When the prince interprets the drawing correctly, we hear of the adventures the prince has been on throughout his life as the narrator attempts to fix his plane. This is a story of love, imagination and asks us to reconsider our adult world.
In this recreation, the prince is portrayed as three bizarre creatures, played by Krishna Istha, Jo Jackson and Lottie Vallis who help us soar around the Universe, reliving the obscure but beautiful memories that live in the prince’s mind. Along the way we are introduced to quirky characters, all of which I know I have come across at some point in my adult life. As we jump from star to star, appropriately visualised as disco balls hanging down in Studio 1, we meet a flower whom the prince once loved on his own planet as a diva Drag Queen, a narcissistic King who lives to be admired, a business man who is only concerned with the wealth from the stars, and a vain, unidentifiable collection of roses amongst others. Each of these characters is dramatically and creatively interpreted with inputs of songs and styalised dance moves to create a dazzling and dramatic party atmosphere. Despite often feeling too melodramatic and cheesy, directors Rubyyy Jones and Nick Connaughton create an alluring adaptation of The Little Prince with a creative cast pathing the way to the magic.
What stood out to me the most though were the design elements of this production. Scaffolding creates a fantastical, childish playground for the little prince to soar around the sky, where he shares his memories, while Lydia Cawson’s costume design pins us down into the fascinating imaginative world. Gender symbols play a combining part in the costume design, with no costume being gender-centric and each costume being creatively wild and in tune with each character. With splashes of denim and glitter all over the place, we could really see the queer world coming to life.
This production certainly isn’t my star in the sky, but it is thought provoking and its essential message makes it a new classic; “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched,/ They are felt with the heart.” This is a fairytale for all adults.
The Little Prince is playing Arcola Theatre until 14 May 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Arcola Theatre website.
Photo: Miriam Mahony