The Little Prince talks to the rose – photo supplied

Antoine de Saint Exupéry was a French pilot, born in 1900, who disappeared in 1944 whilst on a reconnaissance mission from Corsica. He left a mysterious legacy including one of the most loved of magical tales, The Little Prince, which we see transformed for the Norwich stage by Luca Silvestrini in a lively production for younger audiences to enjoy.

The Little Prince has become one of the most loved books ever published, turning Saint Exupéry into a national hero in France. A suitably magical film version made a big impact on me many years ago, and I would love to see it again. Meanwhile theatre company Protein have turned this famous fable into an imaginative and inspiring stage show.

A pilot crashes his plane in a wild and apparently uninhabited arid desert region, with only the occasional cobra showing any signs of life. But stretched out in the heat of the day the Pilot (Karl Fagerlund Brekke) suddenly finds that he has a friend, the perky little Prince. The Prince (Emily Thompson-Smith or Faith Prendergast) is only passing through, and we learn that his principality and home is a tiny asteroid far away, where he has little to do but watch the sunset, and sometimes run around the asteroid to catch the sunset many times a day. His routine is steady until a rose sprouts up and demands all his love and attention. Exhausted by her demands the Prince takes off to find friends on other worlds, while yearning to return.

The Prince has the enthusiasm and vivacity of a young and optimistic child, with the naive optimism that all children can delight us with. Director Luca Silvestrini has created a light and airy feel to the stage, with large white globes seemingly doubling as puffy clouds and other worlds, and a few other things too. The Prince is a dancing bundle of energy, seldom still and always flitting hither and thither like a hyperactive nipper.

The cast of four are kept busy throughout, with the Prince and the Pilot on stage almost all the time and the other two actors, Donna Lennard and Andrew Gardiner, playing a range of diverse characters, all of whom are the stereotypes suited to their place in the tale, played with great gusto and enthusiam. The technical elements of the show are supportive, not intrusive, with some projections and clever lighting effects, with music (by Frank Moon) and dance helping to build a magical atmosphere.

This is a show for children of all ages to enjoy. The character of the Prince is brilliantly portrayed and full of fun and life, immediately engaging the affection of the whole audience. The diminutive Prince is the perfect foil to the very tall Pilot, and they interact in dance and gentle movement throughout the play.  The Theatre Royal was filled with an audience mostly of school age children who clearly enjoyed the show – a perfect antidote to a rainy half term day, guaranteed to cheer you up.

Follow The Little Prince on tour, and find out more, here:

© Julian Swainson 2019