The Little Prince at Omnibus Theatre: A magical production that will have you rekindle with your inner-child
Bear in mind that this production is very obviously aimed at young children. However, watching this as a jaded, election-anxious young adult is equally entertaining. Directed by Omnibus Theatre’s Artistic Director Marie McCarthy, this production has a dreamlike quality which brings to mind the surrealism of The Mighty Boosh.
The Little Prince was originally a novella written by French aristocrat, aviator and writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is one of the best-selling and most widely translated texts ever published. Adapted for the stage by critically acclaimed writer Sally Pomme Clayton, this production is somewhat true to the original text, but also breaks conventions; the prince is played by a woman (Comfort Fabian) and so is the pilot (Vera Chok). The characteristically blonde-haired prince is also refreshingly replaced by a black actor.
The story begins with a pilot stranded in the Sahara desert with her crashed plane and dwindling water supply. She befriends a little Prince from Asteroid B-612. The little Prince tells him the story of his adventures that take him across the galaxy and introduces him to some very eccentric characters indeed. Growing lonely on his planet, on which he fries eggs over volcanoes (a child’s imagination has very little concern for proportions, let alone practicalities) and weeding baobabs until one day, he meets Rose – an anthropomorphised, very camp and somewhat demanding rose plant. He then travels across the galaxy, to the moon and the Earth in a bid to find a way to make Rose his friend. On his travels, he meets chicken-devouring Fox, a King without any subjects and omniscient Snake.
As you enter the theatre, you will be welcomed by the cast strumming on ukuleles and singing a delightful song that certainly thaws the winter chill out of your bones.
Along with the thin screen of mist, the lighting brings the stage alive and inspires even the most worn imagination. The black ceiling is dotted with tiny lights to resemble a starlit sky. The audience is masterfully transported to magical worlds within this pleasantly intimate theatre.
Though the entire cast is very strong, Vera Chok’s performance as the pilot and Fox is outstanding. Her engagement with the audience, animated movements and charming clumsiness brings a great deal of laughter for both the young and older members of the audience.
This adaptation is certainly toned down and made more suitable for the kids; for instance, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry story, the prince meets the snake and sacrifices his body so that he can return to his beloved Rose. These darker, more existential themes from the original novella are justly swerved to offer the value of friendship as the most important theme and message for a family audience. Another key theme, which almost brings a sense of shame for anyone over the age of eighteen, is our fading imagination. At the end of the play, the prince teaches the pilot to simply draw what she needs most : water. And so, she draws a well from which she pulls rope attached to a pail of water and hastily quenches her thirst.
In adapting to its audience and the form of the story into a stage production, it does feel as though some elements appear superfluous. For instance, the character of Snake is undeveloped here; s/he had no overall function in the narrative. The prince’s friendship with Rose also feels superficial at times. As the prince finds out that Rose is not unique in being a rose, an opportunity for a deeper exploration of the subjective sense of uniqueness that we find in our friends is sadly missed.
The delightfully crude props and costume, the excellent use of lighting and imaginative stage design make this production a very special Christmas treat that has a take-away for everyone. In times when it may feel as though a cloud of gloom is hovering above the world, this serves as an important reminder for all the adults in the room to reach inwardly for their own little prince and re-ignite our childish imaginations.
The Little Prince will be on at the Omnibus Theatre from 4th – 30th December
Photo Credit: Dan Tsantilis