The Little Prince

Review by Flossie Waite
A Lux & Vox Production
At The Proud Archivist
25th Aug – 6th Sept
For ages 10+

Whenever the narrator of The Little Prince meets a new person, he does an experiment: he presents them with a picture and asks what they see. For most people, the answer is a hat; for the narrator, it is a boa constrictor who has just eaten an elephant. The novella explores the narrator’s wish to find someone who looks at the world the way he does. Lux & Vox’s “immersive junk play” is, therefore, a fitting form for this interactive adaptation, counting on the audience to look imaginatively at the huge piles of random items – woolly hats, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, feather dusters – collected across the space, and use it to help tell the story.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s best-selling work, the author narrator crashes his plane into the Sahara desert. Whilst fixing it, he meets a little boy who explains that he is from asteroid B-612, and tells the narrator all about the visits he made to other planets on his way to Earth. The audience are asked to help find props and make scenery out of the scattered assortment of everyday objects, together becoming the author’s ill-fated plane, and the solar systems the Little Prince flies past.

It’s unclear (though often debated) whether the book is for adults or children, though The Little Prince website offers a nice suggestion: that it is a book for children written for grown-ups”.  This production has a similar feel. It is a play for children – originally performed at the Little Angel Theatre, best known for it’s children’s work, it has the ‘let’s pretend’ quality of child’s play, though it was presented in a trendy Haggerston restaurant-bar-gallery during the evening. What happens naturally with an audience of children – joining in even when they are not asked to – is far harder to encourage in adults; in fact, those who got involved most enthusiastically were also the drunkest. This is a tricky situation when the audience are invaluable to proceedings, and the participatory aspect definitely worked best when it was more prescriptive.

The puppets are also formed out of the discarded ‘stuff’ – a mug and a bulb, for instance, serve as the Little Prince. It’s not enough, however, to just have junk becoming a character – you have to really commit to wow the audience. Out of a backdrop of enjoyable messiness, the object puppetry needed more specificity – if a piece of material is meant to represent the king’s body, his ‘arm’ cannot be plucked out of the cloth at random (and with the puppeteer’s alternating hands) each time he supposedly uses it, or it’s impossible to ‘see’ him. The audience should be drawn to looking at the puppet and forget all about the performer controlling it, and without consistency of character and puppeteering, that’s really hard to do.

There is potential for the production to feel like an awkward workshop attended by grown ups searching for their inner child.  If this production finds the young audience it intends to, it will become much more comfortable in its skin.

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