Review by Justin Clarke
Adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book. Choreography and Direction by Anne Tournié. Adaptation and Co-direction by Chris Mouron. Original Music by Terry Truck.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella The Little Prince, originally published in 1943, tells the story of a young prince who visits various planets in space, including Earth. The novella embodies themes of loneliness through its protagonist, friendship through the characters the prince meets as well as more hard-hitting ideas such as love and loss., Although written for a younger audience, the book resonated with an older audience through its observations about life and human nature. Co-directors Anne Tournié and Chris Mouron’s touring production of The Little Prince captivates audiences by translating the novella into performance.
Apart from a narrator (Chris Mouron) who speaks and sometimes sings, the characters do not speak. Instead, we are told the Little Prince’s story through a mix of dance, aerial acrobatics, movement, and digital projections.
If you know the story of The Little Prince, you’ll follow along with ease and will be introduced to the variety of adaptations of the books’ characters. If you aren’t, then there is still enough storytelling provided through the narration – which is also visualised on three screens around the edge of the stage – for those who prefer a solid plotline to take them through.
Tournié and Mouron have created their own unique world of visual storytelling through a variety of styles of choreography. Along with composer Terry Truck and video designer Marie Jumelin, the re-imagining of the world’s many characters and planets is colourful, vibrant and, at times, jaw-dropping.
The use of dance and acrobatics blend with Housset’s costumes that makes Saint-Exupéry characters leap from page to stage.
Lionel Zalachas’ performance as the titular Little Prince guides us through his journey from his home planet and beyond. The sheer feats of acrobatic strength that Zalachas pulls off are mesmerising. Acrobatic straps are used to represent the flock of birds that the Prince flies with from planet to planet, allowing Zalachas to use his skills to great effect as he climbs, tumbles and flies. The moment that the prince spins in the air in a stunning combination of human strength and video projection is positively show stopping. All the while, vibrant colour and tectonic sound are projected onto his body to create a spinning, dazzling image that hangs over the stage as the prince flies between planets.
It’s clear that the creators sacrificed multiple aerobatic numbers for more grounded choreography and dance in their storytelling. This may at times have been a misstep for younger and older audiences who were wowed with the more physical feats of strength than movement.
Combining the choreography of the production with Peggy Housset’s costume design creates a multitude of unique characters who add their own layer to the story. The use of dance and acrobatics blend with Housset’s costumes that makes Saint-Exupéry characters leap from page to stage.
Particular characters are portrayed with humour through their movement, such as the businessman (Adrien Picaut) and the drunkard (Marie Menuge). Others hold an audience captive through their unique and gentle movements, such as Dylan Barone’s Fox and Laurisse Sulty’s Rose who each dance with the prince in their own unique moments in the show.
Then there are those characters who blast with energy, such as Antony Cesar’s Vain Man, or produce calmer, eye-catching feats of strength and endurance, seen through Marcin Janiak’s Lamplighter and Srilata Ray’s Snake.
Only running for a limited season at West HQ’s Sydney Coliseum Theatre, it would be a shame to not bring younger audiences to witness pure storytelling told through multiple formats. And for those older audiences, there is still plenty to feast your eyes on and much to read into in terms of the themes of the story – Has Saint-Exupéry reflected on parts of society through a child’s eyes? How do we still see the world, as an adult or through the eyes of our inner child?
As the narrator reminds us at the final moments of the show, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
The Little Prince is currently playing at the Sydney Coliseum Theatre in Rooty Hill until Sunday 23rd January 2022 before heading to the Broadway Theatre on Broadway. Tickets and information can be found here.
Images credit: Prudence Upton
Director & Choreographer Anne Tournié
Libretto Adaptation & Co-Director Chris Mouron
Composer Terry Truck
Assistant Choreographer Noellie Bordelet
Video Designer Marie Jumelin
Costume Designer Peggy Housset
Lighting Designer & Technical Coordinator Stephané Fritsch