The Little Prince, Omnibus Theatre, Clapham

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If you are looking for an entertaining Christmas show for your little ones, something that is short enough (55 minutes) to cater for their attention spans and is also moving without being mawkish, funny without becoming farcical, then this is the perfect combination. If you have no little ones to take along, I think you will still be amused and enchanted by this imaginative retelling of one of the world’s favourite books, The Little Prince.

Omnibus Theatre Clapham, photo credit: Dan Tsantilis

The three-person cast prove their versatility, changing their accents and their costumes at record speeds. Incidentally (and refreshingly) they also fulfil the criteria of diverse casting, since they represent three different ethnic groups. But all this is done in a matter of fact way, without virtue signalling. Yes, so the golden-haired prince of Saint-Exupery’s story is played by a black woman (Comfort Fabian is by turns sweetly confused and stubborn in the role) – so what? The narrative remains the same and the children in the audience had no problems accepting that. Another nod to our contemporary culture was to have the Rose played by a man. Royce Cronin clearly has a whale of a time portraying Rose as a prickly, spoilt drama queen. While some in the audience might wince at the campness with which this is conveyed (and miss the gentler, more mature aspects of the Rose), you would have to be very Scrooge-like indeed to not enjoy the voguing that Rose teaches the Prince.

With such a short performance and with a young audience in mind, naturally some of the episodes from the Little Prince story get dropped, and I for one was thankful that the snake was only hinted at briefly, as an onlooker. There are still plenty of memorable meetings: with the lonely King, the greedy businessman, the other roses and, of course, the Fox who teaches the Prince how to cultivate friendships. All of the familiar quotes are there, for example, ‘It is only with the heart that one can truly see; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ but there is far less of a sense of rebellion against those mad grown-ups who have forgotten how to be children.

The Fox in particular (played by Vera Chok, who also plays the pilot) was excellent at connecting with the audience, with just the right amount of jokey menace to make them squeal, yet ready to nip any over-excitement in the bud. Above all, I appreciated the fact that there was none of the dumbing down or repetition of  ‘I can’t hear you, what did you say?’ types of conversation that often get mistaken with interactivity, but are more suitable for pantomimes.

Overall, this was a joyous adaptation of this children’s classic, the kind of show that really did offer something for everyone, ages 4-104, as stated in the programme. On until the 30th of December.

 

 

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