Australian Stage Review
Publication: Australian Stage
Author: Cicely Binford
The Little Prince is getting ready to travel Australia, but before he does, he’s playing to Perth audiences down at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. Generations of children the world over have been charmed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella about a stranded aviator’s encounter with an odd young prince who has fallen to earth. Spare Parts gives us their own take on the timeless tale.
Associate Director Michael Barlow helms this adaptation written by Simon Clarke, and he’s used a kind of Brechtian approach by opening the play with a couple of ‘stagehands’ arranging a set on a bare stage. A quiet, mysterious giggle from inside one of the several boxes they’ve pulled out from a giant crate entices the two stagehands into the imaginary world of The Little Prince.
Shane Adamczak places an aviator’s cap on his head and begins to ‘rebuild’ the airplane in which he has crashed into the Saharan desert. Jessica Lewis takes hold of the Little Prince, and approaches the pilot, asking him to draw a sheep for him. This famous first interchange between the pilot and the prince lets us know one of the story’s central themes: the interplay between reality and imagination.
The actors jump in and out of their stagehand ‘reality’ and the imaginary world of The Little Prince. They allow themselves to become immersed and look forward to finding out what happens with the prince and the pilot. Adamczak becomes different characters who live on the various asteroids that the Little Prince visits: a king who claims to rule over the stars, a businessman who claims to own all the stars, and a geographer who has never been anywhere.
Music plays a big role in this adaptation, as many of the books more famous lines are set to pre-recorded music sung by Mark Storen (who performed in the original cast) during scene transitions. They serve as a thematic recap, and help to create a thread through each stage of the prince’s journey.
As the Little Prince too has fallen to Earth without any means of escaping the planet’s gravity or finding his way out of the vast desert, he makes a decision that prompts the pilot to quickly make the final repairs to his plane. In this climactic moment, Adamczak and Lewis arrange the set pieces (cleverly designed by Jiri Zmitko) to form a magnificent simulacrum of an airplane and make it ‘fly’ around the stage, chasing after the Little Prince. The effect is every bit as impressive as the famous flying car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but more endearing because of the handmade, hand-powered quality of the machine.
Kids will get a kick out of Adamczak’s antics, the funny roses, the slithering snake, and the Little Prince’s digs about how silly adults are. The Little Prince holds myriad lessons and treasures in its pages that hold true even as we age. The show pays homage to Saint-Exupéry’s gently profound work, though Clarke and Barlow have made it their own in many clever ways.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre presents
The Little Prince
Adaptation by Simon Clarke | Adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Director Michael Barlow
Venue: 1 Short Street, Fremantle, WA (opposite train station)
Dates: 9 – 26 April 2016