As you turn left off the main street, you know you are getting close to the show when you see kids flocking to the small brick building that is the Tower Theatre. Like moths to a light bulb, on a Saturday at midday, it seems like the go-to activity for Stoke Newington’s local residents with small children is to see The Little Prince.
Based on the classic tale of a young prince who travels to a number of different planets, the play was filled with song, dance, light, and movement. While the theatre space was small, you quickly forget that as the actors filled it up, moves about, and almost cast a spell on the audience. The chalkboard that surrounded the audience was used to mimic the pilot’s sketchbook in the story, where the famous drawing of a snake that swallowed an elephant was drawn up. Throughout the scenes, the chalkboard also helped us keep track of what planet we found ourselves on and what surroundings we were supposed to imagine ourselves in.
As we moved from planet to planet, the cast took part in dance-like intermissions as they moved around with coloured light-up spheres imitating the many planets the Little Prince was visiting. They also had a puppet of the man himself, floating through until he landed on one. The colour of each planet would light up the whole space and I, along with the kids around, would try desperately to guess which colour planet he would land on. Dance was a common thread throughout the piece, from the way the cast transitioned from scene to scene, to how they approached embodying characters like the fox and the snake. It gave a sense of fluidity to the piece that tied the scenes beautifully.
Dance was also complemented by the wonderful use of live music. At no point could I have anticipated that The Little Prince’s Rose would do a live vocal performance in French. I also could not foresee an accordion interlude which filled the space with "ooh"s and "aah"s. The use of light, movement and sound worked together to engage the audience's senses in a way that made us forget the limits of the space and the cast, to the point where I began questioning if the cast had cloned itself and the space had somehow magically extended.
The Little Prince is a tale of youthful curiosity. It is a story that offers a window into the minds of children, as they interacted with adults obsessed with numbers, closed off from an ounce of creativity and grounded-ness. As I sat surrounded by kids sharing candies, hearing them wittily guessing what will happen next and asking banal questions to their parents, I wondered where exactly I stand in this child-adult dichotomy. See, I was far older than any of the kids sat mystified by the play in front of them, but also far younger than those parents sat shushing their kids and urging them to please drink some water. Maybe age-wise I was smack in the middle of the two.
But, without getting too introspective, where do I really stand? I started wondering if have I lost this kiddish curiosity that adults now laugh about and chalk up to children being “cute." I must admit, I am quite obsessed with numbers; I try to budget my week to afford the four-pound sourdough bread from the local bakery and my weekly oat milk mocha from the independent coffee shop down the road that charges me an arm and a leg for it. Maybe I could look up more often at the sky and the trees.
Even so, when I cycle across London Bridge just as the sun rises and turns London golden, I always smile ear-to-ear and glance around mesmerised. Every time I see hopscotch etched into the ground, I skip through the squares. I love colour and asking 'stupid questions.' Maybe whilst I sat in that theatre, and now sit writing this, I have been trying to convince myself that I have not lost touch with my inner child—or that I still am that child and would hate to think differently. In many ways, this play was a wake-up call to rekindle that relationship with a new fervour.
While I had read The Little Prince numerous times before, I can say, perhaps controversially, that I never felt a strong connection to the storyline. After watching this rendition at the Tower Theatre, however, I am willing to take that controversial opinion back.
Edited by Georgia Gibson, Theatre Editor.