Adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book. Choreography and Direction: Anne Tournié. Adaptation and Co-direction: Chris Mouron. Original Music: Terry Truck. Presented by the Sydney Opera House in association with Broadway Entertainment Group. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. May 26 – June 6, 2021
Reviewed : 27 May, 2021
The Little Prince, first published in 1943, tells the tale of an aviator who descends from the sky into the middle of a desert, where he meets a little prince who introduces him to a strange collection of characters and emotions. Writer and pioneer aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery based the story on the days he spent in the Libyan desert after his monoplane failed in 1935!
This extraordinary adaptation, on tour from Paris, has been co-directed by French choreographer Anne Tournié and singer Chris Mouron. With composer Terry Truck and videos designer Marie Jumelin, they re-imagine the Little Prince’s planet in a more contemporary, colourful multi-discipline production that combines dance, aerial acrobatics, music and video-mapping technology.
Tournié and Mouron tumble Saint-Exupery’s Aviator into a bigger world where video images move across the sky and envelop the ground; where stars and planets twinkle and twirl; where little volcanoes puff clouds of white smoke; and computers and calculators flash in a sea of lights and figures.
In this world figures drop gracefully from the sky or twist on lamp posts, or like the Little Prince himself, tread precariously on a spinning sphere – and dancers leap, cartwheel and jump from each other’s shoulders in quirky picture book costumes, designed by Peggy Housset, that that swirl and sparkle and shine.
“We made it a little more modern,” says Mouron, but in doing so, the original premise of the story and its gentle, philosophic wisdom have been preserved. To do this a narrator has been introduced, played by Mouron herself. Using Saint-Exupery’s beautiful, simple language, she gently introduces each fragment of the story, which is then retold in graceful dance, fluid gesture, lithe movement, and gentle humour.
“Draw me a sheep” she says in the words of the Little Prince – and a small flock of sheep appear moving warily towards the Prince and the aviator. On the blue sky above them a drawing of a sheep appears and one of the sheep moves closer. “Not that one,” Mouron narrates for him, and draws his attention to a crate in which he sees another sheep. “That is just the kind I wanted,” Mouron says, and the sheep appears from the crate and dances with the Little Prince.
Thus voice, dance, acrobatics and technology are blended in a way that enhances the simplicity of Saint-Exupery’s original words – and the quintessential characters with which he peopled his story.
The King, for example, balances on the shoulders of his courtiers, whilst a fleur-de-lys of stars floats above his kingdom. “Do the stars obey you?” Mouron narrates. “They obey immediately. …”. And the “stars” line up obediently across the back of the scene.
The conceited man dances in a narcissistic kaleidoscope of colourful “selfies”. The lamplighter sways on his lamp post. The snake winds down from the sky and a moonlike planet. Flowers burst into bloom in the form of elegant dancers swirling in red and gold. “All I own is an ordinary rose,” Mouron intones.
The choreography is such that even leaps and acrobatics seem gentle. The characters the dancers portray are endearing – just as they are in the original text. Even the drunk man and the businessman are portrayed with humour. The sheep and the fox are especially loveable – and memorable …
This vibrant retelling of The Little Prince will stay in the memory of those who see it.
Adults will remember the vivid video mapping and the stunning dancing. Little people will remember the Prince himself with his yellow pants and white hair, looking up to the sky as he hangs, suspended above the stage. They’ll remember the king’s ridiculous puffy hat and red nose. They’ll remember the funny antics of the sheep, the soft gentleness of the fox as he begs – “If you tame me, we’ll need each other .”
That this French production is here in Sydney at all is a little miracle considering the state of our planet at the moment. Perhaps Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a little prescient when he wrote in 1943: “On the Little Prince’s planet, there had always been very simple flowers, but this one had grown from a seed brought from who knows where”.