A moving puppet adaptation of a classic book, changing the medium without losing its message.
Two grown ups approach a large crate in the middle of the stage. The clipboard-bearer is bossy, while the other one prefers to look at her phone and admire pictures rather than help unpack the boxes. When she does help, she takes a curious peek. Despite himself, the bossy one puts his clipboard down and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s story of The Little Prince leaps out from the boxes and into hearts.
Presented with interludes of grumbling scene shifting, Simon Clarke’s adaptation makes a feature of the behind the scenes aspect of theatre, bringing the young audience into the secrets of how a show functions. Puppeteers Jacob Lehrer and Jessica Lewis present contrasting personae, reflecting the differences between the characters that they each animate. The grown ups who are busy with very important things – the pilot lost in the desert, the king who reigns over the stars and the geographer who is too important to see things for himself – are all brought to grumpy life by Lehrer, who brandishes his clipboard as he “gets the job done” unpacking the crate on stage. Lewis brings infectious enthusiasm to her childish, irresponsible (or is that delightfully carefree?) role, making her identification with the Little Prince’s character all the more appealing.
Beautifully constructed puppetry by Jiri Zmitko and Kipling Smith explores a range of styles, the cut-out face and arm boards for the king and accountant being popular with the young members of the audience, and a clearly audible “awesome” greeting the wooden fox’s arrival on stage. The skill with which Lehrer works the fox meets with delight, but my favourite moments are the simple flight scenes, where the Little Prince travels between planets. Lewis gracefully dances to Lee Buddle’s simple piano tunes, whirling with the puppet’s white scarf flowing out behind him, capturing the magic of the moment with the simplest props.
Lighting and sound provide useful support to the main action, the simple yet humorous lyrics a good match to the whimsical piano melodies composed and performed by Buddle. Technically, though, Jiri Zmitko’s set is the stand out hero of this production. From the intriguing crate squatting on the stage, to the various permutations and combinations of boxes, suitcases and other paraphernalia throughout, the timber constructions hold the attention. The crate itself is the focus of its own magical journey from mere equipment, to shimmering desert sand dunes hiding a well, to its final marvellous transfiguration into the desperate pilot’s restored machine. The set and the script are tied together seamlessly by the fluid transitional abilities of Lehrer and Lewis – director Michael Barlow has created a piece much larger than the sum of its parts.
Aimed at audiences aged 4-12 years, Spare Part Puppet Theatre’s deceptively simple version of The Little Prince is likely to charm the inner children of many adults, also.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre presents
The Little Prince
adapted by Simon Clarke from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Directed by Michael Barlow
Venue: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | 1 Short Street, Fremantle (opposite train station)
Dates: July 5 – 19, 2014
Duration: 50 mins
Tickets: $19 – $23 plus $3.50 (plus booking fee)
Bookings/Enquiries: www.sppt.asn.au | 9335 5044
Recommended for ages 4+