“Sure-footed and affectionate “
‘The Unauthorised Story of The Little Prince’ says the flyer, which might – to a grown-up – suggest something naughty and sneaky under the radar. Fortunately, not. Relocated but not crudely transplanted this is still St Exupéry’s wonderful story where, in case you’ve forgotten, ‘All grown-ups were once children … but only few of them remember it.’ Flight hopes to take you to where the children are – wide-eyed and looking to learn.
Much of The Little Prince was actually written on Long Island, NY, and Flight has come in from Long Beach, California; so feel the sand between your toes and see wide horizons in the little space that is Roxy Downstairs ( … 2 seats in rows to the left of the aisle, 6 to the right). The vision thing is big in southern California but it’s for real on stage, down to earth: nothing adult, shiny and corporate. Flight would have us forget BMWs, lattes, suits and golf carts, and see instead singing birds rise against the coastal dunes and have the splash of the Pacific against your face. That’s the alternative point, Exupéry’s core text: ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye’. It all happens along the coastline of Baja California in Mexico so magic stingray, wise turtle and badger – surprisingly! – are at home, joined by exotic zebra and wicked bottle (baobab) trees.
So what would, what can Flight ‘s writer Ezra LeBank show and tell? Well, as a master teacher of movement, there is a lot of accomplished physical theatre. Three expert performers: LeBank himself as Pilot and earnest Narrator; Cynthia Price as the brave Little Prince(cess); and Taylor Casas as the most supple of cacti – effortlessly fold and lift and turn through a busy story. The only props that I can remember are the blinking LED torches of the plane’s navigation lights. What I have no trouble recalling is the Little Prince rising and falling in the air bubble of a blue whale and the constant slightly puzzling play upon cactus rose and thorn.
What I missed was colour, even costume, which is probably my senior hangover from Exupéry’s own illustrations that are so integral to his famous book. A black backcloth with a slash of white could have been relieved occasionally. LeBank’s voice has the whole story to tell and although he manages this with marked clarity it does not, in Scottish terms, set the heather on fire. No doubt the company decided that once you provide one visual your audience starts looking for the screen rather than realising what matters. Desensitised schmuck that I am, I began to want to interrogate a seven year old, nurtured by character animation, to ask what he thought.
Portable, of necessity, rather than deep-rooted, ‘Flight’ is still a sure-footed and affectionate reshaping of an important and civilising story.
Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 8 August)
Go to Flight and Curbside.
Visit the Assembly Roxy archive.