GT Stage

Review: The Light Princess

We take a look at the new Tori Amos musical at London's National Theatre...

Tori Amos’ highly-anticipated musical, The Light Princess, finally made it onto the stage of London’s National Theatre last week after a reportedly six-year gestation. That, by anyone’s standards, is a long time yet despite being in thrall of Marianne Elliot’s staging, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by Amos’ contribution given her reputation.

The Light Princess is based on a Scottish fairytale about a princess, Althea, whose mother dies but as she is unable to grieve for her loss, decides to levitate by way of compensation. She and her put upon father, King Darius, live in the kingdom of Lagobel, but there’s an opposing land, ruled by the ruthless King Ignacio, called Sealand.

The two countries go to war, with Ignacio’s son, Prince Digby, entrusted with the task of killing Princess Althea, but when they meet – guess what? They fall in love but, to quote Shakespeare, like many before them they find that ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’.

Amos provides a musical score that chugs along nicely, but none of it is memorable, and as the entire work is more or less through-composed, i.e. there are no big show-stopping, or toe-tapping numbers, the overall effect was pretty dull. There’s little dialogue to speak of, so it’s more ‘operatic’, than what you’d expect from a traditional musical.

However, what lifts the whole evening is Marianne Elliott’s breathtaking production, in Rae smith’s witty and engrossing designs. Visually The Light Princess is a thing of wonder, and the way in which Althea ‘floats’ – black clad muscle men (and a woman) manipulate her every move so she literally appears to be levitating before our eyes, is truly magical. Add to the mix Rosalie Craig’s superlative interpretation of the princess, both vocally and dramatically and you have the makings of a very fine evening.

The supporting cast is not on the same level, although Nick Hendrix has a brave stab at Prince Digby – what he lacks in vocal allure, he more than makes up for with impressive pecs and a six-pack!

A mixed-bag then. Maybe expectations were too high, but The Light Princess is still worth a visit as you’ll be hard-pressed to see such an inventive staging and brilliant central performance anywhere this side of Christmas.

The Light Princess is in rep at The National Theatre until 9 January. Tickets available via the National Theatre website

GT gives this a: 3/5

Words: Keith McDonnell
Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

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