Building upon the success of last year’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Arcola Queer Collective make a triumphant return with their second full-length production: The Little Prince.
The Prinx embarks upon a voyage through space, leaving behind the tiny planet that was once home, and goes bouncing from world to world, encountering a motley multitude of colourful characters, before finally falling to Earth and discovering what we have on offer here.
Based upon the classic novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this telling of the timeless tale – adapted by co-director Nick Connaughton – is relatively faithful to the original, plot-wise, but, naturally, in the hands of the Arcola Queer Collective – there is a twist.
The story has been queered, but not in a clunky, obvious way. Gender is meaningless in this universe. It’s not something that is ever mentioned – there are no grand monologues on binary identities – gender is simply something too magnificently unimportant to be acknowledged. Any performer can play any role, and not a single gender specific personal pronoun is used throughout. This cosmos devoid of sexual stereotypes and conflicts, and polemic, makes for a refreshingly clear canvas onto which a competent cast are able to paint their characters in broad and pleasing strokes.
In a bold move, the titular Prinx is played simultaneously by three performers – Krishna Istha, Jo Jackson, and Lottie Vallis. It’s a fascinating experiment, and, indeed, a successful one – each player subtly channelling slightly different aspects of the character – a triumphant triumvirate. It is the Prinx’s childish innocence – the playful prism through which they view the places and people discovered – that so successfully seduces us into becoming wide-eyed and willing participants on this joyful journey. And we’re cajoled into caring by a delicate performance from Jonathan Scholey as The Pilot – a storyteller and guide who takes us by the hand and leads us to the fairytale’s heart.
There are a large assortment of eccentric characters encountered throughout the piece – mostly reflecting the diverse follies of ‘grown-ups’. Of particular note are James Ferguson as the Business Person – a consummate study in the absurdity of avarice – and a gloriously pitch-perfect inaugural stage appearance from Vix Dillon as The Fox. Arkem Mark Walton as The Flower is a delicious diva, Camilla Harding has all the right moves as a sensual Snake, and Ava Markey gives us a Lamplighter who is grandstandingly grotesque.
Costume by Lydia Cawson is eye-catching and inventive. In particular, the outfit sported by The King is a fabulously unlikely fusion of fashion and fabric, proving that with cunning creativity, anything is possible. A sparse and functional set is decorously decorated with a myriad of mirror balls that sparkle and spin much like the plot.
The Little Prince is an imaginative flight of fancy from a company that are clearly growing in confidence. We look forward to more from the Queer Collective, and predict great things from this budding group. From roots embedded firmly in the community, great and beautiful flowers blossom.
GT gives The Little Prince — 4/5
The Little Prince runs at the Arcola Theatre until 14 May. Full details via arcolatheatre.com.