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BWW Review: THE LITTLE PRINCE Delighted Its Young Audience

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 27th May 2016

The Adelaide Festival Centre is presenting the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre production of The Little Prince, but it is only for such a very short season of only a few performances, all, I gather, sold out well in advance. Perhaps there will be a return season of this charming and cleverly devised piece for children in the near future, for those who were unable to secure tickets, and those who would like to see it again.

Jessica Lewis and Shane Adamczak appear and are tasked with unpacking a large wooden crate. As they peel back the top and sides it reveals numerous smaller crates, cases, and other items. They take these out and distribute them, apparently randomly, around the stage. Lewis opens a long case to reveal a puppet, The Little Prince, which she then controls and provides with a voice, whilst Adamczak dons an old flying helmet and goggles to take on the first of his many roles, that of a pilot whose engine has failed causing him to land in the Sahara Desert, where he finds that he is not alone.

The Little Prince engages him in conversation and begins to tell his story of how he left his own planet, actually a tiny asteroid, and ended up on earth, having a series of adventures along the way, and how he now wishes to return home but cannot escape the stronger gravitation pull of earth, which is a lot larger than his own planet. Adamczak proceeds to play all of the characters encountered by The Little Prince along the way, revealing the secrets of each of the crates and cases in the process. The large crate, too, through an ingenious set of hinged sections, transforms to become desert sand dunes, and even the aviator's aeroplane, with spinning propeller, when he has finally repaired it.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book has been adapted by Simon Clarke, and this fascinating performance was directed by Michael Barlow, with the clever design by Jiri Zmitko lit by Karen Cook, and with original songs by Lee Buddle. There is plenty of visual and aural stimulation to keep the youngest members enthralled throughout.

Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, to give him his full name and title, was actually an aviator himself, making his first flight at the age of only twelve years. In 1935, trying to set a speed record, he crashed in the desert, so his book, Le Petit Prince, draws on his own experiences, perhaps even the hallucinations due to dehydration that he suffered. He was on a reconnaissance mission during the war, when his plane vanished without trace on 31st July 1944, less than a year after this novella had been published.

Although it is presented as a children's book, it is for adults, presenting much of the author's philosophy and views on the ways in which adults treat children. This adaptation focuses on the tale itself, making it ideally suited to young folk, but does not leave out the concepts and thoughts of the author, leaving enough of that higher level of content to further engage the adult audience.

With something for everybody, and the ability to keep even the youngest engaged and relatively quiet, this is a real winner. On top of the very clever set, a well adapted script, and loads of charm, there are two excellent performances from Jessica Lewis and Shane Adamczak, who are superb storytellers and highly entertaining. This big kid had a great time.

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From This Author Barry Lenny