An uplifting visual spectacular
Last week I went to see National Theatre’s latest offering The Light Princess. From the Director of War Horse (which I loved) and The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime (which had amazing reviews) I had high hopes for this new fairytale coming of age story.
The Light Princess features a classic Romeo and Juliet-esque love story, with two countries in a bitter feud. To the left is the golden desert country Lagobel, to the right is the blue water city of Seaford, and in the middle is the thick green Wilderness.
Here’s the official blurb;
A dark fairytale about grief, rebellion and the power of love. Once in opposing kingdoms lived a princess and a prince who had lost their mothers. Althea, unable to cry, became light with grief and floated, so was locked away. Digby became so heavy-hearted that he could never smile, and so was trained as a warrior. Then, one day, he declares war. When Althea enounters the solemn prince the warring heirs begin a passionate and illicit affair. But for Althea to find real love, she must first confront the world’s darkness and face her own deepest fears. Ooohh sounds good doesn’t it?!
The Light Princess was an absolute visual spectacular! I think it was one of the best choreographed pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Althea was treated like a human puppet, made to float in the air by being supported and held up in various positions by 4 actors in black. At one point Althea was even worn like a backpack, suspended feet off the ground on the back of a puppeteer who was clinging to a giant bookcase set piece. The movements were always fluid and gave such an incredible sense of floating motion, you soon forgot she was being suspended and were brought right into the fantastical story line. Very impressive!
Actual puppets were also featured throughout, adding to the fantasy feeling of the musical. My favourite was a lovely raggedy rat who we see scuffle about Althea’s tower, climbing the giant bookshelf and sneaking cheese and water. Adorable! Again, as with Althea, he is controlled so well you forget he is a puppet! Dragons, Digby’s pet parrot, and an assortment of pond life are also portrayed by puppetry and again add to the fantasy atmosphere and storyline of the play.
The set is also a visual treat, very bright and colourful, often with neon splashes. The enchanted pond which Althea and Digby make their home is wonderfully covered in huge glowing lilly pads and fluorescent pink flowers. This set is also made up of strips of fabric and rubber, running length ways across the stage to give the illusion of ripples of water, and allows for the actors (and puppets) to pop up from, and dive underneath, as if a real body of water.
The only thing which let The Light Princess down was, sadly, the music. An odd mix of modern, often humorous lyrics and some what disjointed melodies made for quite an odd soundtrack. My friend said it well when she declared “it reminds me of the sort of stuff I sing when making songs up in the shower!”. I certainly (and maybe thankfully?!) can’t seem to remember any of the songs now which for me speaks volumes.