On New Year’s Eve I went to see The Light Princess at the National Theatre. Having seen numerous advertisements and so much positivity surrounding it, I was annoyed it had taken me so long to actually see it myself!
We daysat for the show which resulted in £12 front row tickets, bargain. I’d been warned previously by the box office staff that with being front row the depth of the show obviously wouldn’t be as attainable, being so close, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make on a student budget!
I’m obsessed with gorgeous show design, so as soon as I was in my seat I couldn’t stop staring at the curtain for this show because it was wonderful. Bearing in mind I haven’t actually read the book The Light Princess by George MacDonald that the show is inspired from and have tried to avoid knowing what happens to make sure the show is new to me, the curtain gave me a sense of the imagination in the show without spoiling me as such.
The narrative of The Light Princess is a fairytale in structure, and tells of a Princess in Lagobel and a Prince in Sealand who have both lost their mothers but react very differently. The Princess, Althea, does not shed a tear while the town cry profusely at the loss of her mother, and when she loses the ability to cry she is light and floats from then on. The Prince, Digby, finds himself unable to smile after his mother dies. Both lands have something the other wants to possess and so the predominant string of narrative is their desire either for water in Lagobel’s case, or gold in Sealand’s. Having left her land after being locked away by her father, Althea is met with Digby in the Wilderness where they fall in love which complicates everything else happening at the time.
I don’t want to spoil anyone so will still the description of the plot there! Althea is played by Rosalie Craig who was simply phenomenal in the show, her finesse while being carried, held and moved by acrobats in the show made my jaw fall. Not only did she make just acting the character out effortless while rarely being on her own two feet, she then sang so beautifully! I was in awe of her talent and the bond of trust present between her and the team of acrobats. They would be lifting her up to quite some height and she wasn’t attached to the set at all, she was just relying on them to not drop her, amazing. I commend Rosalie on her performance highly, her talent was so immense it was slightly distracting (in a very good distracting sense though)!
Amy Booth-Steel played the role of Piper, Althea’s friend, and also acted as a narrator at the beginning of the show to set the scene. I thought her acting and singing was superb, especially when dealing with the sometimes stubborn attitude that Althea had at times. The comedic element she brought to the role was another thing I loved, especially in the scene where her and Althea are driving lost through the woods. Another incredibly strong female role was found in the Falconer of Sealand played by Laura Pitt-Pulford, close associate to Prince Digby who had a stunning voice and a lot of stage presence in scenes. Another crucial character in Sealand was that of Zephyrus, a bird belonging to Digby, played by Ben Thompson. As with any show including puppetry it takes some time to ignore the puppeteer but Ben did such a stunning job with all the slight motions of Zephyrus to make him seem like a real bird, and the seamless transitions from the full puppet to simpler models on long poles to make it appear like a far off view of Zephyrus flying were fascinating.
Prince Digby was played by Nick Hendrix who sublimely portrayed the transition of angsty Prince ready to embark on a war to curious being willing to love, with equally sublime vocals. As well as being aided by the Falconer, Digby has Llewelyn, by his side. Llewelyn is played by Kane Oliver Parry who is on the same level as Piper in the show, and also helps narrate the story from Sealand’s perspective in the opening.
The show is magical, even moreso because it uses such innovation in the production. With the opening, rather than reproducing the tale that prequels what the audience sees in the show with real actors, screens at the back of the stage show an illustrative film that is narrated by Piper and Llewelyn which then transforms into the first scene.
As I mentioned previously, acrobats dressed all in black manoeuvre Rosalie as Althea around the stage with incredible strength. The team of acrobats include Owain Gwynn, Tommy Luther, Emma Norin and Nuno Silva who deservedly got one of the louder rounds of applause – their work in the show was unquestionably brilliant. I remember one moment in the show that completely flabbergasted me, when Emma Norin laid on the ground and held Rosalie up with only her feet, not only did she hold her there for quite some time she moved her to give the impression of Rosalie floating lightly, as well as changing her from one angle to another. I was blown away.
For the majority of the show where Rosalie was floating the acrobats were present, however there were a couple of scenes in which wires and ribbons were used to show her floating which were just as fascinating. In the scene where Althea meets Digby Rosalie is on wires and then Nick used the ribbons attached to her to move her around the stage, even joining Rosalie in the air at some points. I was truly in awe.
I adored the set design of this show, Rae Smith has used a palette full of bright and vibrant colours corresponding delightfully for the separate lands, with Lagobel and it’s rich orange, reds and gold and Sealand holding cool blues and purples. The lake of Amphibiava which Althea is besotted with features as the stunning act 2 opener, and it’s was a true delight to watch with Althea and Digby encountering the fish, frogs and plants there, all manipulated by performers underneath the ribbons that make up the lake.
Not only were the visuals of the show beautiful, but the music that accompanied it were too. Tori Amos wrote the music and lyrics for The Light Princess and did a wonderful job in capturing the fairytale and translating it onto the stage. The whole creative team have produced something inspiring, it’s been incredibly well-received, and as it’s approaching the end of it’s run at the Lyttleton theatre I believe there’s a limited availability for the final shows. I’ve made the correct decision in snapping up a ticket for the final performance of this mind-blowing show and I’d suggest you do the same. If I hadn’t yet seen it, I’d be fighting for a ticket.