By Natalie Petrellis
As you get older, places you used to go seem to get smaller. Even though it feels as though the La Mama Theatre couldn’t feel any smaller, it seemed to have shrunk since the last time I had been. After five years of intending to come back, I finally came to see The Happy Prince, a stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s parable for children.
As the small audience was welcomed into the dark and hazy theatre, we climbed the stairs, finding our seats glowing in the soft blue light that lit up the stage. The light then dimmed and the soundscape that would guide us through the performance began to play.
Janine Watson and Catherine Davies, the only two actors, gave magical performances. They brought spunk and charisma to the heartbroken characters of the Happy Prince and the Sparrow. Not only that, they embodied a kind of gender fluid sexuality that was playful and passionate. I have never seen a sporty sparrow in roller skates and a lonesome statue cloaked in gold make a better pair. Needless to say, this adaptation is not for children.
Making use of the tiny space, the Little Ones Theatre collective lit up the grey felt covered stage with their dreamlike reimagining of Wilde’s fairy tale. Amongst the blue haze, there was warmth at its centre. The contrast of the blue and gold lighting was enchanting, making opponents out of the heat in the sensitive hearts of the protagonists, and the frosty reality of winter creeping in. The collective even found room for a little flirtatious humour, livening up the old fable, allowing the audience to fall quickly for the Sparrow and Prince. And the sooner we fell, the sooner the performance was over. I had hoped that the performance would have lasted longer but I felt humbled by the experience.
Being in such an intimate space allowed for complete immersion. The audience was really receptive and I think this helped create a very enjoyable performance. The Little Ones collective maintained the integrity of the story, as it was still beautiful but edgier then I remember. It’s the kind of story that reminds us that even though we may need money to survive, material wealth won’t warm us in our hearts. And as I feel the full force of this message, I think that I won’t wait as long to return to the La Mama Theatre for some more soul-filling entertainment.
The Happy Prince runs until 29th January at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. For more information and to book tickets head to the La Mama Theatre website.
Feature Image Credit: La Mama Theatre