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The Happy Prince

 THE HAPPY PRINCE presented by THEATRE OF IMAGE at the Seymour Centre.

Theatre of Image Artistic Director Kim Carpenter, is responsible for both the Direction and the Design of this adaptation of the Oscar Wilde Fairy story. The Design is meticulously thought through and beautifully executed. There are images here that should stay delightfully in the memory for some time to come: The Little Swallows wooing of the Reed is but one of many. The Puppet Makers (Tina Matthews and Garth Frost), Mask Maker (Paul Fraser), Costume Maker (Lucia Franze) along with the clever Set construction and painting (Pier Productions) are masterful in their ability to lead the imagination to a place of play.

The adaptation by Richard Tulloch is serviceable but I felt its tone was too cool and lacked the sophistication and beauty of the language of the original that Wilde has written. The tendency to use vernacular such as “chief”, “no way Jose” etc vulgarises the tale. It is an urge to condescend to the audience to admit the jargon of the world. (Even though that itself is dated: very Nimrod!1970’s, and should be revised.) The music score by Sarah de Jong is heavy-handed and seemed to be over orchestrated. The atmosphere of the sound created a fair ground feel rather than fairy tale and often intruded counter productively to what was happening on stage. The Company performers: John Gregg, Benn Welford, Romy Bartz, Adam Kronenberg and Beth McMahon worked tirelessly, if sometimes a little perfunctorily.

The Design skills of Kim Carpenter are undoubtedly superior but the Directorial area does not match. The casting of John Gregg appeared odd. The tale is of a Prince and one of the elements of the original story is the implication that the Prince died young. This Prince looks like an ancient King. The acting by Mr Gregg is spoken beautifully but on my performance hardly invested with any feeling. A boring radio voice merely reciting the text. A Happy Prince that was truly made of lead. This was significantly contrasted by the wonderfully warm and gloriously articulated life, both vocal and especially physical that Benn Welford brought to his creation of The Swallow. His detail of thought experience beautifully communicated. His work lifted the experience to a possible place of enchantment. The contrast of performing I suspect was the major contributing factor to my being unmoved by the storytelling. The performance was generally remote and demanded to be observed rather than participated with.

Theatre of Image is deservedly famous for its images. Its actual story telling direction needs more assiduity based on this performance.