I remember reading Oscar Wilde’s fairytale The Happy Prince when I was young, and I remember its beauty and sadness breaking my heart. I loved this story about the gilded, bejewelled statue of a past prince and his friendship with a lively swallow. Little Ones Theatre has adapted it into a captivating two-hander that features the company’s signature playfulness with regard to gender and class.
The intimate La Mama Theatre is a wonderful setting for this deeply moving tale of the prince enlisting the help of the swallow, as winter approaches, to remove his jewels and gold leaf and distribute them to needy people living in the city he once ruled and that he surveys from his column high above it.
In this production, both the prince and the swallow are played by female actors (Janine Watson and Catherine Davies) – the swallow as a cheeky young woman on rollerskates and the prince as an elegant Pre-Raphaelite figure. Their interaction takes place on a bare, shallow stage, but what the audience is seeing is never dull due to the evocative lighting (by Katie Sfetkidis) and atmospheric sound design (Daniel Nixon). Under Stephen Nicolazzo’s direction, the actors give restrained, elegant performances that alternately make you laugh and, yes, break your heart.
We are lucky to have a company such as Little Ones Theatre in Melbourne, and – it can never be said too many times – a venue such as La Mama Theatre. See this production if you can get a ticket; the only way is to get on the nightly waiting list.