Something magical is in the air at the National Theatre. The musical fairy-tale of The Light Princess recently opened at the venue’s Lyttleton Theatre, bringing enchantment and wonder to the South Bank as a gravity-free girl and a solemn boy fall in love against a backdrop of war and revenge.
The Light Princess is a new musical written by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson that tells the story of Althea, a princess who hasn’t touched the ground since her mother died, and Digby, a prince who wept at the loss of his mother and has had a heavy heart ever since. These young royals from warring kingdoms are both struggling under the weight of paternal expectations as they try to find their way in the world, and a love affair develops between the two as their respective families seek to annihilate each other through drought and conflict.
The kingdoms of Lagobel and Sealand are brought to life as if the theatre were a giant pop-up book, with a beautifully painted map rising to reveal an endlessly changeable set. The Light Princess is a visual delight, using paper-cut animations and puppetry to great effect. The creative team have crafted something truly entrancing that draws the audience in and greatly enriches the story.
…They worked with such ease…
Of particular note are the four acrobats that aid Althea in her weightlessness. Owain Gwynn, Tommy Luther, Emma Norin and Nuno Silva were incredibly stealthy as they supported, manipulated and moved Althea around the stage. They worked with such ease and gave Althea’s lack of gravity such a natural fluidity that it truly seemed as if she were floating of her own accord.
Althea was portrayed by Rosalie Craig, who gave one of the best performances of the night as the rebellious princess. Craig’s voice was absolutely stunning, and her vocal control when suspended upside-down in mid-air was particularly impressive.
…seeks to tackle issues such as gender discrimination and eco-politics…
Amos’s music was haunting and vivid, with some memorable themes that recurred throughout the score. However, Amos and Adamson’s lyrical choices were sometimes jarring in the context of a musical fairy-tale, especially when multiple rhymes needed to be found for the phrase ‘H2O’ that was frequently repeated in the lyrics. The show’s pacing was also fairly leisurely, which made for a slightly lengthy first half and a running time of two hours and forty minutes.
The Light Princess seeks to tackle issues such as gender discrimination and eco-politics through the accessible medium of a fairy-tale, but the overarching themes are those of love, grief and family. This is a brave production that both captivates and challenges the audience in the telling of its tale.