The Light Princess and a hopeful return to blogging

Oh, hello. Yes, I am still alive, though incredibly dusty and moth-eaten. The cobwebs add a certain edge to my look, don’t you think? You might have noticed an absence from both here and Youtube, something I hope to rectify from the New Year, or now. Hopefully now.  When I do make my dramatic return to Youtube there will be a sort of explanation video so I won’t spend time writing one here, instead I will leap forward to yesterday – the day I discovered that it is possible to find a dream in real life.

The Light Princess

I had long been aware that Tori Amos was working on a musical but I managed to miss all of the announcements about what it was and when it was showing – then I saw the poster on the underground. Anyone who has seen my photography will know that just looking at the poster filled me with glee and made me look it up as soon as I got to work. When I saw that it was the musical Tori Amos was working on I absolutely had to see it!

As soon as we were inside and we could see the curtain and the edges of the set, I knew I would fall in love with this musical. (I fell in love with the idea of it before then, deciding to buy the book before even seeing the show.) As we sat there, looking at the beautifully drawn map of Lagobel, Sealand and the Wilderness between, I could feel wriggly feelings in my stomach. I had been looking forward to this moment since booking the tickets, getting more and more excited as I read about the puppetry, animation and flying – sorry, floating – that was waiting for me on the other side of that curtain. I was not disappointed.

If there is such a thing as magic (and I truly hope there is), I think I saw it during The Light Princess. Rosalie Craig floats throughout most of the show (via various different and genius methods) and manages to do so while looking and singing effortlessly. She portrays Althea with all the lightness you would expect of the Light Princess but not without beautiful depth and feeling in the show’s darker moments, which had my best friend crying in the seat next to me. The on-stage chemistry with Amy Booth-Steel’s Piper was fantastic and provided several of the shows more amusing moments.

The other lead came in the form of Digby, the Solemn Prince, played by Nick Hendrix, whose falsetto is to die for. However, when teamed with Llewelyn (Kane Oliver Parry), Hendrix’s voice took on the deeper vocal line to create some delicious harmonies. Digby’s character showed more vulnerability than I expected from the Solemn Prince – it was delightful to watch.

The supporting characters were just as amazing as the leads (and I suffer from coat-envy when it comes to the Falconer), all of the voices blended together so brilliantly (especially in the spine-tingling harmonies from the show’s finale). I was definitely transported to the world of my dreams and did not want to leave when the show was over.

As sets go, the set of The Light Princess was pretty spectacular. Everything about it was so beautiful, and beautifully executed. I wouldn’t mind living in a world that look like those sets. The puppets that made up the creatures in the show worked alongside their settings perfectly and I found myself forgetting that they were puppets at times – they were just so good!

I can’t end this blog post/review/gushing love-babble without a nod to the acrobats, whose role I will not reveal lest those reading are going to see it! They are incredible and I feel awed by their strength and skill and I do not believe the show would be as fantastic as it is without them.

I will leave you with some images from the show (taken from the National Theatre website via tumblr) – if these aren’t inspiring, I do not know what is.

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The Firework-Maker’s Daughter

The Firework-Maker's Daughter

Lila desperately wants to be a firework-maker like her father. But when he refuses to teach her, Lila runs away from home to discover the three gifts of firework-making for herself. With the help of her friends, Chulak and Hamlet, the love-sick elephant, Lila faces pirates, tigers and the terrifying Fire-Fiend on her perilous quest to find out what the three gifts really mean.

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter has long been one of my favourite books, when I was a much smaller Emma I even dressed up as the main character, Lila, for World Book Day. Aside from an old woman and Beatrix Potter it was the only real dress-up situation I had (Beatrix Potter was more of a lifestyle than a costume, child-me thought she was Beatrix Potter in a certain outfit).

I read a lot of books as a child and The Firework-Maker’s Daughter is one that always comes back to me so, naturally, when I saw that it had been turned into an opera and would be at the Oxford Playhouse for only three shows I had to see it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew it was an opera but it was also an opera for children which is something I have never seen. Due to my love for the book I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.

Produced by Opera NorthThe Firework-Maker’s Daughter has a small cast with Mary Bevan playing Lila, James Laing as Hamlet, Amar Muchhala as Chulak, Wyn Pencarreg as Lila’s father Lalchand and Andrew Slater as the hapless Rambashi. I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it but after a shaky start I found myself giggling along and immersing myself in a new take on a familiar world.

images by Robert Workman

All of the performances were strong, with some of the cast taking on other roles throughout the show, and it’s clear to see that a lot of love and thought has gone into the adaptation. The use of shadow puppets was excellent and some of the songs were complete ear worms and are still in my head.

The second half of the show was fantastic, atmospheric and at times appropriately comic. I can’t emphasise enough how perfect the scenes inside the mountain were and I highly recommend going to see it even if you don’t usually like opera. The audience was filled with children and they all seemed to love it too.

It was a great trip back to my childhood and left me simultaneously wanting to be an elephant and a firework-maker. Wonderful.