The Light Princess is a relatively new show to the West End, but has been in the making for many years. With music and lyrics by Tori Amos, and based upon a Scottish fairy tale, this musical was one which looks promising from the press material.
Telling the story of two opposing kingdoms long at war and separated by a wilderness who each want the resources of the other, The Light Princess focuses on two royal children whose mothers have both died. Prince Digby, of Sealand, is driven by his grief to never smile again and so is nicknamed the Solemn Prince, while Princess Althea of Lagobel refuses to accept the gravity of the situation and tries to follow her mother to heaven, which results in her floating thereafter. The musical opens when Althea’s brother Alexander is killed and she is left as the kingdoms only heir. Althea cannot fulfil the role that is forced upon her, and sensing weakness, the Sealander King declares war on Lagobel. What follows is the predictable: a prince and princess from opposing sides meet and fall in love. However, what happens after they fall in love is the interesting part as each has a rather different response to their emotional connection.
The musical itself was charming, full of emotion and heart. There were moments where the play fell a little flat, and some scenes felt a little overlong, but overall The Light Princess was engaging, and certainly enjoyable throughout. One of the more interesting facets of the show was how they kept Althea (Rosalie Craig) floating throughout the play. Using a mixture of wires and acrobats the show was really inventive, and quite fascinating throughout. At first the extra bodies on stage was a little distracting, however I soon grew used to them, and was just amazed at the ways they balanced Althea on their hands and feet. The moments when the acrobats left the stage, leaving Althea and Digby on stage were far more intimate because of their ever presence throughout the rest of the show, as they danced together using ribbons to connect the two of them together on the stage.
I can honestly say that I am in awe of Rosalie Craig. She sang as she balanced on other acrobats, while she was being turned upside down and while being flown across the stage on wires. It was effortless throughout, and I can only begin to imagine the strength that it must have taken to maintain some of the shapes that she did, without showing any kind of strain on her face. Her voice was beautiful throughout the show, and created some spine tingling moments. As Digby, Nick Hendrix’s acting convinced throughout, however at times his voice seemed a little thin, particularly in comparison to Craig’s. Kane Oliver Parry, who played Llewelyn, sounded far richer in comparison, and I couldn’t help wonder how his voice would harmonise with Craig’s if he had been cast as the solemn prince.
Some of the best moments of the play came from the bigger numbers which included some very well choreographed ensemble numbers. The militaristic style of the movements of the Sealand characters in particular was impressive. A special mention has to go to the acrobats who had the job of lifting and manoeuvring Craig around the stage, both balancing her, and also handing her between each other at some impressive heights. The movements between them were seamless, one slip and even with the safety wires the show could have ended in a different way.
There were some moments in the show that fell a little flat – the introductory cartoons didn’t quite create the right tone, and the mixture of the modern (cars), didn’t quite fit with the archaic feel of the rest of the musical. There were also some moments of juvenile humour which didn’t quite jibe well with me, but I think it will suit younger audiences quite well – I think that the show could well turn into a gateway musical for younger viewers not yet ready for some of the more mature material that a lot of West End musicals include.
7/10 – Overall, The Light Princess is an engaging show which I would highly recommend to anyone. There are some hitches which I think will be ironed out over time, and as this is a very new show I think they are things that will be worked out over time.
The Light Princess is being performed at The National Theatre until 2nd Feburary 2014, and tickets are available here.