Edinburgh Fringe 2011
At C Soco, Oxford University Dramatic Society performs Theo Merz’s play, based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous grown-up fairytale, written in 1943.
‘It is only with the heart that we can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.’
A young pilot crashes his plane and is stranded in the Sahara desert. There he meets a boy from another planet (well, comet B-612), a delightfully childlike creature who recounts his experiences since leaving his planet and the various follies of the ‘big people’ he’s encountered along the way.
It’s one of those shows where the seating consists of a number of old leather sofas and armchairs, and some raggedy cushions scattered on the floor. And, just in case that isn’t twee enough, we enter the space to find– is it just me or is adult actors playing children one of the most insufferable things on the stage? It invariably ends up looking like an embarrassingly indulgent drama school exercise. Anyway, this shows opens with a gaggle of them running around while the audience files in: they’re messing about with toys, bickering among themselves, playing clapping games (bored yet? I am), speaking in tiresome baby voices and stumbling about in a manner that can only be intended to suggest that they have wet themselves.
Yet, just when I’m getting ready to loathe it, this show surprises me. Ziad Samaha, if occasionally a tad stiff, makes an amusing and agreeable Prince and, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the device of using a chorus of children to help tell the story, this ensemble is actually a pretty talented bunch, particularly when they play older characters, and the production is almost as charming as Saint-Exupéry’s novella.
Like the book, the play will appeal to adults and children alike. Its allure is due in no small part to young actress Lucy Fyffe, who gives a beautiful performance as the Prince. She manages to embody the very essence of a child’s spirit, with none of the usual vocal or physical clichés. Her ready joy, infectious enthusiasm and frank and innocent openness of manner will rejuvenate even those more jaded souls, and this po-faced bitch considered herself charmed.