Dance / “Happiness is…Celebrating 40 Years of Canberra Dance Theatre”. Directed by Jacqui Simmonds at The Street Theatre. October 14. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
“THE Little Prince” (Le Petit Prince), the 1943 novella by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is one of the world’s best-loved works of literature and the second most-translated work ever, behind the “Bible” and just ahead of “Pinocchio”.
Somehow, with the whimsical and allegorical tone of the book, it was inevitable that Canberra composer, singer, artist, writer and educator Judith Clingan would turn it into a work of musical theatre and she did.
She wrote her first version of the script last year with six songs and incidental music and toured it to the Edinburgh Fringe and elsewhere in Europe with 24 of her famous Waldorf Wayfarers from Australia, Taiwan and Italy.
When the show was staged in St Mark’s Unitarian Church in Edinburgh, one critic praised Clingan’s “summery songs” adding: “The action was… four-dimensional with birds on sticks being flown around us about the pews”.
Now, just before Christmas, Canberrans will get to see the updated 75-minute version. Over the past few weeks, Clingan’s written two additional songs, which will feature the same principals, Rohan Vicars from Melbourne as the Aviator and Sigmund Nock from Lorinna, in Tasmania, as the Prince, as well as most of the other Australian actors.
All the performers are musicians and actors Clingan has taught or worked with and, by adding Wayfarers from Canberra, Melbourne, Tasmania and a Coffs Harbour group of school-age performers, she’s assembled a cast of 30.
Vicars will direct the actors and Clingan the music, while puppets have been made by Sydney artist Raphaela Mazzone.
Most children will be familiar with the story of the pilot stranded in the desert who meets a little boy who asks him: “Please, draw me a sheep”. What follows is a quest to find a beautiful rose, but en route they meet explorers and scientists and learn what it is to be alive, though death hovers in the background.
The Waldorf, also known as Wayfarers Australia, was founded by Clingan in 1997 when she brought together students, parents and teachers from several Steiner Waldorf schools in Australia to encourage teenagers, particularly boys, to enjoy singing choral music in four parts, but it has grown to include performers from around the world.
Named the inaugural Canberra Artist of the Year in 1991, she has founded, co-founded and/or directed SCUNA, (the ANU Choral Society) Canberra Children’s Choir, the Young Music Society, Canberra Recorder and Early Music Society, Gaudeamus, Lady’s Mantle, Voicebox Youth Opera, Imagine Music Theatre, A Chorus of Women, The Variables and, of course, The Wayfarers.
“The Little Prince”, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, 7pm, December 20; 2pm, December 21-22. Bookings to trybooking.com