Oscar Wilde's short story, The Happy Prince, tells the tale of a golden statue of a prince that overlooks a city. Along with a flying swallow that he encounters, the Happy Prince sacrifices itself in vain in order to help the people who are suffering from poverty. As part of Midsumma Festival, queer theatre company, Little Ones Theatre, have taken to Wilde's story but adapted it through a queer lens. The contemporary homo-erotic story now explores the desperation and futility that two women experience in order to remain with the one they love.
Dressed in a gold sequinned dress with gold nail polish and a smear of gold face paint, Janine Watson wondrously captures the innocence (and ignorance) of the Happy Prince. As the sacrifices become bigger, her determination becomes more evident in bringing happiness and good to the people, regardless how fleeting or thankful the act might be.
Catherine Davies brings a poignant level of cynicism to the Swallow but also a passion and yearning for a connection. With her hair quiffed up, wearing rollerskates and chewing gum, she is reminiscent of a defiant and impatient youth constantly on the go. The passion between the two performers is palpable from the very first moment they share the stage together and neither Watson or Davies lets go of that for the entire show.
This short story doesn't offer much in terms of length and plot development, whereupon director Stephen Nicolazzo has created erotically charged and deeply tender moments of no dialogue between the Happy Prince and the swallow exploring their emotional state of mind on a deeper level. There is a sense of time standing still during the show and we are given the opportunity to take in everything that is being said and everything that is being performed without being rushed.
Katie Sfetkidis' intelligent combination of cold and warm lighting design throughout the show highlights the moments of passion and love and the ultimate demise of said love as does the sleek clean set design by Eugyeene Teh. The grey material that runs along the wall and floor of the stage allows the gold and sparkle of the Happy Prince's costume to constantly attract our attention and admiration.
The Happy Prince is the poetically tragic tale of a love that cannot be.
Through its queer retelling, Little Ones Theatre have expertly created a powerfully affecting and
layered story of deep affection and sacrifice that will linger in your mind long
after the final scene.
Click here to read my interview with director, Stephen Nicolazzo.
Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Season: 18 - 29 January | Wed 6.30pm, Thu - Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 22 January 2017.
Photo Credit: Pia Johnson