Kids story

The Little Prince: a children’s story that only adults can love

I don’t know why people keep on believing that The little Prince is a children’s book. To be fair, that’s how it was designed by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote it in 1942. And it looks like a children’s book: big print, lots of pictures. The main character is a child.

On the other hand, I don’t know of any kids who really like the book. The copy that my daughter was given six years ago, when she was in first grade, remains immaculate, only opened once, when I tried to read it to her on time bedtime and I was ordered – in the same way the Little Prince himself displays – to find something else. A worldwide bestseller since its publication in 1943, the book remains something adults give to children, rather than something many children would choose for themselves.

It really is an adult book. The protagonist is not the young prince but rather the middle-aged aviator who tells the story. His problems intertwined, one psychological (his artistic talent was thwarted as a child), the other practical (he crashed in the middle of the Sahara and couldn’t get his plane to fly) – are at the center of the story.

And the book’s most charming elements are most likely to entertain an adult reader: Saint-Exupéry’s satirical shots on adult life, his intentionally naive watercolor illustrations, and his Rousseau-inspired romantic messages on superiority. feelings about the intellect. , the corruption of civilization and the pure wisdom of children. The book is less an adventure than an allegory, in the mind of Dante Divine comedy and Bunyan The pilgrim’s progression, in which we meet a character at a particularly low point in their life, and then follow their spiritual journey to redemption and re-enchantment.

The fact that the book is so appealing to adults may explain why there have been so many attempts to adapt it to the stage and to the screen over the years – Stanley Donen made a musical in 1974; Hugh Wheeler, Don Black and John Barry attempted a Broadway version in 1981 – and why the attempts often seem so leaden.

The version played at Lookingglass Theater Company is the 2000 adaptation of Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, although director David Catlin and his talented ensemble added a lot of Lookingglass-branded touches to turn this play into an aesthetic experience – aural and visual. – which is worth taking the kids on vacation. Like Lookingglass’ best productions, this one is a dazzling spectacle, with elements borrowed from a range of sources: fashion photography, steampunk design, circus arts. The show is packed with delicious dance numbers and carefully choreographed acrobatics (by Sylvia Hernandez-DeStasi), pleasing sound design (Rick Sims) and glorious and always surprising pieces (Courtney O’Neill). The main decor resembles both the sand dunes of the Sahara and an unrolled sheet of paper (on which the navigator reconstructs the drawings he made to please the demanding Little Prince).

The performances range from very good to exceptional. Ian Barford does not seem melancholy enough to bring out all the pathos and depth of Saint-Exupéry’s wounded narrator. Amelia Hefferon, both precocious and annoying, makes a very believable Little Prince, and Louise Lamson, as Rose who teaches the Little Prince the pain of grief, is charming. But it is Kareem Bandealy who steals the show, as a satanic Serpent who finally takes the Little Prince to the Aviator and to this world.

In the end, however, production slows down exactly where the book is located – during the tedious last quarter, when Saint-Exupéry wraps up all his messages: “We only see clearly with the heart”, “The essential is invisible for the eyes, “” Only children know what they are looking for. It was during this part of the show that I became aware of the restless children around me. We couldn’t stop crying. Another kept coughing. The two behaviors that I rarely see in children’s theater. I remembered the fundamental contradiction of The little Prince, that is, it values ​​both childhood and children, but not enough to really keep them entertained.

Correction: This has been updated to reflect that it is Louise Lamson, and not Lauren Hirte, who plays the role of the Rose.

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