Queensland Performing Arts Centre had the honour of hosting The Australian Ballet’s world premiere production of The Happy Prince when it opened in the Lyric Theatre on Tuesday (25 February) evening. Published in 1888, The Happy Prince is one of a collection of moralistic tales written by Oscar Wilde specifically for children.
The ‘Happy Prince’ is a gold-gilded statue overlooking the city through his eyes of sapphires while a red ruby adorns the hilt of his sword. From the elevated position of his pedestal, the prince views poverty and suffering and is grieved by his inability to move.
He is overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness when his immobility prevents him from alleviating any of the witnessed distress. His ensuing relationship with the swallow results from his need of a messenger to carry out his desired acts of charity.
This production is set at the close of World War Two in what is presumably, England. Whilst postdating Wilde’s era enables the appearance of an array of characters relevant to the war, it displaces others. This included the lovely but distinctly Victorian little match girl (Benedicte Bemet). Jarryd Madden was hilariously superb as the Lady Mayoress, but the jolly, luscious pantomimic character was also out of place in the war-torn setting.
Adam Bull in the titular role and Marcus Morelli as the swallow were dual male leads in a poignant dance partnership. Peter-Pan like, Morelli was a treat to watch and he excelled in the aerial components of the performance.
Knowing the original story however, I could not reconcile the choreographed prince with the knowledge that he should be immobile on his pedestal. His capacity for a complex pas de deaux in this staging, made that dear, little swallow redundant. The Happy Prince was obviously capable of carrying out his altruistic acts alone.
The performance was colourful but the production oversteered our country’s best classical ballet dancers too much toward contemporary movement and expression. The striking original score composed by Christopher Gordan was performed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
The Happy Prince
Lyric Theatre – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Tuesday 25 February 2020
Season continues to 29 February 2020
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 28 August – 5 September 2020
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season: 27 November – 16 December 2020
For more information, visit: www.australianballet.com.au for details.
Image: Adam Bull as the Happy Prince (centre) with Artists of The Australian Ballet – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Michele-Rose Boylan