With neon lights now flashing at every turn and Christmas markets in full swing, Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre brings us a touch of something different in the festive season. The Little Prince is a heart-warming tale: the eponymous lead leaves his beloved home, asteroid B612, to embark on a journey across space in the name of friendship. On his travels, he meets the lone occupants of various planets who are mostly ill-equipped for anything near friendship, apart from an unlikely fox.
This is a classic tale by French writer, Saint-Exupéry and explores themes of human imagination and friendship. This adaptation (directed by Marie McCarthy) does justice to a relatively complex fable and the script (Sally Pomme Clayton) hovers thoughtfully over different stops across the universe, managing to simplify the plot without losing its charm.
The set (Sophia Pardon and Hazel Low) surpasses all expectations for a small theatre production: earthy rocks and boulders; a broken, up-turned plane downstage left; a puppet plant baobab; a swathe of white lights shimmering above us as the night sky. The detail is astounding, the efforts commendable.
The lighting (Rachel Sampley) is equally creative. A spotlight displays etchings on rocks and there are bright alien greens and reds. A small chasm at the back of the stage hosts scenic projections which transport us through different planets. A lovely moment is when the Prince climbs aboard his trusty bird and we fly across the universe, complete with uplifting sounds (Jon McLeod) and brighter lighting.
Costume is on par, if not more pleasing. What a joy to see the garlanded rose costumes; the geographer even has a map decorating his tie. We must applaud the sheer effort that have gone towards the aesthetics.
The cast is a trio of star performers. Royce Cronin plays Rose and a range of the other planetary occupants. He is entertaining and lends a panto energy to the piece with his large gestures and hearty song, albeit not the most tuneful. The lead, Comfort Fabian, is a charming and perky Prince, brimming with youthful fun and innocence. The star performance was delivered by Vera Chok. Her acting is enchanting as she transforms from the concerned and narrow-minded pilot at the start into a multitude of stunning characters including the fox who is the most engaging character on stage. She involves children in the audience in dance and jokes and brings the room to life.
I cannot praise enough the efforts that went into the intricate set and prop design. This marries perfectly with a story which tells of the limitless powers to the imagination. This is a journey both about the self and the way we treat loved ones and leaves you full of Christmas cheer. While the main themes clearly shine through, clever more nuanced meanings rustle under the surface of the earthy stage, making it a delight for both children and adults alike.
“Tatty Hennessy’s perception and imagination bring this production alive”
Love and music, freedom and flares! The gardens of London become the Forest of Arden in this brilliantly updated version of ‘As You Like It’. By setting the production in the late 60s, early 70s, director, Tatty Hennessy, transfers the essence of Shakespeare’s pastoral, romantic comedy to the hippie era with its optimistic ideas of free thinking, breaking rules and getting away from conformity. In addition, it underlines the strength of his women characters, complementing the positive female spirit of the play by changing the genders of Jaques and the Dukes and generating a mother-earth forest community, supportive and nurturing.
The excellent performances by the whole cast bring vibrancy and shade, several members having two or three roles to portray, creating texture and fluidity with an array of well-defined figures; Stanton Plummer-Cambridge and Lamin Touray excel in this multitasking.
Set against a background of growing feminism, the women are unapologetically feisty and demanding in their pursuit of life and love. The enamoured Rosalind, in a spirited performance by Katharine Moraz, takes control of her destiny, accompanied by Comfort Fabian’s Celia, whose genuine enthusiasm is astutely modernised in movement and speech. Phoebe (Emmy Stonelake) and Audrey ((Jodie Jacobs) are beautifully unabashed and determined in procuring their hearts’ desires, and Julia Righton steps assuredly between good and evil as both Duchesses. Sian Martin plays Jaques with a cynical sneer, perfectly counterbalancing the enjoyment and love for life which surrounds her. And up against all this feminine zeal, Orlando (Jack Brett) is the picture of bemused, love-struck youth. A special mention for Sydney K Smith’s ‘Motown’ Touchstone, who encapsulates the foolish image, moves and talk of those disco days (which some of us remember!), while wholly attuned to Shakespeare’s words.
The importance of music in ‘As You Like It’, being Shakespeare’s most musical play, naturally lends itself to the 70s ambiance of the early music festivals which blends into the parks and gardens milieu and draws the audience into a convivial atmosphere. The stylish singing which sets the scene and the diverse incidental songs and instrumental music (Richard Baker) show an added facet to these talented actors. Simple, colourful decor (Emily Stuart) immediately conveys a feeling of rustic celebration and the casting (Becky Paris) allows for a balanced variety of accents which add depth and clarity to the characters.
Tatty Hennessy’s perception and imagination bring this production alive with relevance to those years not so far gone and to today’s similar issues of inequality and oppression. The changes of era and gender have sense and purpose, showing the fortitude and quality of women and the need to escape authority, but also the timeless quest for love and happiness. ‘As You Like It’ is the perfect end to a sunny summer’s day…or any other day.