Is that a bird? A plane? No, it’s Rosalie Craig, and what a soaring, magical flight hers is. Harking back to Jacobean tales of star-crossed lovers and enchanted wilderness spaces, George Macdonald’s 1864 fairy-tale has been gloriously reimagined in Marianne Elliot’s The Light Princess. Samuel Adamson’s welcome adaptation to the original story provides a nuanced interpretation of Althea’s aversion to gravity; indeed, this story is really about a girl who cannot process her grief so literally lives with her head in the clouds. Interestingly, it is this story of self-development – not the one of two lovers – that takes centre stage, and it is a story we can all relate to on a thoroughly modern level.
Perhaps the most staggering aspect of The Light Princess is the visual splendour of Craig floating through a trippy universe of sensory delight. Indeed, the dovetailing efforts of Steven Hoggett’s choreography and the ever-brilliant Rae Smith’s set design envelop the audience in their weightless world. Eschewing the rather obvious solution of Peter Pan wires, Hoggett puts Craig into the unbelievably strong hands of dark-clothed acrobats. Not only do they keep her afloat during the entire performance, they make it look utterly effortless. Indeed, Craig is nothing short of a miracle in her stunning ability to keep control of both her voice and her body whilst being kept up with three toes and a little finger.
The biggest buzz surrounding the play certainly centred on Tori Amos’s score. However, it was rather shown-up by the visual spectacular accompanying it. Having said that, despite some songs melting into a bit of a wail-y mush due to shortcomings in lyrical sophistication and musicality, there were a couple of rousing belters that afforded the play an enjoyable momentum.
Most importantly, where Amos’s score didn’t meet perhaps unfairly high expectations, the play confounded the fairy-tale rule-book by giving us a feminist fable instead. Indeed, The Light Princess offers much more than the predictable equation of boy-meets-girl. Nevertheless, the play isn’t particularly serious – don’t expect Ibsen-esque insights into the human condition – but it doesn’t try to be either; The Light Princess is fabulous family fun with a joyously camp cherry on top. If you want to spend an evening of pure, exquisite escapism, go and see the Light Princess and you’ll float away together.