When taking the dreaded march through the London underground system, my eyes had often set upon the stunning image used to promote The Light Princess at the National Theatre. I hadn't heard of the fairytale before, but I knew with it being performed at the NT and the intriguing fact the Tori Amos had written the score, it was certainly worth seeing. And after a few hours of awesome acrobatics, stunning staging and pitch-perfect performances: commuting on the underground was all but a distant memory.
The Light Princess is based upon a Scottish fairytale by George MacDonald and has been adapted for the stage by Samuel Adamson. The story involves a princess who is so light, she floats, and has been locked up in a tower as a result of this extraordinary gift. The set has taken inspiration from the storybook idea, creating a whimsical, sketched appearance, as if your favourite book has come to life before your eyes. For parts of the performance they have quite literally brought the book to life, using projected animations to tell the tales, and create a virtual backdrop for the action. As with any show I've seen at the National, the staging is absolutely stunning and very creatively used. From driving through forests to swimming underwater, each scene is executed beautifully and with all the visual magic you could wish for.
Now when you tackle a story about a girl who is continually floating, it automatically sounds like a technical nightmare, but in this production it is an utter dream. For the princess, played by Rosalie Craig, they have used the talents of four acrobats and a few wires to create a weightless effect in the most elegant fashion. The magic of floating is kept throughout the story, with no sign of gimmick, and being a true work of art. It demonstrated the huge stamina needed by not only Rosalie, but her four puppeteers as well. Puppetry is also used to breathe life into many animal characters seen in the show, and equally executed with a real character and beautifully designed props.
The songs by Tori Amos are a huge triumph, weaving you in and out of the story with rich and emotive melodies. The enchanting score often draws similarities with Stephen Schwartz's Wicked, producing powerful songs for powerful singers. And on that note, Rosalie Craig performs every demanding number with an effortless poise, and certainly shone for the star she deserves to be. Amy Booth-Steel, as Piper, also shows her huge vocal talent, culminating in a show-stopping duet with King Darius in the second half.
The Light Princess is a truly magical night of theatre, and a musical that has an elegance that could only be capable of a production team such as the National Theatre. There is strength in all areas of this production, and it breathes new life into the musicals seen on the West End. This show soars to new heights, and I predict applause will be ringing from the rafters for a long time to come.