A scene from 'The Little Prince'. Picture: Thandile Zwelibanzi
A scene from 'The Little Prince'. Picture: Thandile Zwelibanzi

'The Little Prince' given an African make over

By Masego Panyane Time of article published Nov 16, 2018

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One of the world’s most beloved  children’s books for adults, The  Little Prince, is being staged at the  Market Theatre following a successful  nationwide tour.

The production, which is an  African adaptation of Antoine de  Saint-Exupéry’s classic fable also by  the same title, which he wrote in 1943  – 75 years ago.

Currently, the book is one of the  most translated books in the world  with it existing in 300 languages.

Chatting to the Kwasha! Theatre  Company’s Clara Vaughan, who  is the production’s co-director, said  the process of adapting the story  was fascinating.

“It was an exciting creative process  because we had to start by finding out  what the book means to the people  who are making it, that’s the directors,
the cast everyone involved to find out  how they relate to the book.

“To also sort through what  meaning resonates in an African  context, what African symbols can  be found within the book, so we  really started by trying to find a very personal sense of meaning, but it was  also very collaborative,” she said.

Vaughan said the production  was taken on a nationwide tour by  Kwasha!, which positions itself as  a space for young theatre-makers  to bridge the gap between being a  student and a professional.

A scene from 'The Little Prince'. Picture: Thandile Zwelibanzi
It allows young and upcoming  theatre practitioners to be part  of a company where they will be  supported in their path to finding  their feet in the industry by being part  of the company for a year, with a  stable salary.

The Little Prince is one of the first  substantial projects of the Market  Theatre Foundation’s Kwasha! It is  a continuation of the partnership  which was consolidated in a  memorandum of understanding in  2016 between the Market Theatre  Foundation and the French Institute  of South Africa (Ifas).

She added that the adaptation was  also slightly challenging because it's a  fantastical book.
A scene from 'The Little Prince'. Picture: Thandile Zwelibanzi
“It’s about an aviator who  crashes his plane in the desert,  and a little prince who travels  from planet to planet.

“With all of these things, we have  to be creative to be able to portray  them on stage in a way that captures  the audience’s imagination in a way  that will make them believe that they  are travelling in space, or that a plane  is crashing, all things that you cannot  do realistically. So we must find ways  to portray them symbolically.”

“Our cast went through some  circus training before we began with  the process because we had the idea  that the language of the play and how  to tell the story was going to be quite  physical and going to require magic  making using the actors’ bodies.

“A lot of the choices that we  made were about that, about how  we use the actor’s bodies, it worked  together to make images and  moments of flight and travel.”
A scene from 'The Little Prince'. Picture: Thandile Zwelibanzi
The play seems at first glance  geared toward a younger audience,  but the themes it explores about  humanity, make it very fitting for an audience of any age.

“People should come and see it  because they are going to experience magic . For adults, it will give them  a chance to remember and celebrate  their inner child. In so many ways,  its a celebration of the imagination,”  Vaughan said.

* The Little Prince runs until November  25 at the Market Theatre


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