REVIEW – Saint-Exupéry, a Pilot’s Story

*****

The title of this touching play suggested an exploration of the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry outwith his most famous story – The Little Prince. Nevertheless, everyone who has read that story would have expected strong references to it since one of its main characters in it is a pilot, and because it certainly has been heavily influenced by Saint-Exupéry’s own life story. This play, however, works the other way round. It is the ineffective attempt to bring the story of The Little Prince to the stage, by framing it with what appear to be anecdotes and details of the author’s life.

The play opens with a monologue by Saint-Exupéry in a hotel room in New York where he was in exile while writing what would become to be his most famous work. The work was published there in 1943. From this scene the audience is taken into the Sahara Desert and on a journey through Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s past. This journey is illustrated by episodes of the Little Prince’s passage as it is described in the book. Various encounters with rulers, scientists and other characters are explained and interpreted to match some of the author’s life experiences and attitudes.

Whereas the presentation of the author’s story as such was cleverly thought out, the staging of it did not do the thoughts behind it any justice. The stage was set up too much to be perceived purely interpretative, and not enough to appear professional and realistic. Changes of scenes and the appearance of various protagonists were aided by props from a suitcase thought to be placed in Saint-Exupéry’s hotel room – a box of memories he took into exile with him. Masks, wigs and pieces of clothing were made to resemble illustrations from the book, but more often created a feeling of rather embarrassed amusement. The choice of an adult woman to play the role of the Little Prince also more distracted than helped the performance.

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