REVIEW: The Light Princess, LAS Theatre (The Albany)

This year’s Christmas show at The Albany, Deptford is a brand new adaptation of The Light Princess by LAS Theatre. Based on the same Scottish fairy tale as the 2013 National Theatre production, this version is a 60 minute musical aimed at ages 3 to 7. Written and directed by Barra Collins, with a cast featuring disabled and non-disabled actors, it’s designed to be an inclusive and accessible experience.

The Light Princess is a very unusual princess who can’t keep her feet on the ground. As the princess grows, her weightlessness becomes a source of frustration and embarrassment for her mother. A floating princess will surely not be accepted by her subjects, especially in a land where everyone is expected to spend their time digging for turnips. But just when it seems that the Queen has found a way of keeping her daughter on the ground, the Princess befriends another extraordinary young girl who has other ideas. Together, they embark on an incredible adventure to a magical place where nobody can keep them down.

A photograph of three female performers who are dancing. The performer at the front of the stage is a wheelchair user wearing dungarees and a stripey t-shirt. The other performers are standing. One is wearing read trousers and a stripey top. The other is wearing dark trousers and a red top. There is a large screen behind them at the top of the stage which contains captions that read "All that it takes i"
(c) Alex Brenner

It’s an ambitious piece, which strips the tale of its stereotypical love story and spiteful sorceress, replacing them with a narrative about friendship and fitting in. The intention is admirable and the disability inclusion is brilliant (with integrated audio description and captions, as well as some BSL), but unfortunately the narrative is quite confusing and quickly leads to disengagement, At the press performance, a lot of youngsters became very restless (other than when the fog machine was turned on, which then became a distraction).

Although there are attempts at audience participation, they don’t quite hit the mark; in particular, it feels dangerous to ask small children to repeatedly chant “where’s the bear?” if (spoiler alert) you are not actually going to bring out a bear. Although the absence of a bear was a plot point, the nuance here is unlikely to have been appreciated by the young children in attendance.

A photo of a wheelchair user on a stage looking up with joy. Two performers behind her are standing up and holding a big white cloth between them. The captions above the stage read "A jump into the unknown"
(c) Alex Brenner

The production is billed as a musical, and while there are plenty of songs (by Ellie Isherwood) they are unfortunately quite forgettable, and don’t work to either drive the narrative or inject energy into the room.

There are some nice elements to Sascha Gilmour’s design, but some of the more intricate aspects of the set get a little lost. Although live video feed is occasionally used to focus in on these elements, the positioning of the screens (which are also used to incorporate creative captioning) makes it difficult to know where to look.

Overall, while The Light Princess should be commended for its commitment to accessibility and inclusion, the production needs significant work if it is to soar like its protagonist.

The Light Princess plays at The Albany, Deptford from 2 to 24 December 2023. We received a complimentary press ticket to the 11am performance on Saturday 9 December.

Presented by LAStheatre, co-commissioned by the Albany and ARC Stockton
Writer & Director: Barra Collins
Composer & Sound Designer: Ellie Isherwood
Set, Costume, and Puppet Designer: Sascha Gilmour
Video Design: Dan Light
Lighting Designer: Tracey Gibbs
Movement Direction: Amy Butler
Producer: Liz Bate
BSL Consultant: Deepa Shastri
Cast: Stephanie Callow, Sasha Marks & Jasmine May Rose