The National Theatre’s much-hyped new musical is a visual and technical tour de force with a title performance from Rosalie Craig that’ll blow your mind and melt your heart. I was a fan – in other words – in spite of the fact that ‘The Light Princess’ doesn’t really do the business in the tunes department, where big things had been expected from songwriter and creator Tori Amos.
Her chief fault is to be too attached to the story, an adaptation of a Scottish legend about a princess cursed to permanently levitate. The songs are witty, romantic and charming. But they’re largely narrative pieces written in furtherance of Samuel Adamson’s fiddly script – some of Amos’s eerie, piano-driven signature sound would have given it more edge; conversely a couple of standalone showstoppers would have offered more oomph.
But the songs are the most ordinary thing about the ravishing production marshalled by ‘War Horse’ and ‘Curious Incident…’ director Marianne Elliott. It’s hard to know where to begin in praising her team, but the logical place is Craig, who is utterly enchanting as Althea, a sparky young royal whose response to her mother’s early death is to separate herself from earthly cares, both literally and physically. In other words, she actually flies, and this is where Craig’s performance goes from ‘winning’ to ‘whoa’.
There is the odd bit of wirework, but for the most part she’s manipulated by a team of puppeteers who deftly haul her through vertical space as her limbs undulate along imaginary thermals. She sings spinning round, she pulls funny faces while upside down, she surrenders to her handlers with total trust; after about five minutes you’ll believe she can fly in the same way you believed Joey in ‘War Horse’ was alive. It’s incredible.
She inhabits a scarcely less impressive world, a trippy fairytale kingdom spiked with strange modern flourishes and filled with oddball animals. Rae Smith’s sets are ravishing and Toby Olié’s vivid puppet creations a pure delight – it’s a joy to drink in the visuals of this realm, in which the endlessly flippant Althea finds romance with the infinitely serious Digby (Nick Hendrix), son of her kingdom’s mortal enemy, King Ignacio (a slightly underused Hal Fowler).
Some PG-rated mutilation might make it a bit too Brothers Grimm for the very young, but I’m surprised at the NT’s 13+ age advice: though Althea’s wayward coming of age is a very teenage story, this is a magical spectacle first and foremost, and it’s a shame to shut out pre-teens, who I’m sure would love it. It’s a show for everyone, and while it has its faults, Elliott’s production is a once-in-a-lifetime affair. Maybe it’s style-over-content, but I’ll take that if it’s got heart – and ‘The Light Princess’ has heart to spare.
By Andrzej Lukowski
Average User Rating
3.7 / 5
- 5 star:19
- 4 star:6
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:9
I hate that, for the majority of theatre goers, "good" music has become synonymous with "what I walk out humming". It's terribly reductive. There is far more to music than it's catchiness, and Amos's score succeeds on so many levels that it's embarrassing to see so many people call it worthless simply because of this sole factor. The score is diverse, challenging, intellectual, leitmotivic. I've been listening to audience recordings over and over, and I find something new each time, particularly how various themes and melodies are developed throughout the narrative. It's seriously intelligent music. I could study Amos's chord progressions all day. This a score that grows with time. It's funny how the four officially released songs have been the subject of much praise once people have actually had time to listen to them.
Magical, innovative and extraordinary. The production and performances were equally outstanding; however, I found the music very disappointing particularly having booked for this on the strength of Tori Amos' back catalogue. Whilst pleasant, I found it very ordinary and could not remember a single melody afterwards. The first half is the more impressive of the 2 and I felt that Act 2 was very slow with the action being held up by the scene in the'lake'. That said this was one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen and wouldn't have missed the experience for anything!
It's a great musical, inventive and interesting with exceptional music.I am glad that I went to see this great performance
Spectaular. Enjoyed it immensely, although I would agree it is a little too long. A huge Tori Amos fan - her involvement was the reason I booked - and if I'm honest, I missed the soaring sinister and often intimate romance of Tori's records, especially because when her signature sound was present it elevated the production from 'impressive' to 'utterly epic'. The staging and puppetry was breathtaking and overall I forgave it its faults and lost myself completely. Performances from the female lead, her father and her side-kick piper were fantastic. Would recommend.
Very disappointing and well..annoying. The sets were terrible, the story predictable and the music dull. Yes, Rosalie Craig was wonderful to watch but even she could not elevate this woeful production to anything more than a lacklustre panto.
Beautiful, captivating and moving. Rosalie Craig in the lead role is sensational. Others have denigrated the score but I loved it. I would return to see it again in an instant.
It was incredible. Great singers, sets, amazingly clever method of "Floating"... do you need me to go on. i need to see this again.
Magic of theatre at its very best. Brilliantly staged by Marianne Elliott with her creative visual team;together they made every moment vivid and rich; a true fairytale! Music by Tori Amos in the end settled for being pretty instead of brave, as well as the book that at moments couldn't decide where to go with the story. But nevertheless floating princess that is Rosalie Craig(with the help of amazing acrobats) floats so gracefully without any troubled thought in her majestic performance as well as in her enchanting voice. As she learns to listen to her heart and lets herself to be exposed to pain, she gains her gravity and we are sort of rushed into the happy end, but still feeling that lingers long enough afterwards is: i want to watch this all over again!
The National has done it again. Another truly spectacular production and a master class in creativity. Rosalie titles a career defining performance and the sets, puppetry and stage craft are second to none. Sadly the songs are unmemorable and rely too much on trying to nudge along the narrative. But if you're looking for a night out that will deliver on nearby every level, you'd be hard pushed to find anything better playing in our glorious city right now.
Fantastic. Performance of Rosalie Craig was unbelievable - quality and consistency of her voice while being moved around was amazing. Must see.
Must see - a slow start for the first 10 / 15 mins but once in to the flow, superb. Rosalie Craig was truly exceptional - clearly destined for the West End.
I personally loved it! Admittedly it was too long at times, and the tunes are far from catchy, but this just made me want to watch it again to dig behind the surface. The show is brilliantly presented, Rosalie Craig is amazing, and all in all I give it thumbs up.
A lot of work has obviously gone into this production, but unfortunately I think it fails on most levels. The story is slight and the music forgettable. The "floating" and puppetry are quite clever, but weren't enough to hold my attention for more than a few minutes. Others have praised the sets, but I didn't find them impressive. Any self respecting Swan Lake has a more magical lake than the one here.
I've been to see the show twice now, and both times I loved it! It improves on a second watch, and I found myself wishing I could buy the soundtrack so I could hear some of the haunting melodies again. The cast are amazing, the set and costumes a feast for the eyes (if perhaps a little panto-esque at times) and the songs something quite different from your bog standard musical. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see something quite different from anything else you have yet seen, and guessing by the standing ovation it's received both times I've been in, most people feel the same!
Yawn. Look at my watch. Yawn. Look at my watch. Yawn. Look at my watch. That was my experience of THE LIGHT PRINCESS. Even reducing it to 1 hour wouldn't really help. AVOID.
At times it does LOOK wonderful. But I need more than looks. This is a very slight story, that has been stretched and stretched. This has taken SIX YEARS to get to the stage!!!! SIX YEARS!!! It is a piece of pooh.
Successful musicals always have following essential ingredients: you care about what happens to the hero/heroin and when you leave the theatre, you have a few catchy tunes in your head. At no point did I feel any sympathy or warmth for the main character in the Light Princess, nor can I remember a single tune from a performance that lasted two hours and twenty minutes. It is technically clever and beautifully staged, but I wasn't moved at any poiint and often felt the songs just dragged on. There were quite a few fans the audience tonight, but it sounded like they knew members of the cast.
Brilliant stagecraft, so much imaginative brilliance wasted on an extremely dull libretto with droning music. I'm an advocate of national theater and they should be allowe to fail. And THIS was a failure. How much taxpayer money went into this production, do you think? Scary to think about. This piece won't be going anywhere. Tori, please choose a different medium. The theater aint it.
So much craft has gone into this show! Its not a traditional musical, but you wouldn't expect or want that to come from the National Theatre. Rosalie Craig is incredible, inevitably she is a leading lady for good now with her gravity defying performance, how she sings upside is mind blowing! Love that it's split audiences, but if you're up for a bit of fun and magic you're going to love this beautiful;y staged/choreographed/sung production.
Jill, thanks for your concern. I sent my friend a text this morning stating that that the Daily Mail had given it 1 star out of 5, and the Guardian had given it 2 stars out of 5. True!! Unfortunately, the reviews are mixed. Ideally they would all have been bad, as the show is bad. I am rarely wrong! The story is stupid and wayyyyyyyyyy too long. Like a cheap European sweet, it looks nice, but tastes horrible. Much lurve, Ben x
Oh Ben, your poooooooooooor friend in the cast. 'Ex' friend. How on earth will they survive without you?...
A good show. With wonderfull arrangements, and a lot of very beatyfull pieces of music. Voices are also there, with great singers. A good moment, a great fairytale for all of us
It was just Magical! I left with the melody still stuck in my head. Rosalie craig is a shoe in for a best actress nod, the physical and vocal demand of this piece is unreal. This is one of the most unique pieces of art i have ever seen.
The fact that the songs are more narrative than showstoppers is the point of the piece. Audiences seem to love it, but I'm glad that they've done away with convention and created music that is unique, lush and challenging. It makes viewers think, and in this day, when it's only about a beat, I'll take Amos' music any day.
Mind-blowingly brilliant. There are some serious sense of humour and intellect failures going on in the comments here, as in many of the other reviews. Don't be put off by the stuffy bores, it's unique in the very best sense.
I adored this show. Visually stunning, incredibly performance by Rosie Craig and beautiful music. Certainly not for everyone, but do not be put off! Go and decide for yourself!
Soooooooooooooooooooooooo boring. I wanted to leave at the interval, but my friend - ex friend? - is in the cast. It just doesn't work. Sooooooooooooooooooooooo boring.
Visually a lot to enjoy, and aurally a lot to enjoy, as long as you don't listen to the words or pay attention to the largely non-existent story. This is a truly dreadful and deeply patronising fairy story with few narrative redeeming features, and while some of the weightlessness effects are stunning, it also lacks the consistently high production values to rival 'spectacle theatre' shows like cirque. Seems to have been written in a theatre vacuum where wicked, into the woods and shred never happened. Excellent cast don't their best with deeply flawed material.
Beautiful to look at, and the 'floating' is undeniably inventive and clever. The music wasn't memorable and the show was also overly long, but perhaps there will have been some trims now it's gone through the preview process... Not a dud, but not amazing either.
Fabulous! Music, singing, puppets, acrobats, special effects and so on all beautifully combined to create a great show. No spoilers from me - just go and see it and have a great time!
A must see! Great music and beautiful stage settings for this interesting fairy tale throughout the whole show. I was very impressed with the 'floating' effect and the visual arts. All the actors and actresses were great singers and performers, especially the lead actor Nick Hendrix and the lead actress Rosalie Craig. They bring the audience to both laughters and tears with the development of the storyline. In summary, a very interesting story and the beautiful stage settings will definitely bring you back to the childhood fairy tales. Nice music and great acting by the cast that earned a standing ovation at the end of the show.