Drayton Arms Theatre, London – until 5 January 2020
What is it? A new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book of the same title. What is it all about? A thought-provoking tale of riches-to-rags-to-riches again, the importance of friendship, compassion, and inclusion against oppression, and the power of imagination.
Sara Crewe, born into privilege under the British Raj in Bengal and sent to boarding school in England, finds her resolve to be as kind and well behaved as a Princess, when everything she has is suddenly stripped away on her eleventh birthday. But with her friends, her rich inner world, and a mysterious benefactor with just a touch of magic, she persists and overcomes her tragic circumstances.
How did it make me feel? A Little Princess is one of my enduring favourites, and Rachael Bellis has adapted it for the stage with intelligence, love, and respect. Her script is faithful to the novel, but not slavishly so. In places where the original material contains details that are uncomfortable or problematic to the contemporary audience, she challenges them – why, indeed, should the “Indian Gentleman” not be actually Indian? And why not an Indian Lady? Why should anyone remain a servant all of their life?
The alterations made gently nudge the story into line with today’s standards. The whole cast is impressive, and work hard to bring this story to life. I would say that Catherine Hiscock steals the show; but since she plays Sara Crewe, the title role, in a way it’s already hers. Her portrayal of the little princess is nuanced and faceted, odd, charming, realistic, and straight from the page. Having been a little girl with undiagnosed autism, I have always seen myself in Sara Crewe; Hiscock plays this aspect of the character especially well.
Shining just as brightly are co-stars Mimi Tizzano and Ellen Kruger, Ermengarde and Becky/Jessie respectively. Kruger in particular is so chameleonic that a couple of times I forgot that she’s only one person playing multiple roles. With its imagination, triumph over adversity, and seasonally appropriate message of goodwill to all, A Little Princess left me smiling.
Where is it playing? The Drayton Arms Theatre (above the Drayton Arms pub), 153 Old Brompton Road, until the 5th of January. Anything else? The fire alarm went off during the performance – fortunately, during a scene that is meant to be rudely interrupted anyway. The cast and crew handled it with professional aplomb, and we were soon underway again. The play seems to be subject to change. One actor is credited as the baker but another played the role in the performance I saw, which made a significant difference to a sub-plot and added some LGBTQ+ representation. Madeline x A Little Princess is playing at Drayton Arms Theatre until the 5th January 2020. If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!