Classic French tale for Durban

Mathews Rantsoma in The Little Prince. Pictures by Dee-Ann Kaaijk.

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AN ADAPTATION of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic French fable, The Little Prince, will be staged at the Courtyard Theatre at the Durban University of Techology’s Berea campus for a short run from Thursday to Saturday, November 1 to 3, as part of an extensive national tour honouring the story’s 75th anniversary.

Presented by Alliance Francaise de Durban, and directed by Clara Vaughan and Mwenya B Kabwe, The Little Prince will be a magical retelling of the story, using an innovative and playful fusion of art forms – storytelling, music and circus – in multiple languages. This creates a unique, South African-inspired production of this French masterpiece, for adults and children alike.

The Little Prince follows on from the great success and critical acclaim of last year’s touring production of Molière’s Tartuffe.

First published in April 1943, The Little Prince is a novella, the most famous work of French aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

It tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters.

Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, Khanyisile Ngwabe, Balindile Ka Ngcobo and Lesego April Chabedi in a scene from The Little Prince. 

While ostensibly styled as a children’s book, The Little Prince makes several observations about life and human nature. It is considered a metaphor of a grown-up meeting his inner child. It is a philosophical contemplation of loneliness, friendship, adulthood and authority.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s timeless book celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The book,  both written and charmingly illustrated by de Saint-Exupéry, is brought to life in an exciting production created with the additional support of Mazars reinforces a fruitful collaboration between the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the Market Theatre Foundation.

Originally written in French, The Little Prince is the world’s most translated book, outside of religious works. It has been translated into 300 languages, including English, Zulu, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Some 200 million books have been sold.

First published in 1943 in New York, The Little Prince is a worldwide publishing phenomenon.

Saint-Exupéry’s original illustrations of The Little Prince are famous around the world and across generations.

The work is being performed by the Market Theatre Foundation’new theatre company, Kwasha! and premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July. It has also had a run in Bloemfontein at the Vrystaat Arts Festival, and was in Sasolburg prior to coming to Durban.

The tour wraps up at the Ramloao Makhene Theatre at the Market in Johannesburg in November.

The Kwasha! theatre company aims to support the careers of recent graduates and to provide drama classes for youth at the Windybrow Arts Centre. Five of South Africa’s most exciting emergent theatre-makers have been identified as the inaugural members of the company, and now work together to create a programme of exciting new theatre pieces.

Set and costume design for The Little Prince is by Wilhelm Disbergen, lighting design is by Sibusiso David Ndumndum, choreography is by Daniel Buckland and sound design is by João Orecchia.

The production is supported by IFAS,  the cultural agency of the Embassy of France in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa; The Market Theatre Foundation and  Mazars, an international, integrated and independent organisation, specialising in audit, accounting, tax and advisory services. The KZN Performing Arts Trust helped to bring the production to Durban.

Public performances are at 10am on Friday, November  2, for schools, and at 10am and 7pm on Saturday, November 3.  Tickets cost R80 for the public; R60 for Alliance Francaise de Durban members and pensioners; and R40 for school pupils and students with student ID.

Book at Computicket outlets or phone Alliance Francaise de Durbanat (031) 312 9582.

Balindile Ka Ngcobo and Khanyisile Ngwab in The Little Prince.

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