Theatre Review: The Happy Prince – St Mary’s Church, Brisbane (10.06.16)

Oscar Wilde’s story of The Happy Prince reads much like a beautiful parable. Perhaps, this is why it seemed only appropriate to host the first ever musical tale of story in a church. Simon Chan, composer and artistic director at The Other Production Company, has translated Wilde’s beautiful story telling into equally beautiful music. Sharing the true meaning of beauty and kindness through the eyes of a golden statue and a chipper, little swallow.

The oratorio style performance highlights the power of spoken word and song. With a little help from Wilde, Chan has created a transporter; a window into the imagery of the story. Simon Chan’s musical imagining of The Happy Prince strips theatre back to its roots bringing warmth to the audience in the little church.

History repeats itself it seems, Rev. Gary Harch had a few passing comments at the end of the performance. Only 30 years ago, he said, a reading of The Happy Prince was performed in the church. To see it brought alive with music was sensational.

The cast and crew were well chosen. Patrick Oxley as the happy prince was the perfect booming baritone. Mark Leung accompanying the performance on piano possibly received the loudest applause of all.

The possibilities of this production are its greatest strength. The raw theatre experience is always well-received. In addition to that however, the many opportunities this text presents for a theatre production would make even the most culturally-inept theatre-goer excited. The text itself gives to giant statues, kind-hearted birds and an assortment of loveable peasants and love-to-hate royals.

The accompaniment of Chan’s composition invites the mind to wander through dances, processions and chorus lines. It makes one giddier than The Happy Prince’s swallow dancing with the reed.

The St. Mary’s Church lends itself to great acoustics, and a solemnity of the mood. Your mind wanders back to the days of being forced to sit up straight in church on the hard wooden pews. But when the church is full of music, the pew fades away and the story envelopes you.

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The reviewer attended the only night of the production on Friday 10 June.