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The many worlds of The Little Prince

Monster Theatre brings beloved French classic to the Millennium Place stage



The Little Prince is France's biggest literary export.

The charming and poignant story by Antoine de Saint-Exubéry about a young prince from outer space meeting a crashed airman in the middle of the Sahara Desert looks at the search for certainty and peace, love and human relationships.

The character The Little Prince had only known where he was from, asteroid 325, a place so small that he could see 44 sunsets a day. He decided to explore the cosmos and after arriving in the desert he believed he was alone until he found the airman. They shared many wondrous stories.

First published in 1943, it still sells two million copies a year.

Tara Travis of Vancouver's Monster Theatre knew it was ripe for a family production.

They had previously performed a 15-minute version but wanted to tell the whole tale.

"We did short, cheeky adaptations of classical literature for five years and that was one of our most successful pieces," says Travis, who is also Monster Theatre's artistic producer.

Travis, who has loved the book since childhood, says the aim of Monster Theatre when they create work for young audiences, is to be sophisticated for everyone else, also.

"We put a lot of layers in, a lot of visual interest. Physical jokes for younger viewers, but we also like to add cerebral humour and some jokes that maybe only the adults will get. The book is like that, it's very complimentary to our style," she says.

When young readers grow up and understand the world as an adult, the richness of the story draws them back to understand it from an adult perspective. It's full of many messages.

"My co-creator, Ryan Gladstone, loves The Little Prince so much. Our passion for the story shone through, even in our silly mini-adaptation. So as soon has we had the opportunity to make a full production, we wanted to do that story."

Gladstone, Monster Theatre's artistic director, wrote the script.

"We adapted it from the book and use some of the things we learned from the earlier version," Travis says.

"Our version is largely comedic with a drop of bittersweetness."

And they way the tell the tale is unique, with puppetry and acting. Nancy Kenny plays the Prince, while Travis takes on all the other roles.

"I love that variety of roles. It has kind of become my specialty as a performer, multiple character work," Travis says.

She laughs: "I almost get bored now to play one role in a play."

There are seven different "larger than life" characters and two are specifically puppets. The others are big costumes that are puppet-like.

"Our work together is ever evolving as we learn from audiences," Travis says.

It opened earlier in the month and the tour comes to Millennium Place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21.

Monster Theatre is a classic repertory company, touring one play for children and one to three original plays for adults per season. Travis believes The Little Prince will tour for the next couple of years.

It will take them all over Western Canada.

"We love visiting many different places with our productions. One of the solo shows I do is a murder-mystery puppet show. I play the ghost of Agatha Christie who comes back from the dead to share an unpublished work, with puppets," Travis says.

Another popular touring show for adults has been Til Death, the Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Monster Theatre is now in its 15th year.

Travis and the rest of her Monster Theatre team tried a Kickstarter to raise funds to create the puppets they'd need for the production. In the end, they raised $455 out of a hoped for $2,500.

"We had mixed results," she says. "It was a learning opportunity and we got a lot of support. We got a lot of word out about the production, but in terms of raising actual dollars, we didn't make our mark."

But this made the team resourceful.

"It all worked out and we certainly know more... it did get a lot of people's attention to it. We have a lot of Alberta shows and many supporters on the Kickstarter were from there."

Tickets are $12 for children 12 and under, $18 for students, seniors and WAC members and $20 for general admission.

For more information visit www.whistlerartscouncil.com.