The Lost Prince

Michael Young, Jim Rohan and Patrick Coman in 'The Lost Prince.' Photo: Donal Gallagher

Michael Young, Jim Rohan and Patrick Coman in 'The Lost Prince.' Photo: Donal Gallagher

The Lost Prince beautifully and touchingly interweaves the narratives of storytelling, fairytales and acts of reading in a drama that mixes animation and multimedia with good old-fashioned on-the-knuckle acting to ultimately distil a gentle lesson about the importance of not forgetting to love what is in front of our eyes and under our nose.

Two stories run concomitantly. On the one hand, we are treated to a tale about a young prince, Johann, (Shane Byrne) who announces to his father that he is “…tired of this little place” and “..wants to go out and see the world.” As he sets out on his journey away from the palace he ignores an old lady selling apples and three men, each of whom are afflicted separately, and respectively, with the belief that they have the inability to see, hear or speak. At one point, Prince Johann rests and sups water from a stream that makes him forget everything, even his own name.

Belinda Henzey and Sighile Hennessy. Photo: Donal GallagherIn a parallel universe, Cindy (Belinda Henzey) sits so engrossed in her book in the local library that she is indifferent to everyone else’s needs, especially those of librarian Kitty, played by Sighile Hennessy who also doubles up and excellently renders the Apple Lady from Prince Johann’s story. Deepening the resonance between the two narratives, George McCutcheon is both the King in the fairytale and Cindy’s father. Cindy acts as if her dad doesn’t exist and doesn’t even bother to reciprocate his greetings.

The two stories begin to intertwine when a book called The Lost Prince magically falls into Cindy’s lap and the amnesiac Johann equally appears out of nowhere in front of Cindy in the library. She immediately recognises him as the Prince in the book she’s reading. After much cantankerous to-ing and fro-ing of affection between them, Cindy agrees to help the selfish Prince recover his memory and, she hopes, his compassion too. This involves taking a leap of faith into the Prince’s world and abandoning her own.

Michael Young, Jim Rohan and Patrick Coman. Photo: Donal GallagherWe are initially introduced to Prince Johann via clever and mock naïve animation projected onto a screen that hangs down in the middle of the stage, narrated by Donal Gallagher in a deliberately stock fairytale storytelling voice. Funny and real photos of Prince Johann, his brother Jacob (strongly performed by Fintin Kelly when in his flesh and blood manifestation) and the King are superimposed in gravity-defying freestyle fashion across more typical animated landscape to stress the self-conscious and playful yet serious nature of what is being presented. This animated drop-down appears at various times to great comic and imaginative affect.

A very significant part of Equinox Theatre Company’s mission statement and this production of The Lost Prince lies in the fact that the cast is made up of individuals with varying learning difficulties. This often means that the prompter at the edge of the stage – director Donal Gallagher – has to work overtime to make sure the lines are said. This is not a criticism of those performing but in a surreal way it adds another dimension of theatricality to the show and enhances rather than detracts from the total theatrical experience here.

In a strange, dare one say, unconsciously Brechtian manner, the lapsing in and out of character and the different delivery of the actors in The Lost Prince actually highlights the po-faced struggles some of their more conventional peers go through in their delivery of laboured and stale performances. Sighile Hennessy. Photo: Donal GallagherIn other words, the entire cast of The Lost Prince should take great pride in bringing a wholly refreshing approach to acting and theatre in Ireland, one that cuts across pedantic pretentiousness in favour of belief and passion and truly unparalleled deference to the telling of the tale.

Yes, there are unintentionally funny moments and even the odd occasion where one of the actors tells the audience that it’s not funny and it was inappropriate to laugh but this just adds to the intensity of the performances. The simplistic set that consists of a minimum of props and a predominantly plain white background demonstrates once again that it is the imagination one brings as a co-conspirator in the audience and actor relationship which fuels the storytelling and which counts for so much.

It would be unfair to single out individual performances as this is a true ensemble effort. Certainly, though, Equinox Theatre and the cast here on The Lost Prince have served up a unique and memorable piece of theatre.

Patrick Brennan was chief theatre critic for the Irish Examiner from 1992 to 2004, is currently a freelance journalist, critic and lecturer and is writing a book on the theatre of Tom Murphy.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Lost Prince by Ken Bourke

Produced by Equinox Theatre
In Cleere’s Theatre, Kilkenny

Producer: Medb Lambert

Lighting Design: Eoin Winning

Sound Design: Sam Moylan

Set/Costume Design: Medb Lambert

Animation, Photography and Voice: Donal Gallagher

Editing of animation: Medb Lambert

With Belinda Henzey, Sighile Hennessy, George McCutcheon, Shane Byrne, Fintin Kelly, Michael Young, Jim Rohan and Patrick Coman.

The Lost Prince continues at Cleere’s Theatre, Kilkenny City, Kilkenny on February 25 and 26 at 7.30pm and on February 24 at 3pm.