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The Happy Prince — Griffin Theatre Company

If you've had enough of sickly fairytale stories, Griffin's latest work is the antidote you're after.
By Matt Abotomey
June 06, 2019
By Matt Abotomey
June 06, 2019

in partnership with


It's no accident that you've never seen a big-screen adaptation of Cinderella in which the stepsisters hack off their own toes to try and fit into the glass slipper. Or that Disney's animated classic The Little Mermaid decided to switch the pitiable death of Hans Christian Andersen's protagonist for a happy ending. Over the last few decades, there has been a concerted effort in popular culture to de-fang fairy tales, replacing the blood-spattered morality of the Grimm brothers with a jamboree in which everyone gleefully walks away knowing a little more about themselves.

Despite this widespread plot-wangling, there remains a fairytale that refuses to be brought into the mainstream stable. Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince tells the story of a bird bound for Egypt who — spoiler — blinds a regal statue (at its insistence), before literally dropping off its perch. Then, a workman learns a heartbreaking lesson about the melting temperature of lead. There's more to it, but you can perhaps understand why Wilde's prince never made a cameo in the Shrek films.

These idiosyncrasies, however, are what queer theatre company Little Ones thrive on. Its adaptation takes Wilde's brutally sad tale of Victorian-era inequality, punches up the eight-page plot and laces it with a love story between Janine Watson's glamour-dripping Prince and Catherine Davies' roller-skating Swallow.

The Happy Prince played at La Mama in 2017 to full houses and fairytale reviews. Stephen Nicolazzo also took a Green Room Award for his direction. It's coming to Griffin, but not for long. So if Disney's latest live-action Aladdin has more shiny nostalgia-ridden sweetness than you can stomach, the dying ember of decency at the heart of this tale could be just the palate cleanser you're after.

The Happy Prince will run at SBW Stables Theatre from Tuesday, June 25–Sunday, July 6. To purchase tickets, visit Griffin Theatre's website.

Image: Pia Johnson.


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