Following the success of its anarchic take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Arcola Queer Collective returns this month with an adaptation of The Little Prince.
The French novella, first published in 1943, is the most translated and one of the best-selling books in the world. Written by the French aristocrat, poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, it is a philosophical tale about a pilot stranded in the Sahara desert who meets a prince fallen from an asteroid.
The Arcola production will be directed by ‘queen of queerlesque’ performer and writer Rubyyy Jones. A favourite of the cabaret scene, Jones’s shows tend to be high in glamour, wit and provocation.
There is more to great burlesque than sleaze and glitter, says Jones, who is an ardent feminist and self-proclaimed ‘sex educator’. Her work has a political message at its core. “My feminism is a sex-positive feminism. I’m really looking for equality, visibility and for all voices to be heard,” she says.
In this respect, Jones is a good fit for the Arcola Queer Collective. Since its formation, the company has welcomed anyone who identifies as LGBT. The copyright to The Little Prince has recently entered the public domain, so this is not the only adaptation out there. This year will also see Mark Osborne’s stop motion film premiered at Cannes.
The story of The Little Prince is celebrated for encapsulating the experience of being an outsider, as its deserted protagonist searches for love and meaning in a world that appears hostile and bewildering.
For many, London’s rapidly-changing night life means the city risks becoming similarly alien. Over the past years, several East End LGBT venues such as the Joiners’ Arms and the George and Dragon pub have had to shut their doors permanently. Jones explains that queer spaces are vital, particularly as the relationship between gender identities and casting in theatre is still rigid.
“I had no idea how much privilege I had when I was in a straight relationship, and it’s made me realise how hard it is for other people to feel recognised. One member of the collective told me they’d never been able to find a role in theatre where they can play their gender. As a self-identifying woman, I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone to tell me that I can’t play a woman’s part.”
From chatting to Jones I’m nevertheless left with an overwhelming positively impression of the state of queer theatre today. “People are becoming accepting because there’s been a huge shift in society,” she says. “It’s an exciting time.”
The Little Prince is at Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street,E8 3DL from 8–13 February