Interview: Anne Tournié (The Little Prince)
Direct from a sell-out season in Paris, comes one of the world’s most loved stories transformed into an extraordinary live event.
The Little Prince combines dance, aerial acrobatics, and new technologies to create a dreamlike and poetic universe that is almost impossible to describe.
Nearly 75 years after its release, The Little Prince remains the second most translated and one of the best sold books in the world, and its sentiment remains as pertinent today as when it was first written:
“What is essential is invisible to the eye, It is only with the heart that one can truly see”
With an incredible international cast, stunning sets, costumes, projections and all of the characters, you know and love, immerse yourself in The Little Prince’s cosmic and fantastic world.
To kick off, what show are you currently working on and what is your role in the production?
I am creating The Little Prince as Director and contemporary Choreographer.
What drew you to this show and why do you think now is the right time to be bringing this story to the stage?
I had always dreamt of doing a show with artists I loved and who brought me a lot of emotion. I wanted to bring on stage all the fragility, humanity, emotions of different performers with different culture backgrounds: Chinese, Indian, European performers. I had asked Chris Mouron to find me a story for the piece and she proposed to me The Little Prince; then everything was absolutely clear in my head. I wanted to bring the masterpiece to our time. The Little Prince book is a masterpiece. It's a book that has accompanied my whole life. The Little Prince was the perfect show to stage these ten wonderful soloists. It was also for me personally the perfect time in my life to stage it, and indeed this eternal work means it’s always the right time.
What has the experience been like working on this show? What has been unique about this show and your process in comparison to other shows you have worked on?
This show is totally different because it is coming from my heart. It doesn’t feel like a job that I have to go to every day, as it is a very personal creation. I really wanted, I could say needed… to create it. Nothing was more important than this. What can audiences look forward to in this show or why do you feel it is a story that they need to hear?
The miracle of this story means that there are no grown ups left in the audience by the end of the show. In our time, we lose a lot of what is essential, of which Saint-Exupéry speaks on so well in the original text. There is also a beautiful moment when the Little Prince is cleaning his planet. I love this message and wanted to give it back to our kids and teenagers, to give them a goal, and to show them how physical theater can speak to current themes of our time and how they can find a way for their life. What has been the most rewarding part of this show to create for you?
Creating the language of each characters.
Why is this a production that a 2020 audience cannot miss?
The story and the messages of the book have not aged. The emotion is very much intact and The Little Prince always makes the whole world dream. We’ve brought in new technologies, videos, flight winches etc… to enrich this dream. We strive to make this emotion visual.
When first beginning a new project, what is the first part of your process in approaching a new role?
I work on my own first. I first look for my choreographic language, alone, in my dance studio. Then I share my work and my ideas with Chris Mouron who brings to the conversation other ideas, other doors. We complement each other. We work on the storyboard, define the scenes and what type of performance they need: dance, acrobatics on the ground and in the air. Then, I gather in my head all the ideas to bring them together into a cohesive work. What is a common misconception that people have about your role in the production?
That there are choreographers who only take care of the choreography and not the staging. For me, directing and choreographing is a whole.
What has the rehearsal process been like in bringing this story to life? By the time audiences see this show on stage, what has gone into making it happen?
The next step was creating the music with Terry Truck. After creating the music, and working with it myself in the dance studio, we worked with Marie Jumelin for the video contents. Then, when this concept was made, we started to work with performers; rehearsals lasted two months. The costume design was done at the same time.
Do you have any opening night rituals? If so, what are they?
We put ourselves in a circle with the artists, we hold hands and close our eyes, and we pass a message from one to another to be together as one.
What is something that you take away from each show that you work on? Do you feel like you take a piece of the production with you each time?
For this show, I did not use my old experiences. I wanted to go further in my dance language, to explore new horizons. I worked a lot to integrate elements that were new to me and excited me, such as Asian languages. I wanted to do something different and without any barriers. I also adapted my language a lot to the personality of each artist. It can be difficult to work with so many voices. You have to be very careful and not reduce everyone's vision, but we have brought the audience to another planet and let them roam free.
When was the turning point for you when you realised that theatre was not just a hobby but a passion?
I went on stage at the age of 6. My mother had a dance school and my father did all the scenography and the lighting. I have always loved the arts scene. I am generally quite shy, but on stage I am someone else. How did you go about making it your career and is there any one show that you can attribute this to?
My Ballet Master Gilbert Canova. I just wanted to follow him , close my hand every morning on the barre and do my class. Some of the works that have deeply marked me include: The movie «Molière » from Ariane Mnouchkine, Bhakti from Maurice Béjart, Café Muller from Pina Bauch and also all the work of Jiri Kylian.
Across your work, is there one story, thought or theme that keeps you interested in continuing to create? What stories do you find yourself drawn to the most?
I would like to help people with my creations. Bring hope to teenagers, joy and open the mind. Thanks to the cultural mixes that we created in this show, I wanted to say to everyone : we are the same even with our huge differences. I like stories that make you think.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and what is still on your performance bucket list?
The most incredible show I have done was the Han Show in China. The stage is so big that you can place a plane there. It is so wide and high that you lose all the sense of the geometric proportions that we acquired on normal stages. We had to re-invent the codes. And I really discovered the Chinese culture. In the future, there are 2 shows that I am looking to create; the stories are already written. The first talks about humans who have to flee their country and the second one is about our planet.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given that you would like to pass on to aspiring theatre makers?
Never overact ☺
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
What is your favourite production you have ever seen?
Crystal Pite, The 4 seasons. It is a masterpiece. Her musicality is amazing.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world - where do you go?
Little Prince land☺
Australia☺ (I have never been…).
What is your dream show to work on?
The Little Prince was and is.
What is a hobby you have beyond the theatre?
I love to ride horses.
What’s next for you after this show?
Let’s do this first!
The Little Prince opens at the Capitol Theatre on April 23rd, 2020 for a strictly limited run. You can get your tickets here.