Performed on 22 October at the Queensland Multicultural Centre, The Prince and the Prostitute presented an interesting and relatively obscure slice of Australian history. Written, directed and produced by Lindsay McGregor, this piece was extremely ambitious, taking on a complex love story between Prince Alfred and his favourite prostitute set in 1867.
In this first rendition, this original work showcased an interesting historical storyline with a cast of talented performers. New works can be extremely challenging and given that this is only McGregor’s first iteration of this production, it is definitely an exercise in development. Thus, this article is not intended to review this production on a professional level but rather to provide constructive feedback for the future development of this piece.
McGregor has collated a series of defining plot points that paint a fascinating story of the past including complex themes of love, betrayal, politics, religion and gender roles. This piece truly has it all and, with some further development, this story has immense potential. Prince Alfred’s escapades on his tour of Australia in 1867 and the subsequent attempt on his life is truly riveting and, prior to this production, I was not familiar with this piece of history.
McGregor’s passion for the subject matter of The Prince and the Prostitute is clear. The endless research that has gone into creating this piece is evident throughout the production. His text and music pulls from various sources and collates a story that captures the audience’s interest. There is definitely room for further dramaturgy development in this piece. From a structuring perspective, a dramaturg could provide assistance to polish the flow. There are many complex narrative plot points weaved together and with the help of an experienced dramaturg, it would certainly become more compelling.
The music is a mix of modern and classical with some catchy melodic phrases. Occasionally, the rhyming conventions in the lyrics feel a little forced. It could be helpful to either pick a style – classical or pop – or, perhaps if the mix is intentional, make this choice more deliberately. Future developments of the music could include collaborations with a team of musicians to expand on the instrumentals of the existing tracks.
From a production perspective, this show would benefit from the expertise of an experienced director. As a writer and producer of my own original works, I know how hard it can be to let go of your precious baby and let others take some creative control. However, in theatre, all the best works are the product of creative collaborations. There is a lot of room in this piece for new approaches to staging, the incorporation of technology and creative directorial vision.
In terms of the overall message of The Prince and the Prostitute – I believe that there is opportunity to expand. As it stands, it feels as if McGregor is purely telling the story, replaying history. However, given that this story includes themes like gender roles, the treatment of women and sex workers and abortion, at times I found myself confused as to what McGregor’s stance or comment is on these matters. Without making a clear statement about these themes, The Prince and the Prostitute risks coming off as reminiscing fondly on the good old days and, this could lead to a potential negative reading of the message of the piece. I do not believe that this is McGregor’s intention. But I would recommend further development of a clear perspective with a dramaturg, and, potentially bringing in a woman as a consultant (especially since there are so many female centric issues in this text).
The cast of this production all delivered fantastic performances. The ultimate standout performer of this show was Luke Belle as Alfred / Bishop Goold. Belle’s performance included stunning vocals and a believable softness that drew the audience into Alfred’s character. Opposite Belle, Amanda Hutton’s portrayal of Sarah was enjoyable. Hutton’s amazing classical vocals are a highlight. This production also included fabulous performances from Geoff Webb, Danny Donaldson, Sandra Harman, Bailey Sprecak, Luke Pagel, Jake Elston and writer/director Lindsay McGregor himself.
Overall, The Prince and the Prostitute was a fascinating glimpse of a piece of history not often relayed. With the right development, this new original musical certainly has a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to McGregor’s next iteration.