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Theatre / The Light Princess

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"How can it be, that you're flying?" "I don't fly. I float".

The Light Princess is a 2013 musical by the National Theater in London, with music and lyrics by Tori Amos and book by Samuel Adamson. It is based on the fairy tale of the same name, about a princess who floats and how she is brought down, but aside from that and a few other minor plot points, it shares very little with its source material.

This Light Princess, here named Althea, is the youngest child of the king of Lagobel, a wealthy desert kingdom. When she was 6 years old, Althea’s mother died. Afraid of all the weeping and grief surrounding her, Althea lifted her feet off the ground, and tried to follow her mother to heaven. From that day, she never cried, nor had any emotional or physical gravity of any kind, deciding to use constant laughter and lightness to avoid having to deal with any difficult emotion, and, along with her friend Piper, is locked away in a tower by her father. Across the Wildnerness lives Prince Digby, the oldest child of the king of Sealand, Lagobel’s rival, a kingdom flowing with rivers and lakes. When he was 8 years old, his mother questioned his father’s greed in wanting to invade Lagobel, and mysteriously died. Afraid of the king, no one in the kingdom dared weep, except for Digby. When his mother died, so did his sense of levity and happiness, and from that day he never smiled, letting his grief weigh him down completely, and eventually being called The Solemn Prince.He grows up under his father’s watch as a dutiful and skilled warrior.


10 years later, on Prince Digby’s coming-of-age day, Althea’s older brother, the crown prince Alexander, is killed by a Sealand spy, leaving Althea as heir to the throne, which she dreads. Running away to the Wilderness, she happens upon the Sealand army beginning their war on Lagobel. Retreating from the battle, she comes upon a secret lake in the woods…and so does Prince Digby, having just led the Sealand army to victory against Lagobel. As a romance begins to blossom between the two, their kingdoms grow increasingly at odds, and Althea’s father takes more desperate and drastic measures in attempt to bring her down…

The soundtrack is available to listen to on YouTube and Spotify


The Light Princess provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: It’s never clearly stated whether he is or not in the original book, but here the Prince Digby is a well-trained warrior, leading Sealand’s army and defeating Lagobel’s.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Althea’s father King Darius goes to insane and rather cruel lengths in an attempt to bring Althea down, including attaching metal braces directly into her legs. He gets better, but no such cruelty is ever noted in the original book.
  • Babies Ever After: Althea and Digby’s daughter, conceived during the events of the show, and seen in her father’s arms during Althea’s coronation in the epilogue.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: Althea sings that this is what her realization that she loves Digby is in “Tears”. Thankfully, she’s wrong, and Digby is only wounded.
  • Broken Pedestal: In “Bitter Fate”, Llewellyn starts questioning what his life under his father has been and will continue to be, after being at the receiving end of his cruelty.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Althea’s father eventually succeeds in getting her on the ground, but at a terrible cost.
  • Character Development: The show is all about this for Althea, as she learns how to accept gravity into her life and that she can deal with difficult emotions. Unusual for most fairy tales, the prince also get s significant amount of character development, with Digby smiling for the first time in ten years because of Althea, and gradually letting levity and happiness back into his life.
    • It’s not limited to those two; basically every character in this show is different at the end than they were at the beginning – exceptions may be King Ignacio of Sealand and Zephyrus, Digby’s falcon.
  • Chest of Medals: King Ignacio and Prince Digby wear coats that sport this(Prince Llewellyn also has a few medals but it's not really what one would call a "chest full")- Digby is a warrior who leads the Sealand army, and given the very militaristic culture of Sealand, it’s probably safe to assume that King Ignacio also did at one point.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Lagobelans are in oranges, yellows, and golds, matching their desert “kingdom of gold”, and the Sealanders are in blue and purple, matching their watery “kingdom of blue” .
    • Despite being a Sealander, the primary color in The Falconer's costume, besides black, is green, the color of the Wilderness, demonstrating her willingness for neutrality and where her real loyalties lie(with the birds, and with Digby).
  • Converse with the Unconscious: In one of the most tearjerking moments in the show, Althea confesses how much she really loves Digby while he is floating unconscious in the secret lake after having been shot by his father.
  • Dance of Romance: Digby somehow manages to get Althea to have one of these with him in “Althea”; though she is fighting at first, she eventually acquiesces and begins to fall for the Sealand prince, culminating in The Big Damn Kiss. The dance itself is accomplished by Digby holding onto Althea's hands, ankles, or the ribbons tied to her wrists and waist, as seen in the page image.
  • Dark Reprise: “Bitter Fate” contains the same basic melody and similar lyrics to Digby’s part of “My Own Land”, but Digby and Llewellyn's reactions to submitting to their father’s plan are VASTLY different in the later song. The phrase “nothing more than this” is also used in the song, but where in the song “Nothing More Than This: Part 1” the phrase meant that Althea could not possibly want more out of her life than what she has, when Digby and Llewellyn say it, it means that their lives are never going to get any better than they are now.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Althea, as long a she is floating. When she does have shoes on, she’s being weighed down, either by the shoes themselves or the iron braces her father had attached to her legs.
  • Happily Ever After: It’s a fairy tale, what were you expecting? "And they all lived reasonably happy with the occasional skirmish until they died." - Stage direction from the published script.
  • He Will Not Cry, so I Cry for Him: Althea’s inability to cry, even after being physically tortured by her father, leads Piper to declare this.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: “Levity” for Digby, “Better Than Good” and “Gravity” for Althea.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Aside from actually meeting and falling in love almost immediately after a battle, Althea is hated in her kingdom for snogging Digby.
  • Love Floats: Played with; Digby does float a bit in “Althea” as his and Althea’s romance blooms, but it’s Althea coming down to the ground that marks when her love truly equals his.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Althea starts out as this for Digby, but the two get to know each other better and fall in a more equal, adult love. Eventually.
  • Men Don't Cry: Inverted. Digby, the battle-trained warrior, cried a lot when his mother died, and remains sad and solemn into adulthood; it’s Althea that can’t/won’t cry.
  • Missing Mom: Althea and Digby lost their mothers when they were little; their grief starts the behavior that causes most of the conflict in the show.
  • My Nayme Is: The Serjeant-At-Arms. Still pronounced the same as it normally would be though.
  • Nature Lover: Althea, almost exclusively applying to the secret lake. She later goes on to become a marine biologist
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Zephyrus, Prince Digby’s falcon.
  • No Name Given: The Falconer and The Serjeant-At-Arms
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Digby smiles, both he and Althea acknowledge how strange it is. The same applies to Althea when she finally cries.
  • Pair the Spares: Piper and Llewellyn, The Falconer and The Serjeant-At-Arms.
  • Pregnant Badass: Althea fights dragons while pregnant, though she doesn’t know it at the time.
  • Rebellious Princess: Althea doesn't want anything to do with her royal responsibilities, and throughout the show ends up running away, kissing the prince from the rival kingdom, and telling her father that he can "shove [his] crown up [his] wazoo!"
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Digby’s quiet and solemn Blue Oni to Llewellyn’s joyously triumphant Red Oni after the victorious battle against the Lagobel army in “Sealand Supremacy”.
  • Rule of Symbolism: There really isn't a solid explanation given for why Althea is able to break the laws of physics, unlike the magical explanation of the original story. The audience just accepts that her lack of physical gravity is representative of her lack of emotional gravity. Also, it's a fairy tale.
  • Second Act Break Up: Happens when Digby realizes that the lake is just another place of safety for Althea, and that she can’t match the level of love he feels for her because of her inability to take anything seriously. Althea doesn’t care at this point in the show, all she wants is her lake.
  • Sibling Team: The Sealand princes, Digby and his younger brother Llewellyn.
  • Silly Love Song: “Amphibiava”
  • The Song Before the Storm: “The Wedding”, wherein The Falconer attempts to aid the ailing Althea, Digby is informed of Althea’s pregnancy and he and Llewellyn decide to go against their father, and Althea wakes up and decides to save her lake.
  • Unable to Cry: The basis for all the conflict surrounding Althea; her inability/unwillingness to cry (and subsequent floating) is what causes her father to shun her and the kingdom of Lagobel to label her as a freak; when she cries for Digby at the end is the sign of her emotional maturation.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Althea and her best friend Piper witness the Sealand army absolutely annihilate the Lagobel army…and Althea doesn’t seem to care.