We watched The Nightingale by SRT’s The Little Company today and really enjoyed it. Before the show, I wasn’t sure if Adam would be able to sit still throughout because he didn’t know the story and was quite restless during the last play we watched. But the catchy music and lively dance moves caught his attention right from the start, and by the end, he was asking to watch it again.
The Nightingale is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story about an emperor who falls in love with the melodious singing of a nightingale and forces the little bird to live in a gilded cage so that it could not leave his side. Eventually, the bird is replaced by a mechanical version made with precious metals and stones and the emperor’s attention is momentarily captured by his new toy until it breaks down one day. He falls gravely ill and his old friend the nightingale returns to his side to sing him back to health.
The play opens with the Emperor, his Protector and two maids singing about how great he is and we get a glimpse into the life of the Emperor. He has everything he wants but is constantly bored and restless and always looking for something new to entertain him. We see how the Emperor’s throne is just a cage and even though he is powerful, he is stuck in the palace.
The Emperor reads about the nightingale and sets his heart on hearing it sing. He sends his Protector to discover where the nightingale can be found. A maid agrees to lead the Emperor to the nightingale. But since he’s afraid of leaving the palace, the Protector is sent in his place to bring the nightingale to the palace.
The Emperor has a cage made for the nightingale and it mirrors his own throne. He attaches a golden chain to the nightingale and does not allow it to leave the palace. Eventually, homesick and heartbroken, the nightingale stops singing and the Emperor chases it away. He receives a mechanical nightingale and he clings desperately to it, because unlike the real nightingale, it cannot leave him. The wind-up bird breaks down, the Emperor falls terribly ill, and the nightingale returns to sing to him.
The Emperor leaves his palace to see the place that inspires the nightingale’s song and he learns the true meaning of freedom, happiness, love, and friendship. There are quite a few meaningful messages in the play, but they are deftly handled with a light touch and in an entertaining manner that is never too heavy-going for the little ones in the audience.
As we left the theatre, we were happily singing bits of the closing song and talking about our favourite characters. Since they enjoyed the English version so much, I’m sure they will like the Chinese one as well!
The Nightingale is playing at DBS Arts Centre – Home of SRT until Sunday, 14 September and tickets are available from SISTIC. You can also get tickets for 夜莺, the Chinese version of The Nightingale (playing from 18 September to 11 October) from SISTIC.
Disclaimer: We received three complimentary tickets to watch this performance. All opinions are my own.