Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince retold in glorious watercolour

the happy prince kim carpenter australian ballet
The Swallow And The Reed by Kim Carpenter

In February 2020, the Australian Ballet premiered Graeme Murphy’s interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. Theatre legend Kim Carpenter adapted the story with Graeme Murphy and designed the costumes and sets.

Following an acclaimed opening at Brisbane’s QPAC, pandemic restrictions forced the cancellation of the Melbourne and Sydney seasons. Before the cancellation, Kim Carpenter planned an exhibition of watercolours to coincide with the Sydney season of the production.

Despite the cancellation, he found the lockdown gifted him an opportunity. Kim became absorbed in Oscar Wilde’s classic story. He harnessed references from both the book and the ballet to retell the story in a purely visual form.

The result is 26 whimsical and imaginative watercolours that reflect Oscar Wilde’s fabulous wit, poetry and social commentary.

The exhibition goes ahead at Sydney’s ARO Gallery on 13th October in time for Oscar Wilde‘s 166th birthday on the 16th.

Mindful of the uncertainties of life in a pandemic, ARO also presents Kim Carpenter, The Happy Prince as a virtual gallery experience.

Further, a YouTube video of the exhibition sees the artworks set to the original score composed by Christopher Gordon for The Happy Prince.

The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde’s famous children’s tale relates the story of a carefree prince who becomes a golden statue. He then sees for the first time the poverty and unhappiness of his subjects.

Kim said the experience of lockdown accentuated the parallels in Wilde’s story to the world we live in today.

The Happy Prince’s observations of struggle and survival, the disparity between the rich and the poor, are equally relevant today. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the divisions in society that Wilde wrote about in 1888.”

The Australian Ballet – The Happy Prince


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