Even though it’s true that COVID-19 has taken much from us, including the scheduled Sydney and Melbourne seasons of The Australian Ballet’s production of The Happy Prince, it has also been the catalyst for what will sure to be a crescendoing wave of creativity of all descriptions.

This includes the result of the continuing influence the Oscar Wilde classic has had on the life and career of acclaimed Australian devisor, director and designer, Kim Carpenter AM.

The Happy Prince has played a significant part in my artistic life. In 1992 my own company, Theatre of Image, presented The Happy Prince as its second production, in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company at The Wharf. This production went on to have a 16 year life, garnering many awards, regional, national and overseas tours.”

And even though the performances of The Australian Ballet’s production of The Happy Prince (which Carpenter adapted for the Ballet, as well as designing sets and costumes) were cancelled, the experience of developing the ballet in close collaboration with renowned choreographer, Graeme Murphy and composer Christopher Gordon, compelled Carpenter to create a collection of vibrant watercolour pieces.

“It has been a joy to harness all my visual references from Wilde’s book and the process of creating and designing the ballet in order to reinvent them so as to tell the story in a purely visual form to be experienced in an art gallery. So the lockdown has allowed me an absorbing, driven creative period.”

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 Carpenter has had a long and distinguished career which has seen him collaborate with most Australian dance, drama and opera companies and along the way has collected two Helpmann awards, a Centenary Medal, four Sydney Theatre Critic Awards, three AWGIE’s and he’s also a member of The Order of Australia.

In what can be considered one of the few silver linings of the COVID experience, it has provided ways for the public to access art like never before. The Happy Prince virtual exhibition makes great use of the available exhibition technology – it is well worth downloading the app to view the exhibition, though if you’re so inclined the exhibition is also open for viewing at the ARO Gallery, 51 William Street, Sydney.

The exhibition will be open from Oct 13-25 and the 26 original watercolour paintings will be available for sale, along with some of the original costume drawings from the ballet production.

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