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Review: The Young King

Adelaide Festival

Slingsby Theatre Company has made extraordinary use of the Myer Centre’s gutted Dazzeland space for its beautiful and interactive production of Oscar Wilde’s The Young King.

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The show, part of the Adelaide Festival’s schools program, will appeal to both old and young, but it does come with a recommendation for ages eight and up – some of the themes and descriptions (of open and bloody chest wounds and various other forms of death) are too strong for small children.

The Young King, adapted from Wilde’s story by Adelaide playwright Nicki Bloom, is a fable-like tale of a naïve young goat-herder, ignorant of his birthright as heir to the kingdom.

His grandfather, the old king, finally catches up with him, taking him from his forest idyll to assume his kingly duties. As a quest ensues for treasures to create his robes, crown and sceptre, the boy faces a series of internal struggles and contemplations.

With similar themes to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this story forces audience members to examine their own values and consider whether, as the Young King asks: “Shall joy wear what grief has fashioned?”

After more than a decade in the arts as a performer, director and creator, Andy Packer and executive producer Jodi Glass founded Slingsby in 2007 with a vision to create high-quality and emotive theatre experiences that an audience of both adults and young people can share. They’ve certainly accomplished that with this visceral and touching play, which features powerful and memorable performances by Tim Overton and Jacqy Phillips.

Slingsby also deserves congratulations for the way it has used the Dazzleland space, which has enabled it spread out and present something different to most stage productions. Without wanting to spoil the experience, expect to move from greeting room, to the coronation, to the magic forest and feel like a participant, not a spectator.

One thing to note: the venue is tricky to find. None of the Myer Centre elevators go to the fifth floor, which is listed on the program; instead, you access the venue from the ground floor, south-east corner, through staff elevators. There is a small red carpet and roped-off section with someone to take you up, but it’s easy to miss, as demonstrated by the gaggle of lost ticket holders wandering the Myer Centre ahead of Saturday’s sold-out performance.

The Young King is playing most nights and some matinees until March 13.

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