Adapted for the stage by Nicki Bloom, Slingsby’s production of The Young King commenced at QPAC on 23 July 2019. Wilde’s tale does not specify time or setting but aspects of antiquity are obvious across the varied settings described by the author and used in this production.
The primary backdrop (an entire timber wall suggestive of medievality) is cleverly crafted and utilised. In addition to concealing props, it served in both interior and exterior settings such as the castle and the humble abode.
The theatrical context is immersive and interpretive. Verbal components of the play switch between narrative and dialogue and suit an attentive and imaginative audience. Typical of Wilde, the language is neither simple or superficial. We must envision the unseen, but surely adorable infant and the buried, bleeding, but still beautiful lovers who parented the child. We feel the freedom of the forest and the confinement of the castle chamber.
Children dream of hidden treasure and cherish items of significance to themselves. Being crowned king, queen or champion is another childish dream. As an adult woman however, I also was immediately drawn into the enchantment of the immersive experience.
Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer and I have that Irish sensitivity of soul to mournful music or song. Particularly that which reflects oppression or maternal loss. I was pained by reminders of my own secrets and personal loss. The production evoked actual emotion of things mourned for and wrongs never righted as I looked inside myself.
Gold, gems, pearls or fine cloth all have their origins in the natural. However, in order to be acquired and possessed, they must be laboriously accessed. The three dreams of slavery, oppression and human suffering highlighted that fact. I was grieved again when I recognised injustices such as slavery and sweat-shops as social issues which are ongoing. I felt the inner conflict of the king: the contradiction of being both an activist and artist. A lover of beauty but a hater of harm to others.
There were religious themes and parallels such as humble birth place, mocking by a crowd, plagues and transfiguration. The final words and scene suggest discovery of a new, liberated self which has transcended previous boundaries.
The immersive theatrical context allows for textured layers of tactile experience and unanticipated surprise or involvement. This production excelled in maximising those elements whilst maintaining the fabular message. Andy Packer, the Artistic Director of Slingsby is to be credited for what he has created.
Lachy Barnett was excellent in the central role of the young king. He had poise, strength of stage presence and professional capacity for clear delivery of dialogue. The versatility of Genevieve Picot across age and gender as she swiftly switched characters was outstanding. Pianist, Josh Belperio is also an asset to Slingsby. Clearly he has been classically and expertly trained and his skills honed. He beautifully played the music written for the play by composer, Quentin Grant.
The Young King
Cremorne Theatre – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Cultural Precinct, Southbank (Brisbane)
Performance: Tuesday 23 July 2019 – 6.00pm
Season continues to 27 July 2019
For more information, visit: www.slingsby.net.au for details.
Image: The Young King – photo by Darren Thomas
Review: Michele-Rose Boylan