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Published on Friday, 09 August 2013

2 stars

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (venue website)
2-3, 5-10 Aug, 10:30pm-12:30am
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

You know you're at the Fringe when you come across a rock-opera adaptation of an Oscar Wilde play, done by sixth-formers. And as appreciative as I am of innovation and youth theatre, I'm just not sure this production matched the right music and atmosphere to the right play. Quite frankly, I found it a little sacrilegious, with very little of a Wildean quality to it. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw some familiar faces in Fringe productions in a few years: once their voices mature a little more, this cast will be a musical force to beat.

Salome is the story of the imprisoned prophet Jokanaan, and Salome (daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod, the Tetrarch of Judea). Salome is obsessed with Jokanaan but upon his rejection, seduces her stepfather into beheading the prophet, and delivering the head to her. It's a play based on the stories of the New Testament – so if that really isn't your genre, I wouldn't suggest seeing Salome, even if you generally like Oscar Wilde.

This is a dark piece – sexual, incestuous and controversial – yet I didn't get as much darkness from it as I really should have. Salome herself carried none of the seductive danger that the character normally does. Forgive me for saying it, but in this production she came off as more of a Disney princess than a twisted and seductive enchantress. Perhaps that’s partly the fault of the costume, which was oddly pastel blue and purple, but I saw very little real anger and passion in her.

My main criticism, however, involves the whole idea of a rock opera. On a technical level, the music carried over the actor's voices at quite a few stages – a real shame considering some of the cast had glorious vocals that didn't need the bizarre techno-rock soundtrack. The choices of songs went from deep and dark to mildly comical, switching quite unexpectedly, which made it hard to decipher the overall tone of the musical. There is a decent jazz number midway through, but it hardly fits with the clanging guitars we hear the rest of the time. Individually, some of the actors show real promise – these include Jokanaan (George Rolls) and Herodias (Gussie Urquart), as did Salome (Beth Mann), although her voice was slightly less suited to the stage.

If you're interested in completely out-there productions, this adaptation of Salome is worth a look. You might like it a little more than I did. Personally, I think that combining Oscar Wilde with techno-rock is a terrifying idea, and it wasn't executed well enough to justify its artistic chutzpah. The wonderful voices of talented youth are what scores this production two stars – but as for the concept, I’m afraid it might have to go back to the drawing board.

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