Acclaimed local theatre company Slingsby has chosen the space to premiere its new work, The Young King, adapted by Adelaide playwright Nicki Bloom from an Oscar Wilde short story.
Slingsby artistic director Andy Packer says Dazzeland will be restored to a place of magic and wonder for Adelaide audiences – “but in a completely different way”.
“It’s been empty for the last 18 years and there’s really nothing left of what was previously there,” he tells InDaily.
“It’s a big blank canvas for us to work with.”
For some adult audience members, the space will conjure memories of visits to the two-storey amusement park, which operated from 1991 until 1998 and included a roller-coaster ride, dodgem cars, a carousel and “Lego Expo”.
But the main attraction of the site for Slingsby was its potential for transformation. The immersive and interactive theatre experience will begin before the performance starts and continue after it finishes, with the opportunity to enter an enchanted forest world.
Packer doesn’t wish to give too much away, but says the space will be designed in a way that reflects the story and show.
“Everything that people will see will have been put there by us … we’re having to bring everything in, which is a lot of work but also allows you to develop a consistent palette and look and feel for the whole space.
“Anyone who has seen a Slingsby show before will know we very much like to let the story and show start before the lights go down … we are interested in that crossover from the audience’s daily life to the show they will see.”
The sets will be designed by Wendy Todd, with lighting by Geoff Cobham and original music by composer and musician Quincy Grant.
Audience members are invited into the chamber of the young king (played by Tim Overton), who grew up in a forest and was raised by a shepherd, but then discovers he is actually the son of a dead princess.
As the sole heir to the throne, he is brought to the palace where he awaits his coronation, which will see him presented with the perfect crown, sceptre and robe. But after having nightmares in which he witnesses the suffering of those who helped make the three treasures, the young king is forced to consider what type of ruler he wishes to be, and refuses to accept the items.
Wilde wrote the story, part of a collection called A House of Pomegranates, in the shadow of the Industrial Revolution, but Packer believes the moral dilemma at its heart remains relevant to contemporary audiences.
“We’re really interested in telling stories that people may not necessarily know … we’re interested in characters that have a moral dilemma or at times in the story are lost and find their way out of that trouble in a surprising way.
“It’s often in those darkest times of being lost that the human spirit really surprises us.
“They [Slingsby works] need to have enough at stake, and some wonder and beauty to them, and Oscar Wilde’s language and story has all of that.”
The Young King is presented as part of the Festival’s Schools Program, with the special school matinee sessions already sold out. However, Packer says his company’s productions also seek to appeal to older audience members, with the aim of creating a “shared experience” for both children and adults.
Slingsby has enjoyed national and international success since it was formed in 2007 by Packer and executive producer Jodi Glass, with touring works including The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy.
It last performed as part of the Adelaide Festival in 2010 with Man Covets Bird, which was named best new work at that year’s Ruby Awards, and Packer says the company is excited to be part of the Festival again in 2016.
“It’s just great as a local company to have our work presented in an international festival context in our own city.”
Slingsby Theatre Company will present The Young King at the former Dazzeland space, Level 5 Atrium, Rundle Mall Myer Centre, from February 27 until March 13 as part of the 2016 Adelaide Festival. The show is recommended for children aged eight and over, as well as adults.
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