For instance, the German contingent, led by a shepherd lad called Nicholas, made it across the Swiss Alps to the Genovese harbour, which he expected to part Moses-style. It didn’t. Some of the kids were abducted and sold into slavery, others were adopted by kindly locals and the balance, still led by Nicholas, tried to make it home only to perish trying. Ceremony of the Innocent takes inspiration from this last leg of Nicholas’ journey.
The work comes to Fringe courtesy of Eltham High’s resident theatre company, Scrambled Prince Theatre. Ceremony of the Innocent’s director George Franklin started the ensemble in the mid-nineties and its purpose from the outset was to make high quality touring theatre. “We had some students who were keen to become theatre professionals, and the idea was to expose them to audiences outside the school,” Franklin says. “When you do a performance inside a school, everyone thinks that everything you do is brilliant, whether it is or isn’t, so we wanted to perform this to audiences who had no prior interest.”
Since its inception, the company has toured all over rural Victoria and thrown its hat into the ring for multiple Adelaide and Melbourne Fringe seasons. Over recent years it’s been given a leg up with the inclusion of professional actors – this production includes two taking on the roles of the prostitute, and the priest who has lost his faith. “It gives the students experience in working with professionals and helps them to lift their game a bit,” Franklin explains.
The story for the production has been cast in the mould of “junkyard opera” – a term that Franklin came across in relation to the work of one of his ex-students Jesse Rasmussen from Four Larks theatre company. “They’re intensely musical performances, very evocative, but usually performed in warehouses, stables or old factories,” Franklin says, by way of explanation. “The costuming and sets are beautiful, but created from second-hand bits and bobs. All of these second-hand resources create something very theatrical and operatic.”
Albeit based in the middle ages, the story has parallels spanning everything from the Pied Piper to the stolen generation. It’s also fitting in a time when reason is still at odds with faith. On top of that it coincides with revelations of horrific abuse by organised religion and an abhorrent groundswell of anti-muslim sentiment.
“The relationship between western countries and the middle east is a source of discussion and conflict over say the last 15 to 20 years. In many ways, the discourse was created in the middle ages. It’s just never really gone away.”
BY MEG CRAWFORD
Venue: Trades Hall – New Ballroom
Dates: September 17 – September 24
Tickets: $15 – $22