As Austrian cellar rapist Josef Fritzl faces trial tomorrow, a group of Dunedin performers are preparing to stage a rock opera inspired by his appalling crimes.
Das Roq Opera, a flamboyant, Rocky Horror-style musical with a cast and crew of 35, begins with its heroine escaping her tyrannical German-accented father, who has imprisoned her in his basement all her life.
Writer Henry Feltham said the production, which debuts on March 26 as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival, was attempting to ask "what happens to someone when they move into the world after being sequestered away from it for 20 years".
He said Fritzl's crimes were so grotesque and explosive that they suited the rock opera treatment.
"There seemed to be for me - it sounds terrible - a natural connection between Josef Fritzl and rock operas. The Fritzl case is incredible and over the top, and rock opera is over the top."
Last month, a satirical stage comedy about the case debuted in Vienna, attracting death threats for the show's creator. But Feltham said he did not feel it was too soon for a New Zealand musical inspired by Austrian events.
"There's definitely qualms you have about using content like that, but when something that extraordinary happens, it's really hard to approach it from a conventionally moral sense. These extraordinary acts aren't approachable in an ordinary way."
He stressed that although the references to Fritzl's crimes were "pretty explicit" at the show's beginning, the case was "a starting point" for the five-act musical, which drew from influences including the Greek myth of Medusa, Alice in Wonderland and David Bowie's Labyrinth.
Actress Hannah Gould - best known for playing the daughter in a long-running series of Fernleaf and Anchor butter commercials - plays the mute, nameless heroine who escapes her "psycho nurturer" father. Unlike Fritzl's daughter, her character is not a victim of incest.
"There's none of that aspect, I wouldn't be inviting my children along if that were the case," said Gould, 30, a mother of three.
Feltham said the show, which features five acts, seven musical numbers and digital scenery, was already generating a buzz in the southern city due to the Fritzl associations. He described the production as "a lunchtime conversation that got out of control".
"It's one of those ideas that's so funny that you just have to do it."
- Sunday Star Times
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