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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Star Wars turns space opera
Robert Traynor and Judith Plint
The fair Princess Slayer in the clutches of Dark Invader
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

Opera Galactica is a performance based on the popular Star Wars films with a host of other operatic themes and ideas thrown in for good measure.

Priding itself on puncturing the snobbery that often surrounds the opera world, the four main characters take the audience on a familiar journey as good battles evil and the universe is saved in time for dinner.

The show is played for laughs - the performers are all professional opera singers and the quality of their singing cannot be faulted - but the libretto is written with a light sabre-sized tongue stuck in a Death Star-sized cheek.

"When I unsheath my sword of light my foes will flee at its mighty sight," sings Francis Church, who plays the Jedi Knight-type figure of Guru.

Robert Traynor as Dark Invader
The villain has an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader
He later sings: "We can slay the Dark Invader, no relation by the way."

There are plenty of in-jokes and Stars Wars references to please fans but one doesn't have to be a fan to appreciate the production.

The stage setting, with an uncanny resemblance to the mask worn by Darth Vader in Star Wars, is impressive for a Fringe production and the score, by Richard Lewis, works well to the material.

The music is standard operatic fare and the singing of the four leads is faultless, varying nicely from dramatic to melodramatic.

The production is littered with musical references to a host of other operas.

I counted material from Wagner, Mozart's Figaro, Gilbert and Sullivan and Puccini, but there was also music from the soundtrack to the film Excalibur and plenty of flourishes taken from John Williams' well-known Star Wars compositions.

It is described as a musical comedy and at times drifts firmly into the territory of the Rocky Horror Show.

The performances are all of excellent quality although on occasion the leads, Hubert Francis, who plays the hero Duke and Robert Traynor, who plays Dark Invader, seem caught between playing up the high campness of the libretto and the seriousness of the operatic performance.

Judith Plint, who plays Princess Slayer, deserves special praise as she walks the line between humour and performance, irony and seriousness with the skill of a high-wire trapeze artist and is an undoubted talented comic actress.

Opera Galactica is on at the Gateway theatre until 27 August

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