River­lea’s lat­est — a show to en­gage and en­ter­tain

Waikato Times - - News | Arts - Sam Ed­wards

Men­tioned in Des­patches:

Happy New Year!!

Dur­ing the In­ter­reg­num where no sparks flew and no Re­flec­tions mir­rored our ex­is­tence, un­think­ing hoi pol­loi bloomed like toxic al­gae and the world went on build­ing bar­ri­ers to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It may sound apoca­lyp­tic, dear reader, but Fear Ye Not. Dur­ing it all, apart from the day in which Chris­tians cel­e­brated a Christ Mass and nonChris­tians re­sponded to the se­duc­tive tin­kling of till bells and cards slid­ing into care­fully lu­bri­cated aper­tures, the Waikato

Times still put print and pic­tures into our hearts and minds. Much was made of sport­ing fix­tures, shares rose and fell, scan­dals and thefts con­tin­ued, evil roads killed in­no­cent peo­ple, two of the world’s great na­tions de­scended into a Hol­ly­wood in­spired morass of de­ceit and power, and the weather con­tin­ued. But the arts did not win sig­nif­i­cant col­umn inches. Is this writer con­cerned? Yes, be­cause there is so much go­ing on in which the arts are sin­gu­larly sig­nif­i­cant but has no cov­er­age, and No, be­cause pres­sure from the arts in New Zealand, and es­pe­cially in the Waikato, is mak­ing arts news and com­men­tary more news­wor­thy. In the lead-up to the open­ing of the new the­atre, we have a won­der­fully pos­i­tive op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with a pop­u­la­tion be­com­ing tired of en­ter­tain­ment which shouts so loudly it can­not be heard any more. Wel­come to 2019. The Na­tional Ge­o­graphic re­view which fol­lows is not a neg­a­tive. It is a pos­i­tive call to all of us to re­con­sider how well we eval­u­ate art and its ef­fects.

Great Play­grounds:

River­lea The­atre just keeps on and on with its drive to en­gage peo­ple with the arts. To­day, they open a sea­son of An­nie Jr which runs for a short sea­son. Jan­uary 15-19, with 11am and 2pm mati­nees (to­day, Wed­nes­day, and Thurs­day,) and 2 and 7 pms on Fri­day and Satur­day. It’s a show to en­gage and en­ter­tain au­di­ences and the en­ter­tain­ers them­selves dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, but more im­por­tantly, it is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the re­mark­able stage par­tic­i­pa­tion pro­grammes which are of­fered un­der the River­lea ban­ner through Musik­mak­ers and PlayBox. The young ac­tors in this ver­sion of the An­nie story – here she is to be found in an or­phan­age un­der the tyran­ni­cal hand of the evil Miss Han­ni­gan – be­gan re­hearsal back in Oc­to­ber last year - and are yet an­other pro­gres­sion in the train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for as­pir­ing ac­tors and stage crew. The bril­liant 11 year old leads, Lily BurgessMunro, and Ruby-Jane van Deursen are di­rected by Toni Gar­son with Co­ryn Knap­per’s mu­si­cal direc­tion and Tess Bense­mann’s chore­og­ra­phy will wow every­one who turns up. Not to be missed.

The dear old Na­tional Ge­o­graphic was founded dur­ing the first years of pho­to­graphic record, in 1888. It of­fered en­ter­tain­ing ed­uca­tive science from a well writ­ten, beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated, learned jour­nal. This ex­hi­bi­tion is mar­keted as “50 of the most recog­nis­able and pop­u­lar pho­to­graphs the mag­a­zine has pub­lished in its 120 year his­tory.” One ex­pected vis­ual ex­cite­ment, an aes­thetic de­light in colour and form, and a won­der­ful con­ver­sa­tion with the pho­to­graphs. Oh dear! There are no works prior to 1965, and two thirds of the oth­ers are post 1990. No black and white master­pieces. No ev­i­dence of the unique colour palette in the early im­ages, The Ge­o­graphic past “a dis­paru”. Gone. Done ex­ist­ing, and what is left is rep­re­sen­ta­tive nei­ther of past qual­ity nor present in­ter­est. There are few great mo­ments. The un­bear­ably mov­ing 1993 pho­to­graph of a group of young­sters from Moscow, all sans the left hand, is unique. The kids were prod­ucts of an ap­par­ently malev­o­lently aber­rant growth pat­tern in a Mosco­vian sub­urb and cho­sen this US road­show. That be­gan to raise dis­turb­ing ques­tions. Why were these pho­to­graphs con­sid­ered to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the very best from 120, now 130, years of the mag­a­zine? By the time I was look­ing at a man lean­ing on a bar in Ne­vada be­neath a Coca Cola sign, I was won­der­ing about the real pur­pose of the ex­hi­bi­tion and its se­lec­tion cri­te­ria. Did the 1988 im­age of four pretty Parisian women, one smok­ing, the oth­ers laugh­ing and gos­sip­ing, re­veal some­thing of French so­ci­ety, or was this a par­ton­is­ingly su­pe­rior US tourist view of French cul­ture. This per­spec­tive from the US of the mod­ern world, me­di­ated by the new 20th Cen­tury Fox driven ed­i­to­rial ori­en­ta­tion of the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic, is, quite frankly, an un­ex­pect­edly shal­low and dis­turb­ing dis­ap­point­ment. These pho­to­graphs are oooh, aaah, brouhaha ma­te­rial, eye catch­ingly empty. They are pop­u­lar pho­to­graphic equiv­a­lents of choco­late box su­per­fi­cial­i­ties mar­keted as art, all vi­sion and ex­cite­ment, sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing (thank you, Mr Mac­beth). There is no con­ver­sa­tion, no in­ter­ac­tion, apart from one or two works like the Goodall Touch and the dis­turbingly mal­formed kids. You must go, be­cause it might make you ques­tion the ease with which you ac­cept, even praise, the spec­tac­u­larly empty. When you go, keep ask­ing “why” ques­tions about what you are see­ing and learn­ing. When you leave pick up a What’s On guide. There’swon­der­ful view­ing in other gal­leries.

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