Riverlea’s latest — a show to engage and entertain
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.
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.