Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch

12/09/2017 - 16/09/2017


Production Details

A thrilling expedition into the future in this multimedia adventure featuring love, laughter, music and property speculation. Based on Samuel Butler’s classic NZ novel Erewhon (1872).

Erewhon Revisited shines a stunning new light on Samuel Butler’s classic NZ novel in this world premiere by acclaimed playwright and newly qualified Magic Lantern Showman Arthur Meek.

EXTRA: Attend the preview performance of Erewhon Revisited on Tues 12 Sept and join Festival Director Craig Cooper for an exclusive “behind the scenes” conversation with the show’s creator & performer Arthur Meek.

Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch
TUE 12 SEP, 8:30pm | WED 13 SEP 2017, 7:00pm
THU 14 SEP, 8:30pm & FRI 15 SEP 2017, 8:30pm
SAT 16 SEP 2017, 6:00pm
Preview Tues 12 Sept $45 | Prem $59 / A Res $49 / A Res Conc $45
Student Rush $20 not available for preview
*Fees & conditions apply, see How to Book

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 15 mins

Reckless pace reverses Victorian restraint

Review by Lindsay Clark 14th Sep 2017

There is a long preamble before this brand new work – commissioned by this year’s Christchurch Arts Festival, in association with Magnetic North (Scotland) – gets much further than an introduction to the technology of the night. Some is very old, some is pretty new and somehow, between them, the personable Arthur Meek will fill in the human touches. He is to be supported by musician and singer, Eva Prowse, set discreetly apart from the main action.

The performance involves a very beautiful Victorian magic lantern device and screen, mounted beside a further screen, which will carry images created by the entertaining Meek’s camera, as he moves about explaining, narrating and manipulating slides. He is, he confesses, still a learner at the magic lantern business, enthralled by the ideas and images unlocked from a past century by the antique slides he has acquired with the lantern. It is the one labelled ‘Erewhon’ that sets his creative impulses firing; that and the way images can make the impossible seem within our reach.

Depictions of an idealised Aotearoa worked for Victorian land peddlers selling to the imaginations of would-be colonists – will a similar technique work on an updated ending for this adapted Victorian fantasy? The success of the ending in question will depend on how clearly we understand what is being presented in the final moments of the play and I confess by then I am fairly dazzled by the multi-media approach.

Revisiting Samuel Butler’s satirical novel, in which an adventurous young farm lad discovers a remote tribe, is the basis for his rewrite. Conventions so rigorously upheld in ‘civilised’ society are, in Erewhon, reversed, yet life goes on serenely enough. Our narrator/hero encounters imprisonment, romance and royal favour in his mad scamper through this gently mocking upside down world, before all is neatly resolved in a sci-fi twist worthy of Butler himself.  

Keeping up with the reckless pace of increasingly mad situations is a major challenge for a solo actor also serving as operator and camera man. Such is the assurance and composure of our host that no beat is missed, though at times the busy interaction between man and technology does very little for narration. Throughout, Eva Prowse matches music to image and story, though here too, for me, development sometimes stalls.  

The dynamic selfies used to create different characters, are certainly in tune with the mood of the piece, as are the images dreamed up by Sharon Murdoch and Emily Thomas. Sadly, the restrained world generated from the vital magic lantern seems side-lined in the mix. 

Festivals are great melting pots of invention and risk taking. Big risks are taken with this blended concept and deserve to be applauded, though in the end I am struggling to find what advantages they offer over a more conventional approach to translating a clever idea into action. 


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