Friday, 23 April 2010

What is England?

Wells & Young's advertise their Bombadier as the drink of England and they have some fantastic posters featuring all things English from bowler hats to pantomime horses. I particularly like Les Dawson dressed as Queen Elizabeth, although the Kiwis might get a bit upset about the rugby ball. It made me think about - What is England? What represents it? What do I miss about it? Apart from the people - it's the pubs, the football, the scenery, the history, the drama, the music and the humour - not necessarily in that order.

Wells & Young's have been campaigning to have St George's Day declared a national holiday for the past 15 years. So far they have had no luck, but their beer is still quite nice. I shall be sure to have a pint, and partake of a few other English ales on my national saint's day. Bottoms up!

Thanks to Neil Miller at The Malthouse blog for drawing my attention to these posters.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Autumn Festival Parade

Last weekend the Arrowtown Autumn Festival kicked off. I enjoy this celebration of cooler climes and changing seasons. There is a street parade, an arts and crafts market, ambles along the river, jazz bands, a senior citizens' afternoon tea, a mountain bike treasure hunt, a PTA quiz night, and even an invitation to help pick up litter - now that's what I call a community event! It may be a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the Queenstown Winter Festival down the road, but that's the beauty of having two towns with such separate identities, nestling side-by-side in the valley.

Him Outdoors and I went for a coffee and a wander - this is what we saw:

We also saw the Buckingham Belles - more of them in another post...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

They Got Rhythm

Good Morning, Mr Gershwin – Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu/ France

St James Theatre, 17-20 March 2010

Why wouldn’t you use words to express yourself? Perhaps because you are underwater, acting a mime, haven’t learned to speak yet, are lost for words being struck dumb through emotion; perhaps you and your community have never been given a voice. Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu explore all of these options and more as they dance their way through a passionate tribute to George Gershwin.

The backdrop to their frenetic movements is a series of projected images of people underwater; they run in slow motion and primary colours, or they swim naked above sandcastles which are later destroyed by rain. The French are much less prudish about full-frontal nudity than we, but even so, there are a disproportionate number of perfect breasts and waxed  (female) genitals. Swimming naked is a liberating expression of humanity in its purest form with a feeling of freedom and weightlessness, which may also be the essence of dance, but the visuals can become distracting.

Just as Gershwin flitted between many forms, incorporating high culture and tradition, so the dancers sweep boldly through artistic genres. We are treated to an evening of mime, tap, ballet and hip-hop where we are equally likely to see a break-dance dance off to a graceful movement en-pointe; a group gyrating like jerky mannequins or finger-clicking gymnasts performing the splits as though on acid.

Barriers between art-forms are swept aside and boundaries blend. The high energy and bright palette of a vibrant Broadway musical are obvious in numbers such as Strike up the Band. Clockwork musical figures wind up to I Got Rhythm while a shadow silhouette dance provides Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off with elements of comedy. A tap-dancing crab; a bathing belle with a beach ball, and a gargling diva all bring new interpretations to familiar melodies and have the audience laughing and humming along.

The mood alters dramatically with a soulful gospel section from Porgy and Bess. The black dancers of the company huddle around a shack while the projection behind depicts a cyclone with malevolent waves threatening to crush and destroy their tiny haven. This is the best use of the screen; once again when it switches to scenes of public lynching, children crying, race riots and violent protests it paradoxically loses its impetus.

Summertime is intensely harrowing amidst these surroundings. Although the music is known for its powerful harmonies, the dancers perform isolated solos, drawing attention to the racially-charged times in which Mr Gershwin lived. If dance is a form of expression, then Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin is the ultimate emotional outlet.