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With their cellphones in flight mode and in reclining chairs, the audience travelled the light fantastic at Anthonie Tonnon's A Synthetic Universe staged in the Otago Museum Guardian Perpetual Plantetarium.
The museum's digital creative team of Oana Jones, Andrew Charlton and Nick Yeats created a superb light show featuring the night sky over Dunedin, Saturn's rings, floating asteroids, planets and the Milky Way's stardust languidly floating across the domed ceiling of the Planetarium.
The depiction of the monochrome southern ocean swelling under a storm-riddled night sky was stunning. Fortunately these spectacular images more than made up for the highly variable quality of music.
Tonnon has a good agile voice and occasionally produced it well with good effect. His keyboard work is at times inspired and at others it merely plods.
His subject matter is highly relevant and lyrics are nicely pointed.
His angular dance moves also made good effect against the screen particularly when he positioned himself in the middle of the railway track in the centre of the camera's eye as it zoomed over frozen Norwegian countryside.
But it seems that the moving image always takes precedence over the aural, even when the musician stands in front of the screen.
While there were definite downsides to the performance, some numbers really stood out and got the feet tapping. Water Underground was greatly assisted by the audience participation. It proved to be a wonderful way to highlight the imminence of climate change.
The inspiration to Mataura, a protest and eulogy to the old paper mill built over a once pretty waterfall, should have worked better. The potential for environmental and social tragedy in Mataura from Tiwai Aluminium smelter's toxic waste stored in the mill deserves greater exposure.
A spectacular evening well worth attending for its exploitation of its creative space.
- Marian Poole