The Trade Me bargain that sparked a play

Kiwi playwright and actor, Arthur Meek struck gold when he picked up a 19th-century magic lantern for just $250 on Trade Me. Little did he know this little lantern would be the inspiration behind his latest and greatest show, Erewhon Revisited.

Back in the 1800s, magic lanterns were sort of like a slide projector which was used as a popular form of entertainment. When Europeans explorers would return from their intrepid travels they would travel their own country with a lantern and a musician to tell their tales of a magical land far, far away.

Meek said magic lanterns are essentially, “a beautiful a mix of cinema and theatre. You’ve got a bunch of slides but they have to be bought to life by the performer,” he told Stuff.

His play is a modern take on Samuel Butler’s famous 1872 novel Erewhon which predicted that machines and technology would one day pose a threat to humankind. In Meek’s version, Erewhonians are people from the not too distant future who travelled back in time to escape a range of things, from Trump to social media and everything in between.

Erewhon Revisited debuts tonight and will run until September 16 at the Christchurch Arts Centre as part of the annual Christchurch Arts Festival. For more information, see here.

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Arthur Meek and the magic lantern that sold New Zealand - Stuff