REVIEW: 'Frolics' of the Damned

James Ottweiller
By James Ottweiller
June 4th, 2009

As the Telegraph’s new cultural critic at large, I attended last Wednesday’s end of the year “Summer Frolics” performance by the students of Maclean Elementary with high hopes. I looked forward to covering my first event for this newspaper. You see, I’m new to Rossland and this was to be my first introduction to small town life at its Norman Rockwell-in-bike-shorts finest. I am sorry to report that I was in for a bitter and most crushing disappointment. 

The Summer Frolics were the product of the efforts of the primary students at Maclean school. The ostensible theme of the evening was ‘fun in the sun’ and the production involved a series of tuneless and insipid melodies, blared by shifting clumps of small children dressed in garish, primary-coloured clothing. The performance was a shocking disgrace. 

I know that some will wag their fingers in my face for daring to criticize the efforts of schoolchildren, but sometimes corrective criticism is a moral obligation as much as aesthetic one, and I won’t shirk my duties. Express yourself, the Telegraph challenged me. And express myself I will. 

The first number of the evening was titled ‘Gone Fishin’ and consisted almost entirely of a troupe of first graders stomping around the performance space, sticks (in lieu of genuine fishing rods, one assumes) slung over their shoulders, singing along to lyrics like “don’t ask us to do no chores/we’re off to fishy shores”. Even leaving aside the grammar of the lyric, it was a truly awful performance. In particular, the lead singer, one Devon Jenkins, was abominable. She screeched more than she sang, grinning and mugging for the fawning audience (all of whom were relatives, one can only assume) with the sort of confidence that is born of ignorance and indulgence.

Next up was a dance number called “Beach Boogie”. What can I say? That I felt no urge to boogie along? That far from making me dance, the number made me want to slink off into a dark corner and read some Bukowski? The students, grade threes this time, bumped and ground their way through this forgettable number, looking for all the world like they were in the grip of a collective slow motion epileptic fit. Although the number was ostensibly ‘rock and roll’, many of the students were doing what appeared to be random ‘hip hop’ moves. In particular, Cody Bryant, in his Tom Cruise-Risky-Business shades was an abomination, swivelling his hips and grimacing in transports of rhythmically-challenged ecstacy. He even waved at his mother, who—of course—waved back.

And so the evening went. Things didn’t improve, in fact, by the time the grand finale (a choral piece called “September Begone!”) rolled around, I had a rather severe headache thanks to the hostile looks of nearby parents who objected to my occasional sighs and head shaking (an essential release). By the end of it all, I wasn’t sure if anger or depression were ascendant in my heart. Anger at this terrible performance, depression at the thought that my new home of Rossland might have nothing more than these barren offerings in the cultural realm. 

But I do not despair. I note that there is a ‘meat draw’ this weekend in the nearby town of Trail. This group sketching event sounds like a more suitable avant garde artistic evening. I look forward to reporting back to you all on this ‘happening’ in next week’s edition.

James Ottweiller is a freelance journalist an inhabitant of an alternate universe we like to call ‘Rossland X’; in this reality he exists only to haunt our dreams. Nothing an inhabitant of Rossland X says has any bearing on anything in the real world.


Categories: Arts and Culture

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