Delaney Davidson brings The Magic Lightbox to the Dome Room

THE OTHER: Travelling rustic noir performer and 2015 NZ Arts Laureate Delaney Davidson brings show Magic Lightbox to the Dome next week. Picture supplied

A MONSTER cries on the side of a hill/ A child walks through a field/ A woman lies in a box/ Somewhere a letter gets written and sealed,” are a handful of lines from enigmatic Delaney Davidson’s song Bloodletter.

Part performer, part carny, part hawker, Davidson’s music videos invoke the rough-sawn metaphysic of deep south author William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, scratchy special effects created by French illusionist and pioneer cinematographer George Melies and the circus freak show of American gothic movie The Other.

When Davidson steps off the highway with battered suitcase in hand and guitar slung over his shoulder next week to perform at the Dome he will bring with him his show the Magic Lightbox.

No narrative thread runs through the show, that includes projected film, a ghost orchestra whose music might or might not relate to what the audience sees on screen, and unusual stories. Some could be a bit sinister, others are permeated with love.

Davidson’s lyrical content ranges from classic murder ballads to songs with insight into human frailties.

“There’s a kind of overall theme of love but I’ve avoided making things narratively defined,” he says.

“I spent a lot of time wrestling with that concept. I have to leave this open because the songs are mercurial.”

The show’s title brings to mind the early days of moving pictures as a new medium that was yet to find its way out of the box-like stage and into on-location cinematography.

“I have about six films I show and I play music to those films,” says Davidson.

“I present the show as a traditional moderator persona, a master of ceremonies, then you have the films. You have several versions of me. Some are to reassure people and be sure they are looked after. Other personas are there to unsettle people.”

The concept developed over time, says Davidson, who earlier this century was part of Switzerland’s Voodoo Rhythm Family.

“It began as a wistful, Huckleberry Finn-styled thing with the idea of travel, of going on adventures. As time went on the concept became more filled out.

“I travelled around Europe for about 13 years on the run. My performance is rooted in European and cabaret style theatre.”

Also in the background of his work is a whiff of the carnival barker and the vaudeville entertainer.

Davidson carries with him a guitar, harmonica and a small battered suitcase.

In the suitcase are the dark instruments of his ghost orchestra — a microphone and equipment he uses to loop sounds over each other to achieve that old-fashioned carnival tent sound.

Davidson was initially inspired by the songs of cowboy singer Hank Williams and the Nick Cave band Birthday Party, and Buster Keaton. In his YouTube clip I Slept Late, he blends Kiwi gothic and the Western movie with grainy special effects.

“The Western thing comes up a lot,” he says.

“It seems to have a bit of similarity to pioneering in New Zealand, of people a long way from home and trying to find a place.

“There is nostalgia, wistfulness and that sense of alienation when they return.”

A big screen framed by black curtains and a big red sign with yellow writing at the entrance will set the tone for the travelling performer’s Magic Lightbox show.

It creates a beautiful and slightly demonic vaudeville atmosphere, says Davidson.

“The show has a dark flavour. It can be uncomfortable but it has an overall message of love.

“I like to find contradictions.”










A MONSTER cries on the side of a hill/ A child walks through a field/ A woman lies in a box/ Somewhere a letter gets written and sealed,” are a handful of lines from enigmatic Delaney Davidson’s song Bloodletter.

Part performer, part carny, part hawker, Davidson’s music videos invoke the rough-sawn metaphysic of deep south author William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, scratchy special effects created by French illusionist and pioneer cinematographer George Melies and the circus freak show of American gothic movie The Other.

When Davidson steps off the highway with battered suitcase in hand and guitar slung over his shoulder next week to perform at the Dome he will bring with him his show the Magic Lightbox.

No narrative thread runs through the show, that includes projected film, a ghost orchestra whose music might or might not relate to what the audience sees on screen, and unusual stories. Some could be a bit sinister, others are permeated with love.

Davidson’s lyrical content ranges from classic murder ballads to songs with insight into human frailties.

“There’s a kind of overall theme of love but I’ve avoided making things narratively defined,” he says.

“I spent a lot of time wrestling with that concept. I have to leave this open because the songs are mercurial.”

The show’s title brings to mind the early days of moving pictures as a new medium that was yet to find its way out of the box-like stage and into on-location cinematography.

“I have about six films I show and I play music to those films,” says Davidson.

“I present the show as a traditional moderator persona, a master of ceremonies, then you have the films. You have several versions of me. Some are to reassure people and be sure they are looked after. Other personas are there to unsettle people.”

The concept developed over time, says Davidson, who earlier this century was part of Switzerland’s Voodoo Rhythm Family.

“It began as a wistful, Huckleberry Finn-styled thing with the idea of travel, of going on adventures. As time went on the concept became more filled out.

“I travelled around Europe for about 13 years on the run. My performance is rooted in European and cabaret style theatre.”

Also in the background of his work is a whiff of the carnival barker and the vaudeville entertainer.

Davidson carries with him a guitar, harmonica and a small battered suitcase.

In the suitcase are the dark instruments of his ghost orchestra — a microphone and equipment he uses to loop sounds over each other to achieve that old-fashioned carnival tent sound.

Davidson was initially inspired by the songs of cowboy singer Hank Williams and the Nick Cave band Birthday Party, and Buster Keaton. In his YouTube clip I Slept Late, he blends Kiwi gothic and the Western movie with grainy special effects.

“The Western thing comes up a lot,” he says.

“It seems to have a bit of similarity to pioneering in New Zealand, of people a long way from home and trying to find a place.

“There is nostalgia, wistfulness and that sense of alienation when they return.”

A big screen framed by black curtains and a big red sign with yellow writing at the entrance will set the tone for the travelling performer’s Magic Lightbox show.

It creates a beautiful and slightly demonic vaudeville atmosphere, says Davidson.

“The show has a dark flavour. It can be uncomfortable but it has an overall message of love.

“I like to find contradictions.”










Bought to Gisborne by InCahoots and Arts on Tour NZ, Delaney Davidson’s show The Magic Lightbox plays at the Dome Room on Wednesday, 8pm. Tickets from The Aviary $20, door $25.

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