Joanna Hunkin is the Head of Entertainment and Lifestyle for NZME.

Live review: Sir David Attenborough's Quest for Life

Sir David Attenborough is still touring the world and spreading his message of conservation, age 90.
Sir David Attenborough is still touring the world and spreading his message of conservation, age 90.

It began with a standing ovation. For many in the sold out Civic Theatre, it was like an audience with the Queen. They were reverent, wide-eyed and humbled.

In actual fact, it was far more interesting (one imagines) than meeting Her Majesty, for Sir David Attenborough is a raconteur of the highest order. From nine-year-olds to 90-year-olds, the audience was enthralled, hanging off his every descriptive word.

Sir David may just have the broadest vocabulary of any living human. Recalling adventures from across the globe, he painted a thrilling portrait of a life well lived, a life bursting with colour and adjectives - not one of which was awesome.

David Attenborough de-bogging a jeep in Java, 1956.
David Attenborough de-bogging a jeep in Java, 1956.

He recalled the early days of his career, when he was rejected as a BBC radio presenter but invited to work on this new little side project, television.

Assisted by Australian broadcaster, former 60 Minutes' host Ray Martin (who delivered the night's only cringeworthy moment when he had namecheck himself so the Kiwi crowd knew who he was, similar to The Simpsons' Troy McClure) Sir David was gently prompted to take the audience through his greatest adventures, accompanied by original BBC footage.

Along the way, he jumped atop animals of varying species, was nearly shipwrecked in a whirlpool off the coast of Indonesia and found himself accepted as an honorary member of a troop of gorillas.

Every story shared was infused with that unique mix of gravitas and unbridled delight that only Sir David can master.

David Attenborough in pursuit of a Giant Anteater in the Rupununi Savannah, British Guiana, 1955.
David Attenborough in pursuit of a Giant Anteater in the Rupununi Savannah, British Guiana, 1955.

But never more so than when it came to the night's Q&A session, where a select few audience members were invited forward to ask their pre-approved question.

When asked to name his "favourite rock" (by a geologist) Sir David's response was one of genuine enthusiasm. For the record, it's the fossils found in South Australia's Edicara Hills, which reveal some of the world's first living organisms.

The night ended with the conservationist sharing his views on the dangers of an ever-increasing global population and need to protect the natural world.

David Attenborough feeding Benjamin, a Malaysian Sun Bear, in Borneo 1956.
David Attenborough feeding Benjamin, a Malaysian Sun Bear, in Borneo 1956.

As he poignantly noted, when he began his career in 1950, the world's population was 2.5 billion. It is now three times that. But of all those seven billion souls, there's no other quite like Sir David.

• Sir David Attenborough's original BBC series Zoo Quest will screen on Prime this Sunday at 7.30pm. First broadcast in black and white in 1954, it is the first time the series will screen in full colour.

- NZ Herald

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