2018 NZ Festival offers great local and international acts

The Select

New Zealand Festival
Wellington
February 23-March 18

The New Zealand Festival, which one of the five biggest festivals in Australasia, has just released its programme for next year.

This will be the 31st iteration of the festival since it began in 1986 and it has sold over two million tickets to an audience of more than five million people over the years.

The festival will open with a massive undertaking which reflects on the importance of New Zealand place in the Pacific.  A Waka Odyssey references themes of migration, journey, discovery and the understanding of cultures.

Included in the theatre programme is The Select, a stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises performed by New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service, famous for its productions using the texts of great American novels such as The Great Gatsby.  

A review from the Washington Post describes the work as “following the lives of the Lost Generation souls, men and women who had survived World War I with instincts intact only for adventure and getting 'tight.' Jake Barnes, the newspaperman left impotent by a war injury; Brett Ashley, the British swell joylessly juggling lovers; Robert Cohn, the dour Jewish literary striver who latches pathetically on to others: They’re tossed together in Hemingway’s colorful roman à clef, traipsing across France and Spain with an open spigot of spirits to keep them going.”

Reviews have also praised the skills of the actors in being able to maintain, in honour of Hemingway, the illusion of the characters being drunk for virtually the whole performance

From London’s National Theatre comes Barber Shop Chronicles, a musical by poet/playwright Inua Ellams, which threads together various conversations in six different barbershops, from London to Lagos across the course of a single day with the audience listening in to these almost confessional speeches made from the barber’s chair.

One of the world's leading choreographers, Michael Keegan-Dolan, will be back in Wellington (his Giselle was staged there in 2008), with his award-winning take on the ballet classic “Swan Lake” – a contemporary version mixing dance and theatre, filled with pathos and joy.

In this production Tchaikovsky is replaced by Nordic folk music, played live on stage where the set is an assemblage of steel scaffolding and black plastic.

The Prince is replaced by Jimmy, a clinically depressed young man who goes to the lake, not in search of swans but to kill himself.

The swans he encounters are young girls who have been transformed into birds to prevent them exposing a sexually abusive Catholic priest.

The Guardian's review of the work said “in this beautifully paced work, Keegan-Dolan fuses dance, music and text to bring his Swan Lake into indelible focus.”

“These characters are dovetailed into the story through blackly brilliant comic vignettes but the essential greatness of this Swan Lake lies in the dreamlike plotting of Jimmy’s imaginative world and its atavistic, psychic resonances.”

Auckland audiences who saw the recent touring Netherlands Dance Company would have seen the extraordinary short ballet, The Statement by Crystal Pite, which combined text, dance and theatre. Wellington audiences will get to see an equally dramatic work, Betroffenheit, a hybrid of theatre and dance that meditates on the aftermath of unexpected trauma.

Betroffenheit, which means a state of shock, trauma, and bewilderment, is a collaboration between Pite and co-creator  Jonathan Young, who underwent a period of trauma when his daughter, niece and nephew died in a cabin fire while the family was on holiday.

The Guardian noted that “Pite’s choreography is eclectic and evocative and the performing ensemble is exceptional” and described the lead dancer as, "inhabiting a spidery, almost demonic presence in one moment and delivering an emotional crisis with pathos and sensitivity in another.”

Other musical events include opera star Anne Sofie von Otter and early music master Jordi Savall who both have one-night-only concerts in Wellington while indie rock band Grizzly Bear will play two shows at the Opera House. Following on from the series of sellout shows by Wynton Marsalis, at the 2016 New Zealand Festival there will be performances by his protegee and one of the biggest names in jazz, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Outside the concert hall is a three-week line-up of music, cabaret and circus in the Festival Club as well as a series of chamber music events, with works by Orava Quartet, Stephen de Pledge, Dylan Lardelli, Rob Thorne and the New Zealand String Quartet in the newly renovated St Mary of the Angels church.

A popular musical event will be a performance of John Williams' stirring music from Star Wars: A New Hope, along with a screening of the film. The music will be played by the NZ Symphony Orchestra

New Zealand dancer/choreographer Michael Parmenter, who has created some of the most impressive pieces of contemporary dance, will be premiering his reinterpretation of the myth of Orpheus who travels to the underworld to bring back his wife, Eurydice.  OrphEus will be performed by the NZ Dance Company with live music from Latitude 37 and Grammy award-winning American tenor Aaron Sheehan.

Future Playground, which will be staged in Shed 6 on the waterfront, is a total immersion in technology arts exhibition.

Among the family entertainment is a circus group, A O Lang Pho from Vietnam in a show where woven baskets become trampolines and bamboo poles create a playground for daring acrobatics.

The Writers and Readers part of the festival will feature some of the world's best thinkers and talkers from March 8 to 11 at four locations – the Michael Fowler Centre, Renouf Foyer, Circa Theatre and the Festival Club.

The full line-up of writers won't released until February 1 but so far includes Sir Lloyd Geering, Lloyd Jones, Annabel Langbein, Selina Tusitala Marsh and Tom Scott as well as international writers A C Grayling (UK), Cory Doctorow (Canada), Charlotte Jane Anders (US) Teju Cole (Nigeria) and Mike Ladd (Australia).


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