Auckland Arts Festival full of treats

Auckland Arts Festival 2018
March 1-25

The Auckland Arts Festival next year will feature a number of local and international acts including theatre, music, dance and the visual arts.

The festival’s new artistic director Jonathan Bielski has drawn on his international experience, to produce a programme that tells stories of communities, histories and cultures.

Of his inaugural festival, Mr Bielski says, “Auckland Arts Festival is the home for ambitious and compelling ideas that celebrate humanity and uplift the spirit. We champion the storyteller, the adventurer, the provocateur and the creator.

International Theatre
The major piece of international theatre is the adaptation of the George Orwell classic, 1984. Written by Duncan MacMillan and Robert Icke.

It is a retelling of the novel in which Orwell envisaged a totalitarian state where citizens were observed 24/7 which parallels contemporary concerns with the growth of CCTV, social media and devices which have the ability to track our movements.

Robert Lepage’s legendary lunar drama Far Side of the Moon, which Wellington audiences got to see in 2002, will make its Auckland debut. The brilliant, one-man show has been described as the magnum opus of the theatre mastermind and boasts a stunning soundtrack by Laurie Anderson.

NBR's review of the Wellington performance noted that it was “an enthralling journey through one man’s subjective universe to The Far Side of the Moon. The review noted that “The metaphor in the title is clear, just as the dark side of the moon is profoundly damaged by random celestial debris, the side of ourselves that we try to hide from, and hide from others, is deeply wounded by random human experience. And being human and narcissistic, casting ourselves at the centre of our solar systems – both as individuals and nations.”

Another one-man show explores a history of Australia in Jack Charles v The Crown. Australia is seen through the eyes of Uncle Jack Charles who was a member of the Stolen Generation, veteran actor, Aboriginal elder and activist, former inmate and heroin addict, film star and all-round legend.

Us/Them is a compelling and powerful play which tackles the Beslan school siege in Russia and tells the story from the point of view of two children tangled up in the terror.

New Zealand Theatre
Local theatre includes The Naked Samoans, in their stage performance The Naked Samoans Do Magic, the brainchild of the brilliant boys behind Bro’Town and internationally-acclaimed theatre company, The Conch.

After the death of a mysterious fan, the guys discover they are the inheritors of the keys to a rambling dilapidated villa in Ponsonby. With Auckland house prices skyrocketing and money to be made, the boys gather to sell it off and get on with their lives. But the house and who has left it to them are not what they seem

Auckland Theatre Company’s Still Life with Chickens is David Mamea’s new play, about a Samoan woman’s beguiling friendship with a chicken while Hone Kouka’s newest work, Bless The Child features eight lives and three worlds colliding.

Tea is an epic and sprawling new drama by New Zealand theatre-maker Ahi Karunaharan, which will take audiences on a journey into a Sri Lankan tea plantation and through the many stories lurking in its landscape. The lavish set will be designed by artist Tiffany Singh.

Eleanor Bishop and Julia Croft, have created a work which explores notions of female sexuality in the play Body Double. A recent Dominion Post review of the work at Bats Theatre in Wellington said, ‘Then the gritty reality of personal experiences kicks in and that all-encompassing topic of sex becomes the focus of the piece."

Through numerous devices such as projected images, use of handy cams and voiceovers, the two actors create fascinating images and telling moments that challenge and provoke, along with lots of humour to give relief from the intensity of the piece.

The major international dance work in 2018 is the English National Ballet's production of Giselle, which brings a team of nearly 100 people to New Zealand. The work which has received enormous critical praise is choreographed by Akram Khan who performed previously in New Zealand with Sylvie Guillem a decade ago in Wellington.

New Zealand dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter will direct his first full-length contemporary dance work in a decade. OrphEus – a dance opera, which will be performed by The New Zealand Dance Company and accompanied by a suite of musical artists, including American star tenor Aaron Sheehan.

This year The Royal New Zealand Ballet will again be part of the festival with the first work in its season The Piano, choreographed by Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček. The work was inspired by the academy award-winning New Zealand film and features the original piano used in the film.

Festival Playground
In previous years a lot of the musical action took place in the Festival Garden in Aotea Square. Next year there will be a new music precinct on Auckland’s waterfront. The Festival Playground will be located in Silo Park with food and beverage, kids’ activities, as well as the music arena hosting large and small music events.

At the heart of the Festival Playground will be the mirror-gazing, selfie utopia, House of Mirrors. The massive outdoor, walk-through labyrinth, made from 40 tonnes of steel and 15 tonnes of glass and composed of seemingly endless mirrors, brings a new sense of scale, amazement and fun to the carnival mirror maze.

Family work
The family programme includes the dynamic Australian youth circus school Flying Fruit Fly Circus’ fantastic production JUNK. This spellbinding playground adventure is set in a junkyard inhabited by kids from the 1940s, who, when they played, really played, without modern fears and anxieties.

Ideal for all the family is the Colenso BBDO season of À Ố Làng Phố, a joyous circus performed by the astounding acrobats of Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam with unbelievable props such as huge bamboo poles and traditional baskets, which are transformed into everything from buildings to trampolines and insect shells.

Làng Phố, which translates as “village-city”, depicts the rapid urbanisation of rural villages who are set in their peaceful way of life. Telling a story of Vietnamese culture in transition, the show’s 15 acrobats and five musicians contrast scenes of heritage and agriculture with the restless sights and sounds of 21st-century society.

Performing live to a mixture of serene South Vietnamese music and contemporary hip-hop, the troupe also presents a full range of circus skills. feats of juggling, contortion and aerial work

German composer Max Richter’s eight-hour-long concert Sleep which is designed to be heard overnight, with the audience able to sleep through the performance. Richter has created a hybrid of classical and electronic music – 31 uninterrupted pieces – to be experienced while in and out of consciousness and inducing lucid dream states.

Sleep is part of a trilogy of Max Richter works including a performance of Recomposed, his adaptation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which will be performed by the APO.

Love Me As I Am, is a celebration of the life and songs of the late Mahinārangi Tocker with performances by wahine toa of today, including Anika Moa, Annie Crummer, Shona Laing, Nadia Reid, Emma Paki among others. 

Jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant will bring her portfolio of jazz standards and songs from her latest album, Dreams and Daggers, to New Zealand for the first time.

New Zealand Opera will perform Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, marking the centenary of Bernstein’s birth. Based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name, Candide takes the audience on a round-the-world romp of idealistic optimism as it clashes with a series of absurdly unfortunate events.

The young and naïve Candide and his betrothed Cunegonde, subscribe to the ideas of Dr Pangloss: that everything that occurs is for the best, no matter what. Throughout the course of the opera, however, this doctrine is constantly challenged as Candide is forced into the Bulgarian army, caught up in the Spanish Inquisition, cheated out of a fabulous fortune and shipwrecked on a remote island,
New York-based New Zealander James Benjamin Rodgers who has been seen previously in NZ Opera productions Carmen and Katya Kabanova will sing the role of Candide and Australian Reg Livermore will be Voltaire.

There are two other classical concerts – The Kings Singers joining with Voices New Zealand, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their founding and classical music stars Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe bring a genre-defying brand of postmodern piano.

Visual arts
Visual arts highlights include Julian Rosefeldt’s film Manifesto which integrates various types of artist manifestos from different time periods with contemporary scenarios.

The manifestos are depicted by 13 different characters, all played by Cate Blanchette among them a school teacher, factory worker, choreographer, punk, newsreader, scientist, puppeteer, widow, and a homeless man.

The programme also includes a survey exhibition on the sonic innovations and invented instruments of renowned avant-garde ensemble From Scratch which includes six performances of the latest incarnation of the popular group. From Scratch is presented in association with Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.

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