Family-friendly feast of acts opens paths to new frontiers

By Linda Herrick

Paper Sky: a Love Story. Photo / Supplied
Paper Sky: a Love Story. Photo / Supplied

Auckland Arts Festival artistic director David Malacari describes the silver rocket logo as a metaphor for "a journey into the infinity of ideas within the artistic mind".

Or just try "boldly go where you've never been before".

Auckland's fifth biennial festival, which opens next Wednesday with seven events, is staged in venues right around the city, with a feast of acts from New Zealand and abroad.

The festival is for you and your family; for the opening days of its 18-day programme, we recommend:

THEATRE

Havoc in the Garden: British writer-actor Lennie James and Auckland's Massive Company reunite in a drama about violence in a small Auckland neighbourhood; music by Tama Waipara (Herald Theatre, March 2-6; Mangere Arts Centre, March 9-12; Pumphouse, Takapuna, March 16-26).

Paper Sky: A Love Story: New Zealand's Red Leap Theatre returns after its poignant 2009 festival hit The Arrival. Recommended for ages 8 and up, Paper Sky is a fantastical love story (Playhouse Theatre Glen Eden, March 4-6; Mercury Theatre, March 10-14).

Silver Stars: Irish theatre company Brokentalkers tell stories based on interviews by songwriter Sean Millar with gay men; with song-cycles and archival video images (Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber, March 2-5).

Live Live Cinema: Carnival of Souls: Director Oliver Driver conducts a "re-imagined soundtrack" to Herk Hervey's 1962 horror movie about a haunted woman, with actors Chelsie Preston Crayford and Cameron Rhodes acting out the ham (Mercury Theatre, March 4-5; The Civic, March 20).

DANCE

Loin ... (Far): Algerian-French choreographer Rachid Ouramdame's solo work about colonisation based on the journals of his father, a soldier in the French Army in Algeria (March 3-5, Bruce Mason Centre).

Who Are You?: Black Grace's UrbanYOUTHMovement - dancers aged between 16-21 - face up to artistic director Neil Ieremia's challenge that they are "generally lazy, wouldn't know what a hard day's work was if it kicked them in the backside" (Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, March 2-5; Playhouse Theatre, Glen Eden, March 8-10; Mangere Arts Centre, March 16-19).

MUSIC

Xerxes: Handel's 1738 romantic comedy is glammed up by Trelise Cooper's costumes and designer John Verryt's set in this NBR NZ Opera production accompanied by German period Ensemble, Lautten Compagney (The Civic, March 2-6).

Lautten Compagney: The elegant Berlin ensemble presents two programmes, Handel With Care and Timeless, featuring the music of Philip Glass and Tarquino Merula, under the baton of Wolfgang Katschner (Auckland Town Hall, March 4 & 8).

Smoke & Mirrors: Vaudeville, tap, acrobatics, cabaret, a ringmaster called iOTA ... this show from the makers of La Clique is predicted to be a sellout; "strong language" and "adult themes" (Spiegeltent, March 2-19).

Ihimaera: Songs set to Witi Ihimaera's lyrics, featuring SJD, King Kapisi and Teremoana Rapley, narrated by Kirk Torrance (Auckland Town Hall, March 3; Genesis Energy Theatre, Manukau, March 4-5).

FOR FREE

Festival Garden: Aotea Square will host free music from 4.45pm till late each day (from 2pm in the weekends) and a free Movie in the Parks. The Spiegeltent hosts free talks from 12.30pm weekdays, opening Wednesday with a discussion on reviewing led by Te Radar. City galleries are holding exhibitions with installations also in public spaces like the Bledisloe Walkway; see aucklandfestival.co.nz.

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FESTIVAL HAS A GROWING INFLUENCE

When the first Auckland Festival opened on September 20, 2003, it didn't have the word "arts" in its title, and it had only about 40 acts in its programme.

Some of those were "umbrella" shows, events which would have been staged anyway but came in handy to boost the festival's presence, like the K'Rd Karnival and the SPCA Blessing of the Animals.

Director Simon Prast had a budget of about $4 million and a team of seven people. This year, the fifth Auckland Arts Festival can boast a total of 75 productions with 500 performers from 25 countries.

Artistic director David Malacari, who replaced Mr Prast before the 2005 festival and moved it to a more weather-friendly February-March schedule, today works with a budget of $8.5 million. One-third of that comes from government and council funding, another third from sponsorships and trusts, and the rest from box office takings. The staff has grown, with 55 people employed in its office and seven interns. The festival now invests in every show, to allow companies like the NBR NZ Opera and the Auckland Philharmonia to enhance their normal programming and to allow commissions for New Zealand works which go on to international audiences.

- NZ Herald

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