Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

Silo Theatre goes back to where it all began

Silo Theatre's award-winning comedy Hudson and Halls Live! starring Todd Emerson and Chris Parker will tour New Zealand next year.
Silo Theatre's award-winning comedy Hudson and Halls Live! starring Todd Emerson and Chris Parker will tour New Zealand next year.

Auckland's Silo Theatre will mark its 20th year with a season of plays that pay homage to its past, present and future.

At a star-studded event this week, artistic director Sophie Roberts declared 2017 would be a year of celebration for the company, renowned for its bold staging of contemporary plays.

She announced the six plays it has planned: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again in the Auckland Fringe Festival; Cellfish, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival; Cock; A Streetcar Named Desire and Peter and the Wolf. Silo's successful comedy Hudson & Halls Live! will return to travel the country, including a repeat staging in Auckland.

However Roberts, who became Silo's artistic director in 2014 after founding artistic director Shane Bosher's 13 year reign, says she felt as if she was being pulled between two opposing poles when choosing plays for next year.

While she wanted to celebrate the milestone, she says revelry is tempered by political upheaval around the world and the continued marginalisation of large groups of peoples.

"But I feel that it's our job as artists to always reflect the time and the times in which we live and it doesn't feel like much of a party right now so I had to think about how to remain engaged and hopeful in times of change."

Roberts decided to "embrace duality" and picked plays which reflect and celebrate Silo Theatre's story but also comment on contemporary culture, politics and diversity.

"I'm really proud to be part of a company that for 20 years has believed in the ability of great theatre to help us understand the world we live in, to say in a loud voice what we feel is unjust and to teach us how to be better to each other. I think those things matter now more than ever."

Bosher returns to direct his critically acclaimed 2015 Sydney Mardi Gras Festival production of Cock, described as a witty and sharp observation of modern love, and then takes on one of the greatest plays ever written, A Streetcar Named Desire.

But commemorating the anniversary will first see Silo back at the theatre where it all began, the Basement - and that's good news for the Auckland Fringe Festival.
While Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is Silo's first show of 2017, it is also one of the many drawcards of the Fringe festival.

Festival director Lydia Zanetti also announced the 2017 Fringe programme this week, thanking Auckland artists for their guidance and support after a number of organisations, including Auckland Council, rejected its funding applications.

When Zanetti sought guidance and support from the arts community about whether to proceed, she says it answered with a resounding "yes". It means as well as emerging talent, the Fringe has input from established industry leaders including Silo, Theatre Stampede, Malia Johnston & Eden Mulholland, award-winning Australian and UK acts, and comedians such as Laura Daniel and Hamish Parkinson.

"It's wonderful to be aligning with such respected companies both in terms of industry and audience," she says. "It will spread the reach of the Fringe and bring a certain mana and energy, but we're still here for emerging artists. It means there will be a beautiful cross section of work reflecting what's going on in the industry at the moment."

Shows will take place at venues such as Auckland Live, Q Theatre and - home of the Fringe - Basement Theatre as well as a region-wide selection of places including Brothers Beer, The Vic Devonport, Parnell Baths, LaValla Estate and Pt England Reserve.

The Auckland Fringe has run every second year since 2009 and was described by RNZ as the Auckland Arts Festival's "feisty little sibling". Like fringe festivals around the world, it's a spinoff to the Edinburgh Fringe which started in 1947 and has become the world's biggest performing arts festival.

Planned for February 21 - March 12, anyone who considers themselves an artist can register to be part of Auckland Fringe as long as they're not doing anything illegal.

The Wet Hot Beauties return for the Auckland Fringe Festival with Sea Change.
The Wet Hot Beauties return for the Auckland Fringe Festival with Sea Change.

The 2017 Fringe will be the third festival water ballet troupe The Wet Hot Beauties has performed at. The company is developing Sea Change, its first original work - previous productions Sirens and Swan Song were based on existing works - performed by 80 water ballerinas.

Co-founder Pip Hall says the company felt it was time to tell its own stories. She says had the Fringe festival not gone ahead because of its funding issues, The Wet Hot Beauties would have likely "soldiered on". Like many companies who will take part in the Fringe, it is running a boosted campaign.

"Without the Fringe, it would have made it a much harder battle and it would be a shame if a city like Auckland didn't have a Fringe festival because it artists from all walks of life and across all genres a voice and, at a time like we're living in, it feels all the more important to hear from a wider range of people about their experiences."

Next year will see Silo also continue to nurture new New Zealand writers with its Working Titles development series. Three plays have been selected for development next year and will be presented as script readings or open workshops in April. They are Modern Girls in Bed (by Alex Lodge and Cherie Jacobson), The Defendant (by Dan Musgrove) and Burn Her (by Sam Brooks, who won this year Bruce Mason Playwriting Award).

Silo Theatre
www.silotheatre.co.nz

Auckland Fringe Festival
21st February - 12th March 2017
www.aucklandfringe.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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