Scott Kara: Something for everyone

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Kronos Quartet. Photo / Supplied
Kronos Quartet. Photo / Supplied

When avant-garde classical weirdos Kronos Quartet play at the Auckland Arts Festival next year I will be there making my voice heard requesting they play Forbidden Fruit for voice, string quartet and turntables. It's a freaky, harrowing 10-minute tune written by mad saxophonist and songwriter John Zorn and is the standout track on the quartet's 1989 album Winter Was Hard.

Okay, so I won't be jeering and making requests, because it's not the done thing at those posh classical gigs. But I will be there, and it's the show that caught my eye in the programme for the festival in March.

I quite like weird stuff, but some people - many in fact - prefer something a little more accessible. And that's the problem with the arts festival programme. Basically, it needs to have a far wider reach and not be so hardcore artsy fartsy.

Yes, arts festivals are where you should be able to see the weird, wonderful, and worthy - which the AAF has well and truly covered, from the spectacular aerial stunts and Latin hip-hop of Urban to the fiery feud between four Maori brothers in new local play Hui.

But to make the festival a more exciting, entertaining and ultimately viable event, it needs to get a wider range of people along and put more bums on seats.

Not to sound condescending or anything, but it needs more entry level arts events like the pantomimes they used to have at the St James (remember Michael Hurst as Widow Twankey in Aladdin?), or Havoc and Newsboy's take on It's In the Bag in 2005.

You can still have the "charm and depravity" and male nudity of Cantina, but perhaps a little more of the all things to everyone approach wouldn't go amiss?

Think of the diverse entertainment they had down at the Cloud during the World Cup. It was a pretty popular spot. And take the up coming Sydney Festival in January; it's still pretty bloody highbrow but there are shows like Concrete & Bones, a theatre-meets-urban street sports performance that's held at a skate park. Then there's the Sydney Symphony and a mass choir performing the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film plays out (imagine experiencing that on the big screen down at Silo Park), and - shock horror - there are even a few big names you might actually have heard of, like former Talking Head David Byrne who teams up with indie darling St Vincent in support of their excellent album, Love This Giant, from this year.

And yes, I know big names cost money, but the fireworks and pyrotechnics courtesy of Groupe F from France, whose The Breath of the Volcano will be performed over the first three nights of the festival, wouldn't come cheaply.

The festival should have had a theatre show like Brel, which is on at the Town Hall Concert Chamber at the moment and stars rock 'n' rollers Jon Toogood (Shihad, the Adults) and Julia Deans (Fur Patrol, the Adults). It's a perfect crossover show that brings the usually disparate worlds of theatre and rock together.

I haven't seen it, and I bet many of the theatre audience wouldn't have a clue what Shihad sound like, but by the same token, Toogood may have inspired a few Shihad fans to get along to the theatre for a change.

So it's all about getting more people along to the arts festival - which would do wonders for the AAF piggy bank and the Auckland arts purse in general - while also opening people up to something that they might not normally go to. Like braving those crazies from the Kronos Quartet, for example.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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