Diversity, quality at heart of Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival success

By Alice Lock

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Good vibes: Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere and features of the festival garden at the Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival. Photo/Paul Taylor.
Good vibes: Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere and features of the festival garden at the Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival. Photo/Paul Taylor.

The quality of performance and diversity of culture is at the heart of this year's success, says Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival director Pitsch Leiser.

"We are displaying such a high standard of shows only available in the festival circuit so whether people are into virtual reality, classical music or real drama there is something for everyone. I think that is why so many people are coming down," Mr Leiser said.

Yesterday families and children were treated to two performances of Hinepau, both held at the Napier Municipal Theatre.

Hinepau is based on the book by Gavin Bishop and is an award-winning production by the National Theatre For Children.

Four hundred students from local schools filled the theatre and Mr Leiser said it was "fantastic".

"There was a Q-and-A session after the show and the kids just loved it. They were so into it and asked so many questions. We could have been there for hours."

On the other end of the cultural spectrum was Ben Hurley's Earth Planet World show, which was held at the Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent and catered to an older audience.

It was a sell-out and Mr Hurley's first performance alone in two years.

Today's programme adds to the diversity with acclaimed dancer Ross McCormack bringing his visual dance theatre, Triumphs and Other Alternatives, to the stage this evening.

Mr McCormack had just finished choreographing the World of Wearable Arts for the second time and said he was honoured to be performing with his company, Muscle Mouth, in Napier today.

"We are really lucky they thought our production would work, it is such an exciting festival to be a part of."

He said the audience could expect to be taken away by a fully immersive world on stage.

"We use a saturated set exploring real components. The show came about as I created a character 'the maker' and hired a room to go mad with improvisation. I played with some paint, plaster, wood and clay and then substituted some of the components for two bodies."

He said the group use a large table to create a workshop and they manipulate, play and test the bodies to produce works of art on stage.

"It is very intimate, exaggerated and expressionistic and we are very excited to be performing it here."

Mr Leiser said it featured "beautiful writing [and was] visually stunning".

The exploration of culture and the quality of art was set to continue with 24 shows remaining.

"There is still a huge variety with musical legends Don McGlashan and Shayne Carter still to come and other culture performances like Solothello and Edge of a Raindrop."

The festival has been great, as they have created a strong balance of cultural shows, Mr Leiser said.

"Not everything is everyone's cup of tea, so they have been able to come to some [events] and not to others. We have aimed to keep the quality of production very high."

The festival's last show is on Sunday and tickets to all the remaining shows can be purchased by visiting http://www.hbaf.co.nz.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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