Auckland Arts Festival: Carabosse Fire Garden

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Two weeks ago the Lantern Festival lit up the Auckland Domain; now the park is illuminated by an altogether different show which turns up the heat by playing on our most primal fears and delights.

France's Compagnie Carabosse has transformed an under-utilised part of the domain - aptly incorporating the Three Witches statue - into an otherworldly fire garden. The proposition must have had health and safety looking carefully at overhanging branches and flammable foliage because there is fire everywhere.

It's in flaming flower-pots lighting up pathways or draped garland-like across swathes of the domain, calling to mind Auckland's undulating landscape and volcanic cones; there are cast-iron sculptural forms, fire pits packed with red-hot charcoal, even a series of singlets - perhaps a nod to our farming heritage? - suspended from trees and swaying artfully in a gentle breeze. Swing seats lit by small, almost tea-light candles tempt more daring spectators to rest in these hot seats. It puts the "steam" into a multitude of clever steampunk inventions where crowds stand enthralled waiting to see flames dance, duck and dive.

Compagnie Carabosse craft each garden to individual locations so, in Auckland, we get a Maori story-teller round an infinity pond relating the legend of Maui. It's difficult to hear and the moving figure in the middle of the pond, tugging on metal ropes to move and manipulate a fiery series of circles, captures most attention.

There's also live music, played eerily and heavy on the percussive, aural senses are engaged; the latter as much by the popping and sizzling sounds of the fire - "sausages in a frying pan", said Miss Six - which echo throughout.

Some of the pots are scented, possibly with a relaxing essential oil because the more the crowd wanders at will, the more chilled everyone seems to become despite the palpable heat; the more courageous get closer to pose for photographs and some even begin to dance. A true sensory experience, Carabosse is mesmerising.

What: Carabosse Fire Garden, Auckland Arts Festival until Sunday
Where: Auckland Domain, entrance opposite Band Rotunda
When: Arrive anytime between 7.30pm and 9.30pm; gates open at 8.30pm, event closes at 11.00pm.

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