James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: A wealth of art to pursue

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James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell
James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell

As if to prove there is more to Auckland 2011 than rugby, there is an Arts Festival just around the corner and, therefore, the time has come to study the programme, to sort through the pick 'n' mix box of yummy cultural chocolates on offer, to get the best ones before they are all gone.

And what an extravaganza of excellence is on offer during the Auckland Arts Festival 2011. So many possible nights out in such a short space of time, so much money flowing into the pockets of the child-minder, so the need to choose wisely is paramount. But where to start, where to start?

Well, I could start with Sound of the Ocean, from U Theatre, Taiwan, which apparently uses drums and gongs and various things that can be hit, to tell the story of "water's cyclical journey from a tiny drop to the crashing waves of the mighty sea" - which, I'm picking, is another way of saying it will get louder as it goes on. Apparently U Theatre reckon they can drum their way through the entire water cycle in one hour and 30 minutes (no interval) but given the subject matter I would still suggest going to the toilet beforehand.

"An artistic puppetry experience with explicit sex scenes." With an introduction like that how can you go past Titeres Porno from Colombia for a fun night out? Puppets having sex is a well-established theatrical can't-fail-to-get-laughs tradition - as long as you've seen Avenue Q and, um, the movie Team America: World Police - and I'm pretty sure that if this show is half as good as it sounds from that introduction then Titeres Porno could very well go on to be Colombia's second most popular gift to the world.

Then there is Gaff Aff, from Switzerland, which apparently asks the question: "is life turning with you or are you turned by life?" I don't know the answer to this question (mainly because I don't understand it) but I'm willing to have a crack at watching someone else ponder it for one hour with no interval, even though the show apparently contains both mime and clowning, two things which historically have led to me being the guy in the distance, moving rapidly in an away direction. But an arts festival, I reckon, is about opening your mind so Gaff Aff could very well be a go. Also the one-hour thing sounds do-able.

At first I thought the Massive Company's Havoc in the Garden would be an ensemble theatre piece about a group of disparate individuals sharing their experiences of finding Mikey Havoc in their gardens. I was wrong about everything except it being an ensemble piece, but I still think a play about finding Mikey Havoc in your garden could be a go and would have a soundtrack of banging dancefloor anthems.

Despite having the box office death word "interminable" in the title, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church seems strangely uplifting, given that it is apparently "the story of a death postponed by life". This is a concept I am all in favour of, and one I will happily spend as long as humanly possible pursuing - including, hopefully, the one hour 30 minutes, without an interval even, of the actual show.

And if everything is all getting a bit grown-up and serious for me, I can take the kids along to Passing Wind, to giggle and make fart jokes at the title, then watch a bloke called Lindsay Pollak make musical instruments out of all sorts of non-musical stuff, like vegetables. Then I can take the kids home and try to get them to eat the selfsame vegetables. I think Lindsay will have way more success than I will, on the whole things-to-do-with-vegetables front.

Then there is Paul Kelly A-Z, in which the God-like Australian tunesmith spends four nights working through selections from his songbook starting, obviously, at A and then moving on to B and so on and so forth. Personally I think they should invent more letters of the alphabet so that Kelly can then write songs starting with those letters, then create more days of the week so that he can have more nights to sing them to us.

Martha Wainwright is in town; the lovely people who did the lovely The Arrival at the last festival are back doing something called Paper Sky; there are Vietnamese water puppets and singing gay Irish blokes; and there is more Beckett than you can shake a stick (or, in a Beckett play, a stalk of celery that believes it is a stick, I s'pose) at. Yep, a little something for everyone - and if it isn't for you, then you can always sneak out to the bar.

The Auckland Arts Festival 2011: nothing to do with rugby.

- NZ Herald

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James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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