Auckland Theatre Company continues its support of budding actors, designers and backstage crew with its latest youth theatre offering.

The Next Big Thing festival features a local and international work, both of which are performed nightly from July 6-21 at the Basement Theatre.

Tusk Tusk is a new play from award-winning British playwright Polly Stenham and is described as dancing a fine line between hilarity and heartbreak as three siblings are left in an unfurnished apartment to fend for themselves. Hera Dunleavy directs the young cast, including two 7-year-old primary school students, Flynn Allan and Arlo McLean, who play the youngest sibling Finn.

Checkout Chicks - The Musical lightens things up by bringing music to the local supermarket. Elizabeth, aka Tashandra, lives a dangerous double life as a loved and respected checkout operator at Shop'n'Pay and law student. But it's only a matter of time before her secret is revealed leading to a showdown at the annual Checkout Operator of the Year competition.


The Next Big Thing is a year-long youth company, open to anyone 15-25, based at Auckland Theatre Company. It provides a bridge from high school to drama school and between full-time training and the professional industry.

No doubt many of those involved developed a love for theatre after being taken as children to see a kids' theatre show or studying drama at school. Once again, the July school holidays sees a number of works for children:

Tim Bray Productions continues to pay homage to New Zealand's literary superstars, once again taking inspiration from Margaret Mahy. The Company has adapted Mahy's 1978 story The Great Piratical Rumbustification - a new edition of which is about to be released - with a large cast to play Alpha, Oliver, and Omega Terrapin, alone for an evening with Orpheus Clinker, a reformed pirate who has transformed into a respectable babysitter. Or has he? Will Mr and Mrs Terrapin return to find their home at the centre of the biggest pirate party ever? The Great Piratical Rumbustification is on at the PumpHouse Theatre in Takapuna from July 2-14.

Phineas Phrog celebrates its 10th birthday with a new production of The Gingerbread Man. Down on the farm, Mrs MacDonald longs for a child but ends up baking a magical gingerbread man instead. Mayhem ensues as the crazy cookie runs riot and tries to dodge a crumble-loving cow and a fox with a hankering for ginger crunch. (Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna from July 9-14.)

The winter break is also the time when The Outfit Theatre shifts its focus from "grown-up" productions to a family show. This year, it's working it magic on the tale of Alice in Wonderland with company favourites Sarah Graham, Joel Herbert, Ema Barton, Andrew Ford, Elliot Christensen-Yule and Brad Johnson in leading roles. With its earlier Treasure Island and King Arthur productions, Chris Tempest took the lead but he's now firmly ensconced as Dr Josh Gallagher on Shortland Street. Alice is on at Tapac, Western Springs from July 4-14.

Created for 7-12-year-olds in 2004 and performed until 2006, The Magic Chicken received rave reviews as it toured the country. Now Theatre Beating, which created the kids' favourite, is back with performers Trygve Wakenshaw, Barnie Duncan, Jonny Brugh and Mark Clare mixing magic, mime, puppetry, slapstick, breakdancing, music and - possibly dangerously - soup as they drive to save Ethel Heihei, the magic golden-egg laying chicken, from Evil Eric. Kitchen tools are bound to fly when The Magic Chicken takes off at the Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall from July 9-14.