Auckland's summer of entertainment has had a major boost today with the announcement of what's coming to town for the region's annual arts festival in March.
Outgoing Auckland Arts Festival artistic director Jonathan Bielski this morning released the full programme for 2020 which includes around 40 music, theatre, dance, cabaret, circus and visual arts shows. Bielski says each celebrates people and culture and while they offer audiences escapism and a few laughs, they don't shy away from exploring significant issues.
So, what are likely to be the big hits?
Tira and Places des Anges
You couldn't get two more different events, but both are about uniting people in public spaces and having some fun.
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Tira kicks off the festival with a free public sing-a-long in Aotea Square where Hollie Smith, Hātea Kapa Haka and choirs from around Auckland lead the crowd in te reo versions of Smith's hit Bathe In The River and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. That should be something to hear – and is a nod toward what a huge year 2020 is for Auckland's choral community. The region hosts the World Symposium on Choral Music in July, bringing to town up to 5000 delegates and choirs from 50 countries.
Place des Anges returns AAF to the Domain for the first time in three years. Made by French aerial artists Gratte Ciel, acrobats work at high altitudes to dazzle crowds with angels, high wire stunts, dreamy sequences and feathers – lots of feathers - which will have eyes cast heavenwards. Naturally, everyone will pray for fine weather.
The festival already announced one of its biggest dance shows – a dark retelling of Snow White as imagined by French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. Biladurang is at the opposite end of the spectrum and is easily one of the smallest and most intimate shows to visit Auckland. Joel Bray, a proud Wiradjuri man from central New South Wales, stages his show in a hotel room (hotel yet to be chosen) where just 12 guests slip into something more comfortable (bathrobes) and hear why he identifies with a platypus.
Meanwhile, local dance company Black Grace turns 25 next year and celebrates the silver jubilee with Verses, a collection of dance works touring 10 venues in Auckland.
Lagrime Di San Pietro – Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Soweto Gospel Choir
Indie music fans are already snapping up tickets to Amanda Palmer's show There Will Be No Intermission; jazz aficionados will be excited about the Pat Metheny Group's visit (it's not everyday a 20-time Grammy winner comes to town) and opera lovers better hurry to get tickets to NZ Opera's Eight Songs For a Mad King, with contemporary music ensemble Stroma, because that, too, is in one of the smaller venues, the Ellen Melville Centre. But our money's on the big voices from two very different choirs for spine-tingling entertainment.
Acelere and Wolfgang's Magical Musical Circus
Every year, the AAF brings adrenalin-fuelled circus to Auckland that leaves audiences wondering just what the limits of the human body are. Two cirque shows visit in 2020, Circolombia and Australia's Circa Contemporary Circus. The former, with a combo of dance and live music, will probably suit the older kids including cynical teens; the latter, throws Mozart into the mix in a show billed as suitable for those three and older.
A Māori/Aboriginal rom-com for the stage: it's a world first, a collaboration between our own Te Rēhia Theatre and Australia's Ilbijerri Theatre Company and a comedy about what happens when love at first sight gets clouded by the different perspectives of families. This is likely to be one of the main drawcards for the festival's local theatre programme but we're intrigued to see what Auckland Theatre Company does with the tale of New Zealand's Sir Garfield Todd, who became PM of Rhodesia in the 1950s, in Black Lover and looking forward to seeing one of the world's foremost Samuel Beckett experts, Barry McGovern, on stage in Watt. Scotland's Traverse Theatre Company, here this year with Ulster American, returns with Mouthpiece, about class, culture and appropriation. If you're looking for something completely new and novel, check out Cold Blood, from Belgium, where the performers use just their fingers, projected on to a big screen, to tell a story.
The Curry House Kid
Never make assumptions about anyone – the kid that delivers your pizza could be one his way to becoming one of the world's most adventurous choreographers. Akram Khan, whose dance works Giselle and iTMOi have featured in past AAF programmes, tells his story from the curry houses of his youth to the violence and racism he encountered, all of which have inspired some of his most hypnotic work.