It's not often New Yorkers see a New Zealand theatre production before Aucklanders, but that's the case with All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever.
Devised by Wellington-based The Playground Collective, the work debuted in the capital in March last year before taking flight to the New Zealand New Performance Festival in New York.
It was one of nine contemporary dance, theatre, stand-up comedy and installation works in the festival and received 4 stars from The Public Review, which described it as "an exceptional work of theatre, striking the perfect balance between artifice and its acknowledgement".
Director Robin Kerr acknowledges you can't hope for better than that in a city regarded as one of the world's theatre capitals. Then again, he says, New Zealand produces some remarkable theatre.
"We look to New York as a mecca for theatre but what we make here is as sharp as anything in the world and I don't think we give ourselves enough credit for that. We're a much smaller community, with hotspots of creativity all over the place ... we're a petri dish of creativity."
Since its formation in 2007, the company has produced nine shows and won nine Chapman Tripp awards. Productions such as The Intricate Art of Actually Caring, Black Confetti and the controversial teen drama Like There's No Tomorrow have pushed boundaries. All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever is no exception.
Written by core member Eli Kent, it attempts to do exactly what the title suggests by exploring how to make the perfect show. It references the writing devices and conventions we've come to expect to tell the story of Simon, who is frantically trying to distract himself from the death of his father.
Kerr describes it as an existential comedy, complete with a talking lightbulb, which questions whether the stories we like to tell ourselves about ourselves are really a true reflection.
He and Kent first considered the idea in 2011, becoming the basis for a show called The Tinderbox but they were keen to explore further.
"We always have fun with theatre, trying to be mischievous and push the boundaries. It's good to get a bunch of artists together, sit in a room and improvise and make new stories," Kerr says. "There's a quote: 'art is never finished, only abandoned', which can be particularly true of theatre so it's good to have the opportunity to work on the show again. A show can never be perfect, there's always something to be done to make it better."
Actor Simon Leary originally played the lead character, but this outing features Kent, Joel Baxendale, Victoria Abbott and Billy T award-winning comedian Hamish Parkinson.
During the New Zealand New Performance Festival, Auckland actor Julia Croft was in New York studying at Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki's SITI Company. Now back home, Croft liked the way much of the work she saw there blurred genres. Her one-woman show, If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming which finishes at The Basement tonight, is described as a "performance collage" using film scripts, pop songs, costumes and dance.
Croft says it's a playful production born out of frustration at the way women's bodies are objectified. The impetus was the infamous incident where Prime Minister John Key pulled the ponytail of a waitress at a cafe he frequented.
"I don't think we see a lot of work in New Zealand which is overtly feminist," she says. "The PM's actions came out of a culture where women's bodies are continually and constantly objectified and that can be done in extremely insidious ways."
Croft will next appear in The Black by writer/performer Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu. It's a poignant comedy about depression as experienced by a group of 30-somethings, directed by Tom Sainsbury. An expert illustrator, Stewart-Te Whiu has integrated illustration and animation in the production and given the cast and crew an extra challenge by requiring the show to feature a horse.
What: All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever
Where and when: Q Loft, September 9-19
What: The Black
Where and when: The Basement, September 8-12