Groupe F’s latest extravaganza opens newly ‘annualised’ arts event in March.
Auckland Arts Festival 2015 blasts off at 9pm on Thursday, March 5, when French kinetic wizards Groupe F flick the switches for the world premiere of their new production Skin Of Fire in Auckland Domain.
Groupe F are brilliant at transforming the environment of the Domain at night - their spectacular Breath of the Volcano show sold out all three outdoor performances in the 2013 festival.
Audiences can expect even more razzle-dazzle in this new extravaganza, also booming away for three nights, with a production mixing music, performance and big bangs for quite reasonable bucks: children under 4 get in free, while teenage and adult tickets range from $12-$38.
The lineup for the March festival, announced last night at Auckland Town Hall, marks its "annualisation" for the first time since it was launched as a biennial event in 2003.
It's a strong programme. International acts include a terrifying adaptation of Verdi's opera Macbeth by South African company Third World Bunfight, which recasts it as macbEth.
Creator and director Brett Bailey has set it in present-day Congo, ruled by the corrupt Macbeth family of warlords, who are not averse to the strategic application of voodoo.
That will run for three nights at the Aotea Centre, with 10 singers and a chamber orchestra.
From the United States comes Tony Award-winning Broadway show Fela! The Concert, which celebrates the life of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, who was also a political firebrand.
The production is staged by a cast of nine American singers and dancers, with a live 10-piece band playing at the Civic.
Like macbEth, Othello: The Remix, staged by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Q Brothers, also brings Shakespeare into the 21st century, with its epic tale of love, jealousy and betrayal centred around hip-hop star MC Othello.
Staged at the Bruce Mason Centre and Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, it is targeting a youth audience, "recommended for ages 10+".
Indian cuisine comes to SkyCity Theatre in The Kitchen, a wordless drama about a couple having a dispute while stirring huge vats of payasam, a traditional rice dessert.
Fela! The Concert.
Behind them, their tension is echoed by 12 drummers beating out a rhythm on sacred mizhavu drums, the 75-minute work ending with the passing around of dishes of payasam to the audience. Director Roysten Abel, heading this Cain and Abel Theatre Company production, was last here for the 2011 festival's popular The Manganiyar Seduction.
Bring your tissues to British master storyteller Mark Thomas' Bravo Figaro! at Q Theatre, his highly regarded account of his relationship with his father, an opera-loving Bournemouth builder diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease.
Before his father's death, Thomas brought in singers from Covent Garden to stage a concert to try to make a connection with his dad. "Touching but brilliantly funny," said the Times.
The programme is light on dance works compared with previous festivals but fans can rejoice in the inclusion of New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, renowned for its fearless young dancers and daring repertoire.
They will perform three works at the Civic choreographed by Crystal Pite, Hofesh Shechter and Jo Stromgren. Dance will also be boosted by the New Zealand premiere of Lemi Ponifasio's confronting I Am, which recently played at the Edinburgh International Festival. Reaction was sharply divided. I Am will play at the Aotea Centre for two nights.
Past festivals have often included obscure specialist music which didn't attract healthy numbers. The 2015 festival looks much more robust, including Ross Harris' moving Requiem for the Fallen at the Town Hall, performed by the NZ String Quartet, Voices NZ Chamber Choir, tenor Richard Greager and words by poet Vincent O'Sullivan.
Canada's baroque ensemble Tafelmusik features 17 musicians performing the music of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi in The House of Dreams at the Town Hall, while Britain's Brodsky Quartet will offer some Bartokian treats early one evening in the Town Hall Concert Chamber.
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra performs two concerts: Water and Light, which includes a new work, In Paradisum, by resident composer Kenneth Young, and Sir Michael Tippett's dramatic anti-war oratorio, A Child of Our Time. Irish-US band The Gloaming play here for the first time at the Town Hall on March 11.
Theatre productions include two new New Zealand works: Hikoi, written and directed by Nancy Brunning, and The Mooncake and the Kumara, written by Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen.
Aotea Square will be transformed day and night by the Timeout Festival Garden, the scene for art installations and family events, and the tented Festival Club.
The Festival Club will host bands Lake Street Dive and Phox, both from the US, Spanish singer Jairo Zavala, who has recorded with Calexico, and NZ talent including Ladi6, Hollie Smith, Annie Crummer, Whirimako Black and Julia Deans paying homage to Billie Holiday.
The festival also features its much-loved White Night 60-venue visual art programme on March 14.
See the full lineup on aaf.co.nz.
What: Auckland Arts Festival
When: March 4-22
Tickets: Ticket pre-sales for Visa card holders live until noon next Friday. All tickets on sale from noon next Friday.