"Kia ora, Edinburgh."

At the Assembly George Square Studios in the Scottish capital, the Modern Maori Quartet share a few choice words of te reo with locals.

With their beguiling combination of classic Maori show tunes, cheeky patter and sharp suits, the four are the perfect poster boys for the second New Zealand at Edinburgh programme.

Comprising about 20 different shows, the ambitious package of comedy, music, theatre and family entertainment has been enthusiastically received, attracting impressive reviews and significantly larger crowds than the first New Zealand season, in 2014, at the world's largest arts festival.


"It's been really, really good," says Modern Maori Quartet's James Tito.

"We came here with no real expectations, as we thought we'd be performing to 10 people, but to our awesome surprise, there's been at least been 100 people at every show.

"We're a band that has a theatrical element to it," says Matariki Whatarau.

"We're almost using a form of Maori tourism throughout the show, as we teach the words and their importance to us. We're just trying to strike a balance between being informative and also having a really good time."

Wellington collective Binge Culture also mixes illuminating facts with fun in Ancient Shrines and Half Truths. Described by The Scotsman as a "smart and funny light-touch critique of surface-scratching cultural tourism", you shouldn't believe everything - if anything - you're told during the immersive walking tour.

Equipped with a smartphone and a pair of headphones, you wander around local fields, the Meadows, learning increasingly bizarre facts about the surroundings.

"We started out by figuring out what's in the park, how we were going to mess with those things and make it more specific to the area around," Binge Collective's Joel Baxendale says.

"We started by going on Google Maps and planning a preliminary map of the space. We then got a friend on the ground here to go and video all the different locations, which was a way of making a site specific work without actually needing to be on site."


Trick of the Light Theatre's Hannah Smith and Ralph McCubbin Howell wrote The Road That Wasn't There to be performed in Edinburgh. Knowing that, it had a "Scottish element" to it from the very beginning.

With its Neil Gaiman-inspired story of a young girl following an invisible path to a hidden town, the production appeals to adults and children but, while Trick of the Light aims at all ages, Auckland's White Face Crew has censored some parts of its mid-morning show at the Museum of Scotland.

Told mostly through mime and dance with Nikki Bennett's endearing Moon providing the only dialogue, La Vie Dans Une Marionette's tale of a pianist and his puppet even maintained the attention of a young baby when I attended.

"We've had quite a few babies through and none of them have cried or been upset," says White Face Crew's Tama Jarman.

"We actually made the show for adults, and it gets quite dark in the original version, so we've lightened it up a little bit. And because there are hardly any words, kids can understand it because it's a physical journey."

In their first collaboration since 2012, Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan's Different Party also keeps the talking to a minimum. Resembling a more surreal take on TV's The Office, it relies on Wakenshaw's extraordinary dexterity - along with Duncan's deadpan wit - for laughs.

Based in Prague, Wakenshaw has enjoyed considerable success at the Fringe with solo shows like Squidboy and Kraken, enabling him to carve out a career not viable down under.

"Producers come here from comedy festivals all around Europe," he says.

"People go to the theatre over here, so I can tour around the Netherlands and go to a small town and get a good size audience. There are really only a handful of festivals that you can do in Australia and New Zealand, so you can't make money off of the circuit."

Shifting to London has also been beneficial to comedy star Rose Matafeo, whose Sassy Best Friend is playing at a venue twice the size to last year's Finally Dead.

"Edinburgh is so important," she says.

"It's kind of unlike anything else in the industry in terms of helping you to get jobs. There's like a market feel as producers come here to find whatever they want. If they like what you do, you can actually end up making a living out of this. Having a good Fringe is such a goal for everyone here and to stand out at a huge festival is what everyone wants."

In her first trip to Edinburgh, comedian Urzila Carlson is discovering the Fringe is hard work.

"I've also done a lot of line-up shows like All-Stars and Best of the Fest, which are like a smorgasbord that pique people's interest," she says.

"Because I'm a rookie here, I'll be like second on the bill and I'll then wait outside until it ends at about 2.30am so that I can give out flyers. But it can really pay off because if people like what you do, they are like your greatest champions and will spread the word for you."

Meanwhile, three New Zealand performers - Julia Croft, Nisha Madhan and Jason Wright - have joined those from Scotland and Hong Kong on a new programme, Tri-Nation Co-lab, to look at creating new work which, one day, might be performed in each of their home countries.