Sailing is in Sarah-Jane Blake's blood so it makes sense that she's sailed up to Whangārei to perform in the Fringe Festival this weekend.
But not a lot else makes sense. The artist has brought an immersive performance and multi-media hallucinatory experience to the city based on an old childhood favourite poem of hers - The Owl and the Pussy-Cat.
"I think it's one that's stuck with me," she explained from her 43ft sloop Darth Vader moored at Port Nikau for the weekend. "I liked the going to sea on a boat and the fact it all doesn't really make sense. I really like nonsense humour and poetry."
But woven into the nonsense is an important message that's close to her heart.
Blake, 37, is the daughter of New Zealand's most celebrated yachtsman and environmentalist the late Sir Peter Blake.
She and husband Alistair Moore, a sailor who crewed with Blake's dad aboard the Seamaster on an environmental awareness voyage in 2001 when the yachting great was shot and killed by pirates on the Amazon River, live on their yacht in Auckland.
The couple have sailed up north so she can take part in Whangārei's first Fringe Festival, which kicked off last weekend and runs for two weeks.
Blake's 20-minute show – A Fantastical Journey by Boat – is a one-on-one performance that explores virtual reality and eco-anxiety with a nonsensical twist.
Individual participants board a dinghy that has been converted to represent a giant sardine can. There, they will come across a masked owl, a sardine and a cat before donning a mask and being taken on a virtual and fantastical tour aboard the pea green boat across a magical ocean into an "upside-down world" where there's pink icebergs in the desert, airborne whales and backwards-flying birds.
The journey takes them to a transformed seascape world of our future facing environmental elements but from a child's perspective, Blake described. Like her environmentalist father, she, with Moore, has a deep interest in the welfare of the environment.
"We are not specifically environmentalists but are concerned with the future of our environment and care about it deeply. We are part of nature and humans have, in the developed world, become so disjointed from it."
Through altering the laws of science, the journey suggests it may have been affected by the human world.
"We have seen in our world yellow skies from forest fires, and pink seas from algae blooms -strange phenomena, which present themselves in candy wrapper colours, but we know these dangerously beautiful skies or seas are not healthy. The world as we know it is absurd, democracy is under threat and we are still continuing to destroy our home.
"We need a radical shift in the way we think about things, our systems and ideas, if we are to change the world. Perhaps I am trying here to shift perspectives and shake things up just through the act of doing something publicly odd. I want people to question everyday common social values, question how we do things and think in alternative ways."
This is represented in the off-beat seascape.
"The colours are wrong, saturated, there is a chemical haze and the lens burns with heat, wildlife has been altered. There are characters shouting but we can't hear what they are saying, things are passing by but we can't quite make them out. The owl and cat are suffering from an overwhelming anxiety about the future, about their changing seascape. All they do, for now, is row on."
Blake said although the journey is full of familiar characters, the world entered is surreal.
"A lot of people know of the Owl and Pussy-Cat poem from their childhood and perhaps it brings with it nostalgic memories of a safer age, one from a story book. These characters then bring with them a level of comfort but, presented alongside this uneasy world of environmental symbols filtered from our real world, something is jarred."
She said the idea formed when she and her husband were sailing around the Pacific last year.
"I started writing a blog and I fictionalised the blog and made up the characters and it stemmed from there."
It had been an experiment bringing the show to Whangarei by boat with limited space but Blake said virtual reality is a way of creating a world that's much bigger.
A Fantastical Journey by Boat made its debut at the Splore Festival last year and participants had responded well.
"It's had really good reactions and people find it magical.
"It's like a fun fair ride and it's not. There is an element of fear to excite us. It's mixing virtual reality and participants. It's pretty weird."
After the weekend's performance as part of the Fringe Festival, Blake and Moore planned to continue sailing to the Bay of Islands where she hoped to perform the same show.
A Fantastical Journey by Boat will be held at ONEONESIX today, the Waka and Wave tomorrow and the Hatea Loop Sunday from 10.30am-4pm. Further details can be found at:
• Further Fringe Festival events this weekend include the opening of Cirque du Fringe with Funkyray Cabaret (R18) and the inclusive, family-friendly Circus Extravaganza with youth and disabled student performers. The Quarry Market Day features stalls with items for sale by Northland artists, along with collectables, pop culture, food, music, comics and records. A 26-page programme outlines the eclectic line-up of 88 creative events, including theatre, music, comedy and more. These and tickets can be obtained from ONEONESIX or www.whangareifringe.co.nz.
• More than 200 tickets are being sold a day with some shows selling out and extra shows being added.