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Ten Must-See Events at Auckland Arts Festival 2019

Auckland Arts Festival launches into its 11th year with multidimensional dance, critically acclaimed dream pop and a free sing-along waiata.
By Laetitia Laubscher
March 04, 2019
By Laetitia Laubscher
March 04, 2019


Auckland Arts Festival launches into its 11th year with multidimensional dance, critically acclaimed dream pop and a free sing-along waiata.

The 11th year of the Auckland Arts Festival (March 7-24) sees the storytelling focused festival take a nosedive into the world of multiculturalism and revised gender and race politics, with dark comedy plays like Ulster American digging into the uncomfortable cultural stretch marks of the the #MeToo and Brexit era, The Dreamer weaving together British and Chinese classic plays to create something new, and Wild Dogs Under My Skirt taking a both dark but funny look at what it means to be a woman living at the intersection between Kiwi and Samoan culture.

The festival is also offering an amazing array of musical acts performing — one of the best electronica artists of the century, Four Tet, will be playing, as will dream pop groups Beach House and Rhye, while local talent Anthonie Tonnon will be collaborating with the stars in the multi-sensory show, A Synthesized Universe, at the Auckland Stardome.

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    Hofesh Shechter, hailed by TimeOut London as the city’s “most vital choreographer”, is bringing his latest apocalyptic piece to the Auckland Arts Festival this March. Grand Finale is Hofesh’s vision of a society on the edge of chaos and collapse – mixing ‘violent comedy’ and furious, ‘anarchic energy’ to create a multidimensional dance, music and theatre show. Grand Finale features an ensemble of dancers and live music interacting with an increasingly claustrophobic space filled with various encroaching monoliths.

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    Ulster American

    Winner of the coveted Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award in 2018, David Ireland’s Ulster American takes place in the exact political flashpoint that is today’s current #MeToo/post-Weinstein and Brexit mess. Jay is the American Oscar-winning actor who is leading a new play that connects with his Irish roots. Leigh is the English director desperate to get noticed. Ruth is the Northern Irish playwright fighting to get her voice heard amongst all the mansplaining and grandstanding from two avowed feminist men. The dark comedy perfectly encapsulates the current 2019 zeitgeist.

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  • 8

    The original The Magic Flute, created by Mozart, premiered in 1791. Now the critically acclaimed British theatre group 1927 have yanked the opera into the 21st century, fusing it with live performance animation in a highly inventive modern revival. The opera comedy The Magic Flute tells the story of a prince who goes to ‘save’ the daughter of a deity from a society only to find that he wants to join that society too. The head of that society sets him a set of trials to get into the society, which he fails entirely.

    The modern reimagination of the opera sees the Tim Burton-esque dark comedy opera paired with projected animations along the same aesthetic vein as those seen in 1920s silent movies. The performance features opera singers from the internationally respected Komische Oper Berlin, a 75-strong chorus from Berlin and accompanying music by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

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  • 7

    Rhye started as a casual side project by Mike Milosh in 2013, but within months his debut album, Woman, became one of the most celebrated albums of the year on both the internet and in the pages of tastemaker media outlets like The Guardian and The New York Times. ‘Open’, the lead track of album, amassed over 45 million Spotify streams.

    Rhye’s latest release Blood, continues along the same sonic lines as Woman, with its sexy, androgynous and expansive vocals, analog synths and emotionally charged piano keys.

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  • 6

    Deservingly hailed as “one of the 21st-century’s finest electronic musicians” by the likes of Pitchfork, Four Tet’s talent has seen him collaborate with the likes of Thom Yorke, Burial and even Rihanna. Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) started his serious musical career at 15, when Fridge, the band he formed with classmates, signed a recording contract. Two years later, in 1997, he started his solo career. The following year, he began using his stage name Four Tet, releasing a 36-minute, 25-second single called ‘Thirtysixtwentyfive’. Since then, Four Tet’s released nine albums and remixed songs for the likes of Radiohead, Ellie Goulding, Sia, Andrew Bird, Block Party, Bonobo, Black Sabbath and The xx. His remix of The xx’s ‘Violent Noise’ gained Four Tet a Grammy Award nomination for Best Remixed Recording, Production, Non-Classical. Four Tet will be performing for one night in Auckland as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.

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  • 5

    For his next gig, Kiwi indie singer-songwriter Anthonie Tonnon is collaborating with the universe. A Synthesized Universe sees the singer performing at the Auckland Stardome while the planetarium operates in real time. Accompanying the already spectacular visuals of the universe are custom animations by Andrew Charlton and a light show controlled by Tonnon’s synthesizer-sampler. The end result is a wondrous, multi-sensory 360-degree night sky performance.

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  • 4

    Opening the Auckland Arts Festival in the most Kiwi way possible, Tira is a free, 45-minute waiata session hosted by New Zealand powerhouse voices Ria Hall, Stan Walker, Troy Kingi and Maisey Rika. All attendees are encouraged to sing along to the same waiata songbook.

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  • 3
    Beach House

    Formed in Baltimore in 2004, American dream pop band Beach House received almost instant critical acclaim since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2006. Pitchfork ranked their album as the 16th best album of that year. Their fourth album Bloom was considered their commercial breakout album, although their career since 2006 has been dotted with performances at SXSW, Coachella, Glastonbury and various American late night shows including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

    “An artist’s career is really nothing but a giant process. I don’t ever feel like there’s been a definitive moment for us. I feel like every moment is vital and important. It’s truly insane the way you feel making something and the way you feel six months later. You remember moments of how you felt, but it continues changing and manifesting itself in other people’s lives.” Victoria Legrand, the band’s lead vocalist told Pitchfork.

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  • 2

    Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tang Xianzu’s mythical romance The Peony PavilionThe Dreamer is a collaboration between British physical theatre group Gecko and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre which blends shadow theatre with live music, comedy and melodrama.

    Performed by an all-Chinese cast and told primarily through movement and some spoken English and Mandarin, The Dreamer tells the story of a girl, Helena, who escapes her boring reality and the social pressure of finding a husband through sleeping. There, she finds the man of dreams, literally. She then spends the rest of the play fighting to make him a reality, which is obviously pretty complicated and involves a lot of cool theatrics. The East meets West fusion play has been well received internationally, with the British Theatre Guide calling The Dreamer “one show that should be on the top of your list to see this year.”

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    Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

    Inspired by Tusiata Avia’s namesake poem which delves into the poet’s sometimes quite painful lived experience of being at the intersection of New Zealand and Samoan culture, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt has been transformed by director Anapela Polata’ivao into a play with all-female cast of six formidable Pasifika actresses. Polata’ivao’s direction of the play earned her Best Director in the 2016 Auckland Theatre Awards. Wild Dogs Under My Skirt fuses together the rhythm and raw energy of lyrical performance poetry and oral traditions, to create a theatrical piece where the sum is greater than the parts. It is both a celebration and examination of what it means to be a Samoan woman living in New Zealand, taken from a very personal and nuanced perspective.

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