20 Mar 2013
Spending time in different parts of our country is a reminder that beneath the homogeneous label of New Zealand, our nation feels quite different depending on where you are. Nowhere is this more evident than Christchurch. The physical havoc is well known although I think many may still be surprised just how many more buildings are yet to be demolished.
The scale of the rebuild is beyond what anyone was prepared for, or is trained to deal with. Each visit over the last two years has brought fresh evidence of progress, although getting things done can be frustrating. The identification of clear decision points, accountabilities, budget and a clear vision remains difficult.
The alignment of the Christchurch City Council’s plans with those of Christchurch Central Development Unit remains a work in progress. Moreover as anyone who has done even a modest renovation project will tell you, there is usually a gulf between the first iterations of a plan and what you can deliver within the budget. The 2012 Recovery Plan did its best to set out cost, but it couldn’t say who would pay. Encouragingly there seems to be a growing realisation that working on actionable priorities informed by a clear budget is necessary. We and the Christchurch arts community are working hard to ensure the arts are part of the future.
Attitudes in Christchurch
In this process it’s reassuring that the Christchurch community knows that a city without art is a city without heart. In the 2011 New Zealanders and the arts survey 94% of those surveyed agreed that ‘it’s important that Christchurch is recognised as a place that supports excellence in the arts’.
Bravo to the Court Theatre
Nowhere is this more evident than in the enduring relationship between The Court Theatre and their audience. I went to ‘The Shed’ in Addington to see the Pulitzer Prize winning AUGUST: Osage County. The drama was so gripping the 3+ hours passed quickly. One audience member gave us an involuntary commentary on the ‘train wrecks’ unfolding on stage. Nobody hushed her, as she was only uttering what others were thinking.
It was great to see a work of such scale and ambition, and a cast of 13 actors including iconic figures like Yvonne Martin, John Bach, Jude Gibson and Bruce Philips. The audience loved it, as they have shown by their extraordinary attendance levels since the Shed opened. Standing ovation.
Image: AUGUST: Osage County courtesy of The Court Theatre.