18 Oct 2017
New Zealand Festival Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza has announced the New Zealand Festival’s programme, which takes place in Wellington over three weeks from 23 February – 18 March 2018. New Zealand Festival is Aotearoa’s largest celebration of cutting-edge arts and culture. One of the five biggest festivals in Australasia, it has sold over two million tickets to an audience of more than five million since it began 1986.
Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza said, “After marking a major milestone in 2016 with our 30th anniversary, the 2018 programme looks to the future – inviting audiences to explore ground-breaking arts experiences made by some of the world’s most inventive artists. Opening with the free harbour spectacular A Waka Odyssey, in Wellington on 23 February, the themes of that event echo through the rest of the programme: epic journeys; a sense of discovery; home, and belonging – themes that are universal to all cultures, but it is wonderful to be able to use our own Pacific story as the starting point for connecting with the rest of the world.”
A headline series of what Shelagh calls ‘must-see’ theatre and dance leads the 2018 line-up. The Select, an ingenious, riotous, stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is brought to the Festival by New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service, famous for their riveting live productions of the texts of great American novels. Straight from a sell-out season at London’s National Theatre is the five-star musical Barber Shop Chronicles by writer-of-the-moment Inua Ellams – in which the audience is privy to the confessions made from the barber’s chair. Festival favourite and top choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan returns, this time with his award-winning take on the ballet classic Swan Lake – a contemporary version mixing dance and theatre, filled with pathos, joy and plenty of feathers; while audiences will be captivated by Betroffenheit, a hybrid of theatre and dance that meditates on the aftermath of unexpected trauma, and ultimately searches out a place of comfort.
And for something completely different, audiences can wash away the cares of the day with the mesmerizing movement and rumbling taiko drums in Beyond Time from Taiwan, a fusion of martial-arts inspired choreography and percussion, against a backdrop of stunning visual projections.
In music the Festival welcomes a roll-call of icons of today and tomorrow. Opera star Anne Sofie von Otter and early music master Jordi Savall both have exclusive one-night-only concerts in Wellington, while indie rock band Grizzly Bear will play two shows at The Opera House. One of the highlights of the 2016 New Zealand Festival was a series of sell-out gigs by Wynton Marsalis, so it was natural to invite his protegee and one of the biggest names in jazz right now, Cecile McLorin Salvant, for a Michael Fowler Centre one-nighter. Outside the concert hall is a three-week line-up of gigs, cabaret and circus in the Festival Club partnered by award-winning craft beer impresarios Garage Project; as well as a series of chamber music with works by Orava Quartet, Stephen de Pledge, Dylan Lardelli, Rob Thorne & New Zealand String Quartet in the stunning surrounds of the newly renovated St Mary of the Angels church.
For an extraordinary passion project which has been years in the planning, an ancient icon – the god Orpheus – is celebrated by New Zealand’s own icon of dance, arts laureate Michael Parmenter. The result is a new dance opera, OrphEus, performed by New Zealand Dance Company with live music from Latitude 37 and Grammy Award-winning American tenor Aaron Sheehan.
Future Playground is an arts exhibition with a difference, where ‘Do Not Touch’ signs are nowhere to be seen, and everything is playable. Shelagh says, “We had great success with walk-through, immersive arts experiences like Power Plant at the Botanic Gardens and For the Birds out at Otari-Wilton’s Bush. Future Playground will be just as enchanting. Bring the kids or head to it for a fun night out with friends; you’ll encounter the creations of some of the world’s most imaginative artists who have crafted a wonderland of pure artful inspiration, where you make the magic.”
There’s plenty to keep the family entertained this Festival, with delightful circus from Vietnam, À Ố Làng Phố where woven baskets become trampolines and bamboo poles create a playground for daring acrobatics, and Star Wars fans will be out in force when New Zealand Symphony Orchestra perform legendary composer John Williams’ extraordinary film score to Star Wars: A New Hope alongside the movie, in a once-in-a-lifetime treat for New Zealand audiences.
Visit festival.co.nz to see the full programme.