01 Jun 2017

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NZ at Edinburgh 2017 A bold and innovative season of literature music dance theatre comedy and visual arts

Edinburgh is set to feast on New Zealand talent in the 70th anniversary of its world-famous festivals.

Whales, puppetry, breakups, gender equality, rape culture, Caribbean calypso, grief and healing, community and salvation, sexual empowerment, and homage to Māori showbands with a contemporary twist are all features of NZ at Edinburgh 2017.

Supported by Creative New Zealand, NZ at Edinburgh 2017 sees the return of a New Zealand season across the various Edinburgh festivals this August, after an ambitious and successful presentation in 2014. From the powerfully provocative to the light-hearted, the 2017 Season offers a bold and innovative selection of dance, theatre, music, comedy, literature and visual arts from Aotearoa. 

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will see nine shows performed by some of New Zealand’s most dynamic theatre makers.

There will be three diverse and exciting productions – Break Up (We Need to Talk), Whales, and Ancient Shrines and Half Truths – from performance alchemists Binge Culture, a group of artists working to renew theatre and performance for the digital age.

This year also sees the return of some talented Kiwi artists to the Fringe.

  • Julia Croft, creator and performer of the highly successful If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming in 2016 returns to Summerhall with Power Ballad – a show that is part performance lecture, part karaoke party.
  • Following a sell-out Edinburgh 2016 season with The Bookbinder, award-winning Trick of the Light Theatre returns with The Road that Wasn’t There at Assembly – a dark fable about a girl who followed a map off the edge of the world.
  • Winner of The Skinny ‘Fringe Genius Award’ 2014, calypso comedy legend and Caribbean DJ Juan Vesuvius (created by New Zealand actor Barnie Duncan) brings his turntables back to Edinburgh with I Am Your Deejay at Assembly.

New Zealand acts will also be making their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. Contemporary incarnation of the ‘Māori Rat Pack’, the Modern Māori Quartet, will tell Kiwi stories through waiata and tongue-in-cheek Māori humour (Assembly). White Face Crew will share a whimsical story of a pianist and his puppet with La Vie Dans Une Marionette (Gilded Balloon). Eleanor Bishop’s Jane Doe (performance led by Karin McCracken) is a powerful and provocative show reflecting on rape culture, consent and sexual empowerment (Assembly).

2016 Walters Prize winner Shannon Te Ao will present With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, 2017 – a multimedia installation that explores the depths of love, grief, sickness and healing – at the Edinburgh Art Festival. The work has been commissioned by the festival and Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust as part of a partnership with Creative New Zealand.

A partnership between Creative New Zealand, WORD Christchurch and the Edinburgh International Book Festival will see a dynamic line-up of Kiwi writers, with recently acclaimed books, make a strong impression at this prestigious literary event. Full details will be announced on 13 June.

The NZ at Edinburgh 2017 season is supported by Creative New Zealand to showcase New Zealand arts on the world stage, to engage with international arts practitioners and to develop new audiences, presenters, partners and networks. Creative New Zealand has worked with the directors of the Edinburgh festivals and the producers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues in recent years to strengthen connections between New Zealand artists and these cultural powerhouses.

“The Edinburgh festivals offer a unique international opportunity for New Zealand artists, and it is a pleasure to support such a strong and varied season of New Zealand work across these global platforms,” says Creative New Zealand Senior Manager for International Cath Cardiff.

“Congratulations to all of the talented Kiwi artists and companies who will add their voices to the wonderfully eclectic mix in the Scottish capital.

“We would like to thank the Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the Fringe venues, in particular Assembly Festival, Summerhall and Gilded Balloon for their ongoing enthusiasm and support of New Zealand artists.”

The NZ at Edinburgh 2017 season has also been made possible with the help of the British Council in New Zealand and Scotland, Creative Scotland and Festivals Edinburgh, who have worked with Creative New Zealand to support artistic collaboration and exchange through the global cultural exchange programme, MOMENTUM, since 2013.

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New Zealand at Edinburgh Festival Fringe (4 – 28 August)

There will be three productions from Wellington-based performance alchemists Binge Culture. Their spectators are also their collaborators with real stakes in each performance.

Wellington's Binge Culture ... one of the country's most exciting, direct and original theatre companies.” – NZ Herald

Binge Culture’s Break Up (We Need to Talk) at Summerhall sees five performers over five hours create one desperate conversation as they create then destroy a relationship from scratch. Audiences can come and go as they please to witness the desperation, negotiation, devastation and emotional blackmail. Break up (We Need to Talk) won the Auckland Spirit of the Fringe Award in 2015.

The second offering from Binge Culture is Whales, a community-building, street-performance spectacular. In Assembly George Square Gardens, a pod of whales emerge from the city. They have migrated all the way from Aotearoa – but they’ve lost their way to the ocean, and are desperate to reach open waters. Under the guidance of the response team, armed with buckets of water and soothing towels, it’s up to the audience to save them. Whales was described as “A remarkable happening” by Theatreview. It won ‘Best in Fringe’ (NZ Fringe 2013) and was part of the suite of works which won them the Auckland ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ Award in 2015. 

What if you could step through a ‘digital looking glass’ and encounter your city as if for the first time? Binge Culture’s Ancient Shrines and Half Truths is an immersive outdoor audio-based theatrical experience which invites the audience to explore a seemingly innocuous urban area as a privileged outsider. Based on a simple user-triggered app interface, the audience is put in charge of their own journey. Participants take the role of travellers exploring a park and the surrounding area, seeking the ‘authentic’ story behind this place. Real world elements, actors, local and objects installed around town blur the line between fiction and reality. The journey starts at Summerhall and ends at a surprise location.

Eleanor Bishop: Jane Doe (Assembly George Square)

Jane Doe goes to a student party. She gets drunk. She blacks out. She is raped. This is a participatory theatre show reflecting on rape culture. One performer leads a public reading of an American rape trial transcript, where audience members act as witnesses and lawyers feeding in live responses via their phones. Interwoven with frank and funny documentary footage with young people from the US, UK and Aotearoa, Jane Doe is a revelatory and carefully crafted discussion on consent, feminism and sexual empowerment which also discusses sexual violence in depth. Jane Doe is a three-year project that has evolved through 65 interviews with young people and participation from multiple college campuses in the United States.

Creator Eleanor Bishop is a New Zealand writer and director who makes socially engaged performances, encouraging active participation by audiences. Her pieces often blend classic plays, text from media coverage, documentary interviews, live camera and sustained personal engagement. This performance of Jane Doe is led by Karin McCracken, a theatre-maker who until recently has been a specialist educator for the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, a non-governmental organisation that provides primary prevention sexual violence training.

Julia Croft: Power Ballad (Summerhall)

Power Ballad is the latest work from Julia Croft, creator and performer of If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming which was performed at Edinburgh Fringe 2016. (“Julia Croft's exposé of the Hollywood male gaze is bonkers and inspired” – The List.) Part performance lecture, part karaoke party, Power Ballad deconstructs gendered linguistic histories and rips apart contemporary language to find a new articulation of pleasure, anger and femaleness. Created in conjunction with Nisha Madhan

Based in Auckland, Croft’s work is part theatre, part dance, part performance art. While mostly working in theatre spaces Julia has also worked in gallery spaces, in video art and in public spaces.

Trick of the Light Theatre: The Road That Wasn’t There (Assembly Roxy)          

A cross-over work for adults and older children in the vein of Neil Gaiman and Pan’s Labyrinth, this is a story about a girl who followed a map off the edge of the world. In New Zealand there are some 56,000 kilometres of paper roads – streets and towns that exist only on surveyors’ maps. Or do they? From the makers of the sell-out Edinburgh 2016 hit The Bookbinder comes a dark fable combining puppetry, shadow play, and live music with a score by award-winning composer Tane Upjohn-Beatson. The Road that Wasn’t There won the ‘Children’s Event Award’ at both FRINGE WORLD Festival (Perth) and Adelaide Fringe in 2016, as well as ‘Outstanding New New Zealand Play’ and ‘Production of the Year’ at the Chapman Tripp Awards 2013.

White Face Crew: La Vie Dans Une Marionette (Gilded Balloon)

A whimsical story of a pianist and his puppet. Drawing from the best elements of physical theatre, clowning, and contemporary and hip-hop dance styles, performance group White Face Crew use improvisation, spontaneity and fun to create shows for all ages.

The Modern Māori Quartet: That’s Us (Assembly George Square)

A multi-talented Māori foursome, the Modern Māori Quartet love crooning their spin on modern and classic numbers in the style of the showbands who became a musical phenomenon in Aotearoa during the 60s and 70s. Merging the style of Sinatra with the Māori strum, bands with names like the Māori Volcanics and the Māori Hi Five, created their own unique genre.

The quartet create a party like no other, with a mix of off-beat comedy, stage routines and displays of distinctively Māori song and dance. In hearty harmony, they share Māori traditions and tell Kiwi stories through waiata and tongue-in-cheek Māori humour.

“… the new face of Māori showbands, handsome, hilarious and harmonious ... entertainment at its best” – Theatreview

Juan Vesuvius: I am your Deejay (Assembly George Square)

2014 winner of The Skinny ‘Fringe Genius Award’ for most original show, Juan Vesuvius returns to Assembly with a new show, I am your Deejay. The Caribbean calypso comedy legend, created by New Zealand actor Barnie Duncan, brings his turntables back to Edinburgh to deliver the greatest and strangest DJ set you’ve ever experienced. Find out why he needs so much towelling and what really happened between him and David Guetta.

“Bizarre, sexy and very, very funny…” – Broadway Baby (*****)

New Zealand at Edinburgh International Book Festival (12 – 28 August)

A strong contingent of Kiwi talent will join this prestigious literary event. New Zealand’s presence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is delivered in partnership with WORD Christchurch and its Programme Director, writer Rachael King. Full details will be announced on 13 June.

“We are delighted to be working with WORD Christchurch this year and we are very much looking forward to welcoming some of New Zealand’s wonderful writers to the Book Festival in August,” says Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

New Zealand at Edinburgh Art Festival (27 July – 27 August)

2016 Walters Prize winner Shannon Te Ao (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) will produce an ambitious new artwork, With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, 2017, for the Edinburgh Art Festival.

Te Ao’s multimedia installation explores the physical and emotional depths of love, grief, sickness and the complications of healing. The installation revolves around a video installation derived from footage shot in different locations throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. The work explores a poetic assemblage of tenuously related content, including an 1840s waiata (Māori song), a dance scene from a 1970s Charles Burnett film, a hemp farm, and a 1960s Clyde Otis song famously sung by Dinah Washington. By drawing together these various threads, Te Ao creates an entangled perspective of the human condition – “a perspective that reaches out to connect estranged contexts in order to explore the potential for (our own) empathetic reach across distant histories”.

The work was co-commissioned by the festival and New Zealand contemporary art gallery Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust, with support from British Council Scotland and Creative New Zealand.

"We are delighted to be partnering with Te Tuhi, Auckland, and Creative New Zealand to commission a major new film installation by Shannon Te Ao,” says Edinburgh Art Festival Director Sorcha Carey.

“The project marks the culmination of an ongoing partnership with Creative New Zealand, first initiated in 2014, to share the work of contemporary artists from across New Zealand with festival audiences. Shannon Te Ao's new work for our 2017 commissions programme promises be a highlight of this year’s programme.” 


Notes to Editors

About the Edinburgh festivals

The Edinburgh Festivals comprise 12 separate annual festivals. In 2017, Edinburgh celebrates the 70th anniversary of its world-famous festivals. Since the creation of the first three of its festivals in 1947, the Scottish capital has become known as the world's leading festival city.

About NZ at Edinburgh 2017

NZ at Edinburgh 2017 sees the return of a New Zealand season across the various Edinburgh festivals this August, after an ambitious and successful presentation in 2014.

The NZ at Edinburgh 2017 season explores current global themes of desperation, devastation and negotiation; the beauty of community in salvation; the hopes and failings and potential transformation of human kind; sexual empowerment, gender equality and friendship; as well as a highly-charged look at prejudice through the eyes of a Caribbean DJ. And to forget your worries and bring people together, we pay homage to New Zealand Māori showbands with a contemporary ‘Rat Pack’ twist.

In 2017, Creative New Zealand is focusing on featuring small-to-medium performing arts shows, with a track record of successful touring, to be part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Presentations at the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival are also being supported. Performances and presentations will be seen at a range of venues with the aim of generating invitations for onward touring opportunities and increasing the international capability and success of New Zealand artists and arts organisations.

Creative New Zealand is assisting companies and artists with flights, freight and specific installation costs through its International Presentation Fund.

Creative New Zealand is grateful for the support of our partners, who have made this season of NZ at Edinburgh possible:

British Council New Zealand

Supporting the New Zealand delegates to take part in the MOMENTUM 2017 programme. Creative New Zealand and the British Council have worked together delivering the MOMENTUM programme since 2013 to support greater artistic collaboration and exchange between New Zealand and Scotland and the United Kingdom. The MOMENTUM 2017 programme forms part of an on-going partnership between British Council in New Zealand and Creative New Zealand.


The NZ at Edinburgh 2017 season would not be possible without the generous support of participating festivals, agencies, venues, organisations and the artists themselves.

Special thanks the Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues, in particular Assembly, Summerhall and Gilded Balloon for their ongoing support of New Zealand artists.

Thank you also to British Council, Creative Scotland and Festivals Edinburgh.

We would like to acknowledge the work of our partners, Te Tuhi and curator Bruce Phillips, and WORD Christchurch and Programme Director Rachael King.


Full image caption: Shannon Te Ao, With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, 2017 (video still). Two channel video, colour and sound. Cinematography by Iain Frengley. Commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust, Aotearoa New Zealand. Supported by Creative New Zealand, British Council Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland, Event Scotland, and the Scottish Government Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Jasmyne Chung
Senior Communications & Advocacy Adviser, Creative New Zealand
Mob: +64 27 838 8868 | DDI: +64 4 498 0727
E: jasmyne.chung@creativenz.govt.nz