November 19, 2007

New Zealand International Arts Festival

neil furby             posted 5 Nov 2007, 06:33 PM / edited 6 Nov 2007, 08:43 PM

Thought I would start a topic about the New Zealand International Arts Festival to garner the thoughts of “Theatreviewers”.

I picked up the festival magazine style program by chance on seeing a big pile of the programs at my local library.  The pink and burnt brown colors of the program cover and the spilt ink spot look with the overworked text did not bode well for what was to be inside. The welcome page was a cut and paste look that lists the contents starting at page thirty-eight.  Page four to thirty four is a magazine style thumb through of safe numb eye candy performances and dismal drama productions.

The festival calendar is easy to work out although the text might be a bit small for some of the targeted theatregoers. From the calendar to the end of the program we are presented with a pot purri of the rest of the festival. I found it confusing and hard to find a logical order so I am afraid I gave up reading this program.

On the matter of price of admission to the performances and events and what the festival has to offer, I think people should save their money and use it to see New Zealand theatre all year round.

stephen gallagher            posted 6 Nov 2007, 11:25 AM / edited 6 Nov 2007, 08:44 PM

I am so happy about Ornette Coleman playing the festival. Full marks and double thumbs aloft to the festival for getting that man over here!

Michael Wray    posted 6 Nov 2007, 04:58 PM / edited 6 Nov 2007, 08:42 PM

I would have preferred the programme to arrange shows by medium (theatre, dance, music etc) but other than that I didn’t find the presentation so bad. The calendar section does group shows, as does the website, so it’s not much of an issue.

Interesting that Blackbird is coming so soon after the Circa production. After the discussion on promo posters, I did note that the festival programme image for the show is no better than Circa’s was. It will be interesting contrasting the productions. In my opinion, the Arts version has a lot to do to match Rachel Foreman and Nick Blake’s performances. I don’t know how the Shed 6 venue will compete with the intimacy of Circa Two either.

There are some exciting shows included. Some good NZ ones that to look forward to are:

    Dentist’s Chair (the new one from Jacob Rajan & the Indian Ink Company)

    Where We Once Belonged (presented by the ATC and directed by Colin McColl & Dave Fane)

    Te Karakia (written by Albert Belz and directed by David O’Donnell)

I also think that Black Watch, Giselle, Lifeboat and Three Sisters (in Russian with english subtitles!) are going to be good. And, for a change of pace, the shorts of the Ukulele Orchestra shown at the preview mean it will make it into my festival showing.

The only thing I don’t like about the International Arts Festival is having to book some of the shows early before I know which Fringe shows I might clash with – but I suspect that’s not a concern for many Arts Festival goers.

steve dean          posted 7 Nov 2007, 06:59 AM / edited 12 Nov 2007, 09:44 AM

Interesting but a bit harsh I think. The Int Fest is a many headed beast. Though I am loathe to defend this festival not because less and less it seems to be for the average punter but because it sucks so much attention and revenue from local artists.

The trick is for locals to somehow grab onto the coat tails. This lumbering star loving juganaut of a festival has it’s place. Not as what it says it is or what it wants to be but in that it does deliver some artists that will be unexpectedly interesting and a few that you would be glad to have seen. It is happening upon them that is the problem.

It is undeniably a rich man’s event, if you wanna hobnob with sponsers or go to all the bloated concerts and star vehicles then you will get what you pay for. In this regard it does do what it says on the tin. It has always been hopelessly out of touch with the man on the street. The ticket prices are again a worry this festival, my 16 year old daughter is fascinated by half a dozen of the theatrical productions (of course prefering to to go with friends rather than me ) but was really worried about the cost, tickets are more than a days pay each on saturday job wages. Ironically, the programme seems best suited to that age group.

However, it has never really been targeted to the average working person. In fact when it was it fell flat on it’s face. Remember the huge Mâori and Polynesian Festival put on over in the ferry building.  It has always cost too much relative to current local pricing for local events.

I’d still tend to be in favour of anything that gets people out to see theatre. There is some NZ content and some overseas guests that no-one but the festival could afford to bring in. I have little doubt that Ornette Coleman costs 20 times the annual budget of the Jazz festival. I wouldn’t even say he’ll be the best player in town on the night but this Fest is also about icons and touching the past and the received (like it says) international order of things. It is like the Beckham phenomenon, people like to touch what’s in the news. This festival is arts Women’s Weekly not LBR but we do get stuff we wouldn’t otherwise. It has its place for this reason.

 There has been a rapid development in local audience and the Int Fest has, along with many other features, played its part over the years, It is pretty rare, in fact unheard of I suspect, nowadays to turn up to BATS for a jawdropping production of Beckett, to be almost alone in the audience. In the early 1990s it was a fairly frequent thing. That side of our audience has matured and proliferated beautifully and it is a twisted pleasure to sometimes not be able to get tickets for a BATS run even before it’s kicked off. I only wish some of the actors and theatre makers of the previous decades had the support and opportunity afforded this generation.

As far as the International Festival of the Arts goes, no-one who saw The History Boys or the first visit of Kronos Quartet, or Sankai Juku, or Laurie Anderson remembers what the ticket prices were. Though to be fair, Charles Rosen and Emma Kirkby played town around the time of festivals for a couple of bucks each and few people attended (and they were no less inspiring). Philip Glass in the first festival was life changing for me and for a youngster who manages to see him in this one maybe he’ll have the same effect, though why he’s doing only one concert and no solo recital seems a hugely wasted opportunity if we are to wait 22 years between courses (mmmm I’m starting to slip into the minutiae of the festival detail already).

It is an interesting phenomenon that people will go to the festivals.  People seem to need the (capital E) Event of a festival to get them off their butts. At the film and jazz festivals you see people turning out for these events in a way they wouldn’t at any other time of year.  Often in the jazz festival the same players (who are gigging around numerous venues in town any number of nights of the week for free or $5) sell-out playing the same material with the same band members!

Don’t get me wrong, it suits me down to the ground being able to go to Havana or Happy! and sit in a cosy small crowd but our entertainers deserve better regular support not just when they are dressed up with media bib n tucker. Which is a different point all together.  Seems a bit of a hydra this whole question.

Gil Eva Craig       posted 15 Nov 2007, 11:35 PM / edited 15 Nov 2007, 11:36 PM

I’m with Stevey G – Ornette Coleman! I’ll be giving the ukulele orchestra a miss: have a thing about them & its not a good thing. unless I need something to start a fire with. Gil C

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