Civic Promenade – Oxford Tce, Christchurch

26/07/2019 - 27/07/2019

Christchurch Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Our 2019 Christchurch Arts Festival will open with A Winter’s Tale & Pōwhiri – a free public event that over two nights will see Oxford Terrace and Ōtākaro, the Avon River transformed into a carnival of street-party revelry – featuring light, sound, music and performance.

Join us at 5pm on Friday 26th for our opening pōwhiri (welcoming ceremony), featuring the traditional call of a kaikaranga – the first voice to be heard will be Matapopore’s very own Aroha Reriti-Crofts – followed by kapa haka group Te Pao a Tahu, who will explore traditional Ngāi Tahu narratives through song. Nau mai tauti mai!

Then from 6pm on both nights, Oxford Terrace will be transformed as lively Shakespearean scenes are presented by giant puppets, against a backdrop of colour, movement and skyscraping video projections.

The event will be book-ended by two stages, one near the Bridge of Rememberance and the other by the new Riverside complex. These will pulse with the sounds of six diverse local performers and bands, including:

– the velveteen voice of multi-instrumentalist Mark Vanilau
– the gothic psychedelia of post-punk veterans Dark Matter
– the charm of the UC School of Music led by Mark Menzies
– the power pop of rising Rangiora 4-piece, Best Bets
– the gypsy and Balkan rhythms of Yurt Party
– the indie, classic rock of Adam Hattaway and the Haunters.

Along the riverside, roaming amongst the audience and from the balconies of the bars and restaurants lining The Terrace, masked actors and over-sized puppets will parody scenes from the classic Shakespearean films being projected onto the former Rydges Hotel.

Leading this spectacular performance is Christchurch’s legendary Free Theatre. Celebrating its 40th year, this ensemble love nothing more than transcending convention and producing mesmerising, sensory theatre.

So grab your friends, get the kids off those screens and prepare to see the city’s new civic promenade transformed, in a family-friendly opening spectacle like no other.

Civic Promenade – Oxford Tce, Christchurch
Friday 26 July 5:00pm
Saturday 27 July 6:00pm
Free Event  

Theatre , Promenade , Outdoor ,

A warm and worthy start to a festival that hopes to light up the winter

Review by Erin Harrington 27th Jul 2019

This year’s Christchurch Arts Festival opens outdoors, on a cold but beautiful winter’s evening, with a pōwhiri on the banks of the Ōtākaro, the Avon River. We, as members of the public, are an audience watching the ceremony from across the river, and it’s a beautiful way to open the evening and the festival – a clear statement of intent.

During the formalities, Artistic Director George Parker indicates that this revamped festival is an opportunity to reflect upon who we are and where we’re going. Outside of the festival’s programming, which emphasises local talent and arts organisations across various disciplines, it’s also lovely to see this work in practice, as members of the community. My companion and I sit on the river banks, bundled up against the cold, watching little kids play with the eels (and, I think, the eels play with the children) while local kapa haka group Te Pao a Tahu perform.

This opening ceremony is performed along the portion of Oxford Terrace that had been known, pre quakes, as The Strip, but which has in recent years been transformed into The Terrace: a long promenade that connects bars and restaurants with a pedestrian mall and updated landscaping along the banks of the river. After the opening formalities the action comes to ‘our’ side of the river. You can see the civic potential in this space during the periods where there is a genuine carnival atmosphere marked by lights and noise and smoke, with families and performers interacting in a mid-winter street party.  

This is augmented with sound from live musical performances, which are taking place on stages at either end of the promenade, and the clips from notable Shakespearean films, which have been distorted and projected on a massive scale up the side of what was once the Rydges Hotel. This, too, gives a great sense of looking back, culturally, to look forward.

The performers include core members of Free Theatre’s company, dressed in some gorgeous white mock Elizabethan garb augmented with fairy lights, as well as circus performers and masked clowns – students from the National School of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) – who are costumed with coffee sacks. They wander up and down the street, interacting with passers-by, performing burlesques that parody well known Shakespearean scenes. As with other recent Free Theatre productions, there are also some terrific, large character puppets made of sack cloth and wire, many of which are lit from within and mounted from performers’ shoulders; I’m particularly fond of a horse’s head – Richard III’s vanished mount?

This opening performance, which is being repeated the following night, offers a lot of fun and a few interesting surprises, as players pop up, or make music, from unexpected places, although the sense of energy can’t quite be sustained along the whole length of the street so at times it feels a little sporadic. We bounce along between each end of the performance area before settling first in the courtyard of a bar and then at the food trucks down one end where there are, thankfully, some braziers. It’s a warm and worthy start to a festival that hopes to light up the winter. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council