2017 – Best of Auckland Theatre so far…

Half way through the year, and having seen over 40 shows, these are the highlights so far…

Amadeus (ASB Waterfront Theatre)
The best ATC show in two years (That Bloody Woman excepted). I love the film, so the story was familiar, but everything else was fresh and exciting. The staging wouldn’t have been out of place in an art gallery, with a labyrinth like set literally built out of music, atmospherically lit. Scattered throughout this landscape were musicians bringing Mozart’s music to life, while below the cast flirted, fought, schemed and danced.

Weave (Basement Theatre)
One of the most impressive solo shows I’ve seen, with Kate McGill bringing to life an insightful, entertaining and moving cross section of New Zealanders’ stories in a work that was more than the sum of it’s parts. A quite beautiful and powerful piece of theatre.

Jane Doe (Q Theatre)
A rare show that I wish was longer, though to say I enjoyed it (as the usher asked me when I left) wouldn’t be the right emotion. Horrified was probably closer to the mark, but in a can’t look away fashion. This feeling was seemingly shared by the rest of the audience based on the innovative use of text feedback throughout the show. Karin McCracken brought an impressively measured tone to a highly emotive topic.

Auckland Fringe
A truly triumphant festival, saved from the brink by the Herculean efforts of Lydia Zanetti. I saw eight shows, most of which were brilliant, from the off beat STD themed musical Infectious, to the thought provoking monologue of We May Have To Choose, and the near riot that was Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. A couple that particularly stood out for me were…

Castles (Basement Theatre)
Was it theatre? Dance? Music? Performance Art? All of the above really, in a genre defining and fascinating show over from Australia. It was great to see it’s companion piece Pedal, despite seeing them in the wrong order. Castles was a more developed and richer piece of work for me. A rare more successful second album.

And So It Goes (Backbeat)
A little gem tucked away upstairs at the Backbeat music shop, which I’m hoping will return for more people to enjoy. A wonderful piece of musical theatre with a pleasingly non-linear plot and engaging cast.

Auckland Arts Festival
The festival brings in stronger theatre from overseas every year, while the less said about Peer Gynt [recycled] the better from my perspective.

The Encounter (Aotea Centre)
It deserved every superlative it got. It was a technical marvel that delivered on a deeply emotional level. Closing my eyes and taking in the sounds of the jungle was hugely atmospheric and enthralling.

Every Brilliant Thing (Q Theatre)
Less hi-tech than The Encounter but even more affecting, and rather life affirming, a deeply powerful and just wonderful show really.

Reflecting on both these shows though, and understanding more about them, made me dwell on the relative importance of authenticity. Both revolved around the seemingly real life experiences of the leads, but neither featured their original creators, and both were works of fiction (though The Encounter was inspired by a novel based on real life experience). Understanding this somehow lessened the shows for me in retrospect, though in a somewhat conflicted fashion about why this should be the case.

Contemporary dance
I find it can be a hugely hit or miss affair, but this year got off to a great start with a trio of powerful and beautifully performed pieces by three different dance companies – One Night Only (ASB Waterfront Theatre) by Black Grace , Three by Ekman (ASB Waterfront Theatre) by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and Kiss the Sky (Bruce Mason Centre) by the New Zealand Dance Company.

I’ve already got eleven shows booked for my return from travels, after three weeks away I’ll be itching to get back to the theatre.

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