Big plans made for 2022

Luke Butson and Lara Davidson will play lead roles in Musical Theatre Dunedin’s next show, We...
Luke Butson and Lara Davidson will play lead roles in Musical Theatre Dunedin’s next show, We Will Rock You. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Dunedin’s fringe and arts festivals are planning full programmes this year and while they are not announcing full line-ups just yet, they have released a few teasers.

Festivals and theatre

Dunedin Arts Festival

The Dunedin Arts Festival, which is moving back to its traditional October time spot (2-24), is looking at having some international acts but the majority are expected to be from New Zealand.

Director Charlie Unwin says there will be the usual mix of theatre, music, dance and community events, including continuing with the inclusion of more free, accessible events started last year.

"The inability to have a large international component is the only real programming impact from Covid. We will be working with some of the country’s largest performing arts companies alongside local organisations and artists."

One show already announced is New Zealand Opera’s The Strangest of Angels, a new piece coming to Christchurch and then Dunedin reflecting on the events during writer Janet Frame’s time at Seacliff Mental Hospital.

It has been co-created by Dunedin-based composer Kenneth Young and soprano Anna Leese, along with Georgia Jamieson Emms.

The opera will be directed by Friedlander Foundation associate artist Eleanor Bishop and star Leese, as Katherine Baillie, and Jayne Tankersley, as Frame, accompanied by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

Dunedin Fringe Festival

Early next month Dunedin Fringe Festival will announce its programme for its March line-up.

Director Gareth McMillan says there will be plenty of premieres of new work allowing audiences the first chance to see some innovative and experimental works from established and emerging artists.

One of the first announcements of work is the new opera Silence Is by a collaboration of creatives; Rosa Elliott, Dr Te Oti Rakena, Leon Reynolds, Dr Tessa Romano, Ruby Solly and Chris Tse.

Romano says the group has created the work using a kaupapa Maori framework rather than the typical opera hierarchical approach.

The theme of the opera is silence and how it impacts on different aspects of life.

While Covid lockdowns meant much of the creative process had to be done over Zoom, it did not hinder them too much — most of the opera was written in two days.

"It might sound bizarre but we all came in with so many ideas that after two days we had 45 minutes of music."

Also on the programme is the return of Cargo Bike Art Space, which will return to the streets with artists showcasing their works, and Billy T Award nominee Jack Ansett will bring his show Triathaloser.

Local theatre

Some local theatre companies hit by Covid-19 restrictions during the past two years are reluctant to plan too far ahead.

Suitcase Theatre trustee Laura Wells says they were "burned quite badly" in 2020 so are hesitant to "sink their teeth" back in.

Prospect Park Productions’ HJ Kilkelly says in 2022, it will focus primarily on development work, such as working with Jessica Latton to further develop her work, The World's First Lovers and with local writer Liz Breslin to develop her first theatre work.

"A conscious decision by us to focus limited resources on uplifting our practitioners and processes, while the sector awaits urgent and necessary infrastructure improvements."

It has also had its public reading series of its core Playwright Programme included in the arts festival.

The Globe will be back in March with Justin Eade's 67 off 52 and its year will include a one-night performance of the Rocky Horror Show in October.

Unwin says nationwide there is the sense that companies are finally looking to create work again with confidence — especially given that the majority of the festival’s artists are Auckland-based and have not been able to create or present for a long time now.

" If they are self-producing and presenting, I think they’re a little more hesitant, but under the umbrella of a festival they’re given a lot more protection and confidence."

However, he was not sure about Dunedin theatre makers, finding the festival had not been overwhelmed with local practitioners wanting to take part.

"I think [it] speaks to their perceptions of the risk ahead."

McMillan says the fringe festival has seven local theatre productions booked, suggesting there is some confidence in the sector, but he admits there needs to be additional support as the funding available struggles to stretch.

But he is hopeful the new "traffic light system" will bring a bit more certainty and 2022 will prove to be a better year for the sector.

"I’m quietly optimistic."

Regent Theatre manager Sarah Anderson says bookings are a bit of a "moving feast", apart from Musical Theatre Dunedin’s production of We Will Rock You.

Having had two productions have to be cancelled days out with almost full houses last year, she is well aware anything could happen this year.

"There’s a lot in the diary and many conversations happening about potential tours and events but I think everybody is a little gun shy of committing too much — though we are always optimistic, of course."

Aspiring Conservations

In Wanaka, Aspiring Conversations is back and has announced its first speakers for its 2022 event in March — Former Black Fern Farrah Palmer and Commonwealth silver medallist cyclist Rosara Joseph will speak on women’s sport in Aotearoa.

Arts on Tour

Arts on Tour (AOT) are also planning to bring a range of shows to Otago. . As most are smaller productions planned for smaller venues they can work in with Covid-restrictions.

AOT executive producer Steve Thomas says music groups of varying genres plan to tour including the Mundi Trio, the Alpaca Social Club, Albie and the Wolves and Across the Great Divide.

Magician Brendan Dooley, is also booked, as is veteran New Zealand actor Michael Hurst as the Golden Ass.

The Mad Doggerel Cabaret brings Poet Laureate, Dunedin’s David Eggleton, Fijian poet Daren Kamali and musician Richard C Wallis together.

A new solo play with Helen Moulder, The Bicycle and the Butcher’s Daughter, also plans to tour.

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