Ten Picks for Auckland Fringe 2015
Almost out of nowhere, the biannual Auckland Fringe is back with the expected selection of dance, theatre, comedy and other classification-defying events. Joseph Harper and Sam Brooks share their top picks.
A durational work from Wellington enfant-terrible devising unit, Binge Culture Collective (Whales, Wake Less, For Your Future Guidance, Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish), billed as “six hours of desperation, negotiation, devastation, and emotional blackmail.” Sounds good. If Binge’s track record is anything to go by, it’ll be equal parts hilarious, intelligent, and probably excruciating. – JH
A piece that’s been long in gestation and development, Mother/Jaw comes to Fringe with high expectations. Based on acclaimed poet Grace Taylor’s Afakasi Speaks and choreographed by Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala and Grace Woollett, this contemporary dance work explores the rites of passage into womanhood. The buzz for the past year has been rapturous, and I can’t wait to see the results. - SB
The spindly anatomy and skewed perspective of clown virtuoso Thom Monckton produced one of the great works of fringe theatre I’ve seen in Moving Stationary, and this latest offering looks every bit as charming and absurd. Caterpillars promises madcap silliness for all ages and should please fans of physical theatre, comedy, and contemporary clown. – JH
A friend brought me a play back from Scotland, imploring me to read it. I read it that afternoon and found myself drawn into a bracing story of homosexuality, masculinity and sports; three subjects that coincide with each other less in literature than you’d think. Away From Home was that play, and one of the only overseas shows comes to Auckland Fringe on the back of rave reviews. Based on the script alone, I guarantee it as unmissable. - SB
An enigmatic and alliterative piece of digitally-mediated meditation music created by a small group of Wellington DIY electronic gurus and inspired by nature's own intrepid dreamtime wanderer: the sloth. Looks buzzy. – JH
Stephen Bain is legendary in the theatre community for a reason; when he puts a show on, you’re guaranteed it’s going to be the only show of its kind. A show that promises you the chance to walk around 1980s Ponsonby, with the aid of headphones and performers, is a special beast. With names like Bain and David Fane in the mix, you know it’s going to be an all-timer. - SB
Whimsical, allegorical, visual theatre played out by puppets through metaphors made literal. Ben Anderson (This Kitchen Is Not Imaginary, Just Above the Clouds) conjures theatrical magic from the space in between hearts and minds. Often sad, sometimes funny and occasionally managing to find truth from the unlikeliest of angles. - JH
Eli Matthewson and Hamish Parkinson have brought their comedy, a crossroads between surreal, cuddly and dark, to the last two Auckland Fringes with much success. With Prehistoria, they add Snort stalwart Laura Daniel to the crew for a story of friendship between a cavewoman and the last surviving dinosaur. The concept alone is enough to pique my curiosity, that creative team makes me rush to book. - SB
Ex-Wellington polymath Freya Desmarais has emerged as one of the loudest and most interesting voices in our country's little theatre/comedy scene. Spreading herself thin is putting it mildly, Desmarais' endless enthusiasm and wellspring of ideas has seen her dip her toes into all manor of media and is presenting a solo sex-comedy wonderland called Live Orgy at this year's Fringe. – JH
Another overseas show making its New Zealand debut, Grounded also comes off the back of rave reviews and an armful of festival prizes, but it’s the subject matter that really makes it special; a one-woman show about an ace-fighter pilot whose career is ended by pregnancy, who is then reassigned to operate military drones. A play about the intersection between gender, modern warfare and technology? Front row, please. - SB
Postscript - Rosabel Tan on Joseph Harper and Sam Brooks
While I fully endorse Sam and Joseph's picks for the festival, I also want to mention that they both have one-man shows in the Fringe, and both rank highly on my own picks for the festival.
Joseph Harper is Auckland's most underrated and underattended performer, mostly because his past publicity efforts have been self-handicappingly dismal (last year he forgot to invite people to the Facebook event he made). If his previous shows are anything to go by, I am a Cat - a play about fortune, fate and broken dreams - will be achingly smart, ruthlessly vulnerable and charged with an impressive physical energy.
Stutterpop sees Sam Brooks take the stage in a song-and-dance extravaganza that's been amazingly described as "one part Elaine Stritch, one part Nicki Minaj, one part Porky Pig, and a whole lot of lip-syncing." It's a show about his stutter and about learning to accept your flaws, and given that it's written and performed by one of New Zealand's most talented young playwrights, it's sure to be an experience you won't want to miss.