Whakanuia: Pantograph Picks for Auckland Fringe and NZ Fringe 2019

Theatre Editor Adam Goodall offers up his recommendations for this year's Auckland Fringe Festival and New Zealand Fringe Festival in Wellington.

Theatres are buzzing, extremely colourful posters are going up all over town and media outlets are drowning in press releases from personal email accounts. It can only mean one thing: Fringe season is right around the corner. By the time this goes up the Auckland Fringe Festival will have just opened, while Wellington’s New Zealand Fringe Festival kicks off on the 1st of March (a week on Friday) and the Dunedin Fringe Festival opens on the 21st of March. Dunedin Fringe’s programme isn’t public yet, but there’s a bunch to get excited about in Auckland and Wellington, and here’s Theatre Editor Adam Goodall with his own top picks.


8:15pm, Tuesday 19 February to Saturday 2 March
Q Theatre Vault

I’m obliged to mention up front that Sam Brooks is a good friend who once sent me flowers at my place of work with a big card that said ‘Congratulations on Your Child,’ even though I had never had a child and was not having one then. But I have to recommend Actressexual because of its audacious elevator pitch – Brooks asks an actress about the role that they’ve always wanted to play and then he writes it for them, live on stage, for them to perform and then critique to his face. The cast of one-night-only actresses includes legends like Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Kura Forrester and Donogh Rees. So this is either going to be a passionate and entertaining love letter to the women poorly served by our theatrical status quo or a landmark work of staggering hubris. The part of me that still hates Sam for those flowers, and for the questions I got from my coworkers because of them, hopes it’s the latter. I have a pretty good feeling, though, that he won’t fall into that trap.

6pm, Thursday 21 February; 7pm, Friday 22 February; 2pm and 7pm, Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 February
Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall

Rushes and Meremere were two of my favourite shows in 2018: I spilled a lot of ink about them a couple of months ago here. The idea of director/choreographer Malia Johnston, composer Eden Mulholland and audiovisual designer Rowan Pierce taking over the grand old Auckland Town Hall? God, I shouldn’t even have to explain this to you, it’s going to be an absolute spectacle for the senses and you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss it.

4-6pm, Tuesday 26 February; 10am-6pm, Wednesday 27 February and Saturday 2 March; 10am-7pm, Thursday 28 February and Friday 1 March
Flying Out, 80 Pitt Street

Bub Club is basically a gathering of some of New Zealand’s weirdest and most wonderful filmmakers, theatremakers and comics: Billy T Award winners Angella Dravid and Hamish Parkinson; If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, I’m Not Coming director Virginia Frankovich; prolific lighting designer Ruby Reihana-Wilson; weirdo designer Christopher Stratton; and Callum Devlin, whose Vlog Pilots are underseen circa 2016 YouTube gems. The Bub Club Film Archive doesn’t ask much – all you have to do is pop into Flying Out on Pitt Street during the day or after work – but this humble exhibition is bound to be bursting with strange sights and extremely good shit.

5:30-9pm, Wednesday 27 February to Saturday 2 March
Basement Theatre

I borrowed a friend’s VR headset last year solely to play Job Simulator, a wacky interactive reimagining of modern-day office and hospitality work through the lens of a far-future ‘jobs museum.’ Boss of an Office starts from the same rough foundation, giving you ten minutes to live your best office life in a cubicle for one, nestled away in the Basement Theatre.

This interactive, funhouse-mirror installation is created by Olivia Mahood and designed by Poppy Serano, and it features video game design by Pippin Barr, a games academic whose A Series of Gunshots is one of the most disconcerting games I’ve ever played. With that gang behind it, Boss of an Office sounds like the sharp, uncompromising teeth to Job Simulator’s soft gummy smile.

8:30pm, Friday 1 to Sunday 3 March
Basement Theatre

I really like Boycrush’s 2018 album Desperate Late Night Energy: it’s a neat collection of woozy pop tunes, a sea of hi-hats and dreamy synths that are so, so easy to drift on. This collabo with Auckland’s Dance Plant Collective, the team behind last year’s MEAT, sounds like a perfect way to experience the album – in a darkened theatre with full, hypnotic choreography. It’s honestly the kind of team-up I’m surprised we don’t see more of, it almost makes me feel cheated out of a beautiful dance-theatre adaptation of Lontalius’s I’ll Forget 17 or something.


The Salem Bitch Trials
8:30pm, Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 February
Basement Theatre

That’s What Friends Are For
6:30pm, Tuesday 26 February to Saturday 2 March
Basement Theatre

Only Bones 1.0
8:30pm, Friday 1 and Saturday 2 March
Q Theatre Loft


7:30pm, Thursday 7 to Monday 11 March
BATS Theatre

The New Zealand Fringe this year has a powerful slate of character comedies driven by women – Abby Howells’ HarleQueen, Ella Gilbert’s Soft Tissue, The Mournmoor Arts Council’s Mournmoor Murders, Isobel Mackinnon and Meg Rollandi’s development season of Full Scale – but the one I’m most excited about is OiOi’s Imposter Child. Directed by Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, this comedy about a Whanganui woman coming clean about her victory, as a four year old, in the 1995 Face of Wanganui competition promises to be full of bitter nostalgia – and also promises a long-overdue comic showcase for the larger-than-life talents of performer Hannah Kelly (The Christmas Detention Centre, Story Studio Live).

6:30pm, Friday 8 to Sunday 10 March
BATS Theatre

Hobson Street Theatre Company is a really wonderful presence in New Zealand theatre, producing self-devised work with homeless cast members that’s warm, honest and exciting to watch. I really enjoyed The Race in last year’s New Zealand Fringe, and I’m really excited for That’s What Friends Are For, in which the cast sets out to make friends with audience members in just one hour. Where so many shows (including past Fringe darlings like Onstage Dating) use audience interaction as a high-wire act for performer and audience member alike, That’s What Friends Are For sounds refreshingly earnest and low pressure.

7:00pm and 8:30pm, Tuesday 12 to Saturday 16 March
Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street

I saw Thom Monckton’s Moving Stationery at Downstage Theatre in 2013, and I saw his The Pianist at Circa Theatre in 2014. Each of these shows was my favourite of their year, impeccably controlled and irrepressibly joyful. Monckton’s an incredible physical comic, half-Keaton half-Hanna-Barbera cartoon brought to life, and he’s an absolute blast to watch. Monckton’s been developing Only Bones for a while now – I remember there being a development season in the New Zealand Fringe Festival many moons ago – and I’m first in line to see what he’s dreamed up over these long years.

6pm, Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 and Thursday 21 to Saturday 23 March
Innermost Gardens, 31 Lawson Place, Mount Victoria

In the 1970s and 1980s, a series of summer camps was held around the country for New Zealand’s under-the-radar lesbian communities. “These camps represented more than a network of friends going on holiday together,” writes Torfrida Wainwright in the 1993 book Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand, “they were a deliberate attempt by lesbians to intensify their experience of lesbian community and create an alternative to the heterosexual world.”

Summer Camps is a verbatim production documenting the fascinating and largely-untold history of these camps. Collated and performed by a cast of young Queer women (including, full disclosure, a couple of friends), Summer Camps is telling a hell of a story and, with the Innermost Gardens in Mount Victoria serving as the venue, it should be an intimate and powerful night.

10pm, Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 March
BATS Theatre

Of the three international Fringe Festival favourites in Fringe Wives Club – comedy and cabaret performers Rowena Hutson, Victoria Falconer and Tessa Waters – I’ve only seen Waters before. But boy, if her shows Fully Sik and Tessa Waters Overpromises are anything to go by, this is going to be a heady, vivacious glitter tornado of a show. Early reviews from Edinburgh and Australia indicate that this feminist circus is full of powerhouse pop tunes and fun feminism, but even if this was the world premiere, Waters is a force of nature in her own right and absolutely enough to get me in the door.


The Universe is Pretty Big and I’m Afraid of Sex
7:30pm, Friday 8 to Sunday 10 and Friday 15 to Sunday 17 March
Inverlochy Art School, 3 Inverlochy Place

Massive Crushes
8:30pm, Wednesday 13 to Saturday 16 March
BATS Theatre

8:00pm, Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 March
The Third Eye, 30 Arthur Street

Auckland Fringe has opened! It runs from February 19 to March 3 2019. Find the entire Auckland Fringe programme on their website.
New Zealand Fringe Festival runs from March 1 to March 23 2019. Find the entire New Zealand Fringe programme on their website.

Header image: That's What Friends Are For, Hobson Street Theatre Company.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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