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Updates from the 2011 Artistic DirectorElisabeth EastherSchools Review CompetitionReviews
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From the 2011 Artistic Director

By David Malacari - 23 Mar 2011
The Festival's last week continued to unveil more exciting work for Auckland and gave more people a chance to experience a breathtaking range of performances.

Thrilled by the shows in the Spiegeltent and by the Vietnamese Water Puppets in the Garden Theatre; audiences kept the Festival Garden buzzing into the wee small hours throughout the week. Our visiting international artists and local performers benefited not only from sharing their craft with festival goers but from sharing them with each other. The Festival has become a vital and dynamic meeting place for performance, performers, arts and ideas.

Reviews of Festival shows generated a great response. Currently media is devoted to reporting saddening stories of natural disasters and political unrest. At times like this, I think it's comforting to reflect on events that can help us transcend these traumatic experiences. Art is a wonderful expression of the great courage and joy which are possible even in the darkest of moments. 

Some of the week's highlights include:

-rapt, a Festival dance-theatre commission by Douglas Wright, gave audiences the chance to see "an important work in divining and inspiring New Zealand culture" (NBR).

-Audiences who attended the dance-theatre piece The Show Must Go On by French choreographer Jerome Bel were given a creative work-out. The performers were auditioned to reflect the people of Auckland and provided an experience that was challenging and confronting even as it had some audience members standing, sashaying, swaying and singing to the pop songs which were its soundtrack.

-Sound of the Ocean had audiences holding their breath, mesmerized by the beauty and subtlety of percussion that was alternately trancelike and spine rattling.

-Physical theatre from Gaff Aff had performer Martin Zimmermann scampering over seats to keep up with the cardboard rat race he and Dimitri de Perrot created on stage as a metaphor for our modern lives.

-Carnival of Souls, performed at the Mercury Theatre in the Festival's first week, moved to The Civic for the Festival's last night. It's been a pleasure for us to use these wonderful venues, particularly Mercury Theatre which offered Aucklanders the chance to reacquaint themselves, or visit for the first time, this classic Auckland theatre venue.

-Conor Lovett brought his nuanced interpretations of Beckett's First Love and The End to the Festival. This was a real treat. The Irish company's performances were particularly pertinent as they coincided with St Patrick's Day. 

-The pack-out of the Festival Garden was a little sad. We bid a fond farewell to the Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, the Garden Theatre, the Stoneleigh Garden Bar, and the TV3 Garden Stage. It was great to see the Square become a spot for people to come to play and stay. The Festival Garden really showed Auckland how the Aotea Square can be used as an engaging venue for everyone.

Sadly, this was my last Auckland Arts Festival.

I hope that my legacy for the event will be a discussion on the development of the Festival's repertoire.  This year the inaugural White Night was a tremendous success and allowed Aucklanders to view their galleries and museums as part of a city that is alive and engaged with creativity, performance and arts.

Over the years the Festival has continued to engage more Aucklanders in a broader range of cultural activities and activated the energies of the city so that it is increasingly recognised as a major cultural centre of the Asia Pacific and a more attractive city because of that. Over the years the Festival has continued to bring to Aucklanders new and unique arts and cultural experiences, commissioning and presenting wonderful work from our own artists including The Arrival, rapt, Sleep/Wake, Strange Resting Places, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Terrain, Dark Tourists, The New Zeibekiko and has continued to bring amazing international artists and work also including:  Ishinha (Nostalgia), Heiner Goebbels (Max Black), Robert La Page (The Andersen Project), Groupe F's A Little More Light - fireworks display), Ea Sola (The White Body), Angelin Preljocaj (The Four Seasons), La Clique. These events have culminated in a 2011 programme of astonishing diversity including FranceDanse New Zealand 2011, The Manganiyar Seduction, La Odisea, and Sound of the Ocean to unfairly name only a few.

Ultimately, for me, the success of the Festival will be measured on whether something in it made a difference to someone - whether some work or performance opened someone's mind to think differently or interpret their own lives or the world around them in a different way.  Working on the past four festivals has certainly done that to me.

Each Festival at least one event or performance or artist has produced a moment of great elation in my heart.  I hope you too have had such experiences.


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