25 Feb 2024

Best of the Fest #1: taniwha time machine, aerial displays and a slightly isolated dog

From Culture 101, 3:30 pm on 25 February 2024

RNZ Culture 101 presents the first episode online and on-air of Best of the Fest - a brand new five-week 30 minute panel discussion series. 

Hosts Perlina Lau and Mark Amery are joined by Aotearoa artists and commentators for lively banter about a feast of cultural treats on offer in arts festivals across New Zealand.

Episode 1 coincides with the opening of Aotearoa New Zealand Festival in Pōneke and sees Mark Amery joined by guests Arihia Latham, Duncan Sarkies and Thomasin Sleigh, and our New Zealand Fringe roving reviewer Austin Harrison. 


Hatupatu Photo: Stephen A'Court

Opening earlier this week Māori aerial theatre Hatupatu/ Kurungaituku from Taki Rua Productions is an Aotearoa premiere.

Dazzled by its immersive 3D catwalk magic, host Mark Amery says he’s never experienced a work of art that so embodied across movement, light, image, drama and sound the wairua of ngahere, the forest. 

Thomasin Sleigh Photo: Nicola Sandford

“With its seamless combination of kapa haka, drama, aerial display, sound and light it’s like being immersed in mycelium. Working like a natural organism, totally committed performances work in symphony with towers, wires, smoke, trapdoors and digital effects.” Discussing the work with Mark on Best of the Fest is Arihia Latham.

Hatupatu/ Kurungaituku is on in Wellington until 24 February, ahead of  seasons in Auckland (28 March - 2 April),  Christchurch (7-10 March) and - returning the story to Te Arawa - Rotorua (14-17 March). 

Visual arts critic and writer Thomasin Sleigh, along with Latham, looks at the weekend Writers programme (in which both feature) and consider the Festival’s visual art offerings. This includes a Taniwha Time Machine by the Dream Girls Collective and Coco Solid, a free experience that has popped up on the Pōneke waterfront, and Nell x Colin McCahon: Through the Wall of Birth and Death.

Fringe show Icky

Fringe show Icky Photo: supplied

Critic and theatremaker Austin Harrison considers productions Icky, The Myth (Adventures with Vincent Andrew-Scammell) and Happy Campers in the New Zealand Fringe (all on until 24 February), before taking his alter ego Magnus Steele to Nelson, Dunedin and Adelaide Fringes. 

Our Own Little Mess

Our Own Little Mess Photo: supplied

Novelist, playwright, and screenwriter - Duncan Sarkies.

Novelist, playwright, and screenwriter - Duncan Sarkies. Photo: Adam Browne

Then, writer and Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Berties co-creator Duncan Sarkies chips in on what he’s been seeing in the Fringe before donning headphones with Mark for the premiere of Our Own Little Mess by company A Slightly Isolated Dog at Circa Theatre (until 24 February). 

Best of the Fest features music from  festival shows The Jungle Book Reimagined and Meow Meow and NZ Fringe show The New Blue - A Portrait of Pixie Williams.

Next week, we’re joined by a powerful bunch of wahine, with Latham joined by Suzanne Tamaki, Emily Perkins and Deva Mahal to look at everything from theatre show The Savage Coloniser to band The National. 

In coming episodes expect lively free-ranging conversation interwoven with music taking in Aotearoa NZ Festival of the Arts, NZ Fringe, Hamilton Arts Festival, WOMAD, Auckland Arts Festival, Dunedin Fringe and more. You’ll feel like you’ve been there!

Akram Khan's Jungle Book reimagined

Akram Khan's Jungle Book reimagined Photo: Ambra Vernuccio