7 Sep 2023

Things to watch and do instead of the Rugby World Cup

8:36 pm on 7 September 2023
A collage showing arts and culture alternatives to watching the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Rugby may be the dominant topic of conversation for the next seven weeks, but there are plenty of arts and culture alternatives. Photo: RNZ

While it might seem that rugby is the only game in town for the next seven weeks (in case it's passed you by, the 2023 Rugby World Cup runs from 9 September to 29 October in France), there are plenty of other ways to stay entertained while everyone else discusses turnover rates, penalties, dodgy referees and other score-changing issues.

The most important thing to know is that due to the time difference, most of the games are played either overnight or eye-wateringly early in the morning. If you're not remotely interested in watching the All Blacks play, then the next few Saturday mornings will be great for going to the supermarket, or gym, or your favourite café, and having the place pretty much to yourself. RNZ's Rugby World Cup wallchart, which details all the games, including when and where they're being played, will help you maximise these opportunities. Knowing when the games are - especially the ones that are scheduled to play at 3.45am New Zealand time - will help you figure out what colleagues to avoid (or note as mysteriously unwell) at work the next day.

Things to read

Worried that your lack of interest in New Zealand's dominant sporting code makes you unpatriotic? Fret not, there are plenty of ways to support Aotearoa's cultural riches.

Seven weeks is enough time to make a solid start on reading all those books by local authors that you've never gotten around to picking up. This year's Ockham Book Awards winners are a good place to start. Check out this cheat sheet detailing all the Ockhams' finalists.

Author Thomasin Sleigh Photo: Lawrence & Gibson/Nicola Sandford

Culture 101's Mark Amery also recommends The Words for Her by Wellington author Thomasin Sleigh, which he calls "a brilliant meditation on what happens when people creepily start disappearing from digital images. It's a cracker novel speaking to the good and bad in contemporary New Zealand society."

If living in a rugby-saturated landscape has made you wonder, just a tiny bit, what all the fuss is about, you could read any number of All Black memoirs (the latest of which is Dan Carter's The Art of Winning). If novels are more your thing, you're probably better off reading Lloyd Jones' 2001 novel, The Book of Fame, which movingly tells the story of the original 1905 All Blacks.

Things to go out and see

New Zealand musician Estère will perform in the 2022 World of Wearable Art Awards Show.

Singer Estere performs at the 2022 World of Wearable Art Show. Photo: Supplied / Andi Crown

A live rugby game is an immersive experience. So too is the Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast, where you can watch the cult-classic film unfold before your eyes as a talented cast of performers brings each character to life. Get ready to dance, sing, and shout along to the unforgettable soundtrack. Performances run across September throughout the South Island.

For a stunning visual and aural feast of another kind, try (m)Orpheus. NZ Opera and Black Grace present (m)Orpheus - an exquisite dance-opera collision through a Pasifika lens. The show opens in Auckland on Wednesday 6 September, with further performances over the weekend before it travels to Wellington.

US musician Nile Rodgers with his band Chic performs during the Noches del Botanico festival in Madrid on July 11, 2023. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Nile Rodgers Photo: AFP

More than 60,000 people attended last year's World of Wearable Art shows in Wellington. Part-catwalk show, part theatre extravaganza, the annual event attracts wild and wonderful entries from around the globe. This year the theme is 'Beyond' and the shows run from 20 September - 8 October.

Want to go to the movies, for free? You can, thanks to the Latin American and Spain Film Festival, which showcases films from Latin America and Spain in 11 different cities throughout Aotearoa over the next month. New Zealand as a way of deepening the experience of the Latin American and Spanish cultures in Aotearoa.

Swap your rugby boots for your dancing shoes! Disco legends Nile Rodgers and Chic will get the crowd dancing their worries away at Auckland's Civic Theatre on Wednesday 18 October (it's a school night, but you can always take the next day off - tell your boss you were watching the rugby and you'll get away with it for sure).

Things to stay in and watch

Not only do you not have to leave the house to watch any of these drama or documentary series, you don't even have to leave RNZ. Here's a taste of what we've got ready and waiting for you to watch at your leisure.


Episode 4 thumbnail image for Blind Bitter Happiness

Blind Bitter Happiness is a warts-and-all family drama, written and directed by New Zealand actor Peter Feeney. Photo: Tinderbox Productions

Blind Bitter Happiness - This four-part series, which was written, directed and stars Peter Feeney as well as his three children, is a comedy-drama revolving around the Faheys as they navigate family dramas and their own struggles and conflicts.

Kāinga - this feature film navigates the thorny terrain of home in Aotearoa New Zealand from the perspectives of eight Pan-Asian women.

The Adventures of Piripi - Follow Piripi as he figures out how to hold down a job and look after the whānau home while his mum's in Wellington working.

A Place Called Te Awamutu - Tune in for the hilarious antics of this lively and loving whānau, ruled by Trish (played by Grant Heta).


Art of War - Meet the Māori fighters who are making their mark through the sport of MMA. This series uncovers how they've found a way to heal their wounds, carve out strong identities, and find purpose in their paths through fighting.

Topp Class - NZ's top musicians and comedians celebrate the extraordinary contribution Dames Lynda & Jools Topp have made to Aotearoa New Zealand over 40 years.

Our Other Islands with Troy Kingi - Come along with beloved New Zealnad musician Troy Kingi as he embarks on a journey to explore the fascinating "other" islands of Aotearoa.

This Is Wheel Life is out NOW on YouTube! Binge the whole thing, then come back and do it again (it's so good)

Soph and Indy star in This Is Wheel Life. Photo: Kaelin Wade

This Is Wheel Life - Join quadriplegic Sophia Malthus as she navigates her 20s as a disabled person in a world made for the non-disabled with the help of her cousin and carer Indy.

NZ Hip Hop Stand Up - Unearthing the stories behind some of the most influential tracks in Aotearoa hip hop, including Melodownz, DLT, Ladi6, Double J & Twice The T and more.

Crown Lynn: A Māori Story - For almost 50 years, Crown Lynn was the biggest ceramics factory in the southern hemisphere, and a melting pot of rich culture in a post-war era when hundreds of Māori migrated to the city to find work. Crown Lynn, A Māori Story reveals the incredible stories behind this locally made pottery and its charismatic founder, Sir Tom Clark.

Stolen Lands - This thrilling five-episode series uncovers the conspiracy against the 19th-century Māori chief Te Whakatōhea Chief Mokomoko, who was wrongfully executed for murdering German missionary Carl Völkner.

Fighting Chance

A scene from Fighting Chance. Photo: Fire Fire

Fighting Chance - An eight-part series that follows the transformation of a group of everyday people through a 20-week journey to their first mixed-martial arts fight.

Duality - A raw look at Māori with mixed-whakapapa who are on a journey to find their identity, with stories that explore ideas of belonging, self-doubt, and triumph.

NZ Wars: Stories of Wairau: The fourth chapter in RNZ's NZ Wars series examines the events that led to the first armed conflict between Ngāti Toa, the New Zealand Company and Nelson settlers just three years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Elsewhere, the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Digital Season brings dance to your device, with a free broadcast of Stand To Reason by choreographer Andrea Schermoly released online on 19 September to mark Suffrage Day.

Last but not least, RNZ's Tony Stamp reckons the must-see of the season is series two of Creamerie (after you've watched season one, of course).

"Series two of this local comedy-drama is just an absolute barnstormer, progressing its story of a world in which all men have died (or have they?) in ways that are delightfully unexpected. I have no idea how writer-director Roseanne Liang made something so cinematic on a TV budget, but each episode whips through multiple locations with eye-popping visual verve.

"Tonally it's darker than season one, armrest-grippingly tense, and genuinely hilarious. Tremendous cast all round, but if I had to single one out, it's RNZ's Perlina Lau, who remains the heart of the show, and can provoke laughter with the slightest movement of her face."