REVIEW: 1984 (Auckland Arts Festival)

March 13, 2018
[1984, Today] The world is having a 1984 moment. The world has always been having a 1984 moment. When Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan’s stage adaptation premiered in Nottingham in 2013, the backdrop was all about big data and surveillance anxieties. Edward Snowden’s revelations around NSA spying had many turning to George Orwell’s 1984 for literary parallels. Big Brother was […]

SCENE BY JAMES: It’s a Trial – of the Arts Minister!

March 1, 2018
[A Case for Removing Commercial Imperatives for Artists?] Would you accept public money to make an arts project if you had to return any profit that you generated back to the government? Would you want to live on 200-something dollars a week (plus accommodation supplement) if it meant you could make your art without being forced by Work and Income […]

SCENE BY JAMES: 2017 – A Theatrical Year in Review

December 29, 2017
[Theatre by the Numbers] 150,000 Aucklanders can’t be wrong, right? These are the approximate combined totals of audiences who flocked to the Pop-up Globe and Pleasuredome: The Musical in 2017. Compare that with the record-breaking 130,000 who went to Adele’s Auckland concerts this year. And that’s not even including the Globe’s jump across the Tasman, where their productions are still […]

SCENE BY JAMES: The Battle for Shakespeare, or, is the Pop-up Globe as you like it?

April 30, 2017
[Pop-up Globe 2017 Season] At Auckland’s Pop-up Globe, Shakespeare is enjoying a 400-year-old career resurgence. Shattering any lingering perceptions that Shakespeare might be elitist or alienating, this year 80,000 people have paid paying anywhere from $1 to stand as a ‘groundling’ in the yard, to $299 for a royal room at the side of the stage. The atmosphere in the […]

SCENE BY JAMES: The 2017 Auckland Arts Festival in Review

April 1, 2017
[Giving Auckland Something to Believe in] By the end of Eli Kent’s 3&1/2 hr epic Peer Gynt [recycled], we’ve crashed a wedding, attended a troll kink-party, seen the author give birth to a baby Henrik Ibsen, escaped from a spiritualist retreat, hung out with Milo Yiannopolous, given James Cameron a taste of his Titanic medicine, and confirmed that onions, like […]

SCENE BY JAMES: Thank Dionysus for Auckland Fringe

March 8, 2017
[Auckland Fringe 2017: Auckland Needs You] As we head into the finals days of the 2017 Auckland Fringe, it’s weird to think that it almost didn’t happen. The Fringe has bumped along biannually since 2009, but after decoupling from Auckland Live support, its long-term survival has been precarious. After funding decisions did not go its way, late last year Fringe […]

SCENE BY JAMES: Yellowface and The Mikado: Time for NZ Opera to Woke Up

February 10, 2017
[Let the Production Fit the Time] The clichéd criticism of Opera is that it is a form stuck in the past. I believe that in one major and urgent respect, Opera does indeed need to be dragged into the 21st Century. It is becoming increasingly clear that our own NZ Opera has a race problem. In their 2016 Auckland Arts Festival […]

SCENE BY JAMES: 2016 – A Theatrical Year in Review

December 30, 2016
[Engaging with our Worlds] The meme that gained exponential currency as 2016 trudged along was that 2016 was a terrible year. Aleppo, terror, celebrity deaths, Brexit, Harambe, and the coming of Trump – what started as a joke seems to have become a genuine expression of the globe having entirely written off this fucked up year. Yes, this contemporary perception is all […]

SCENE BY JAMES: So now we know what’s happening with the Maidment Theatre

November 2, 2016
[RIP Maidment] In his update to staff, the University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon announced today that the Maidment Theatre is to “be closed permanently and eventually demolished”. Opened in 1976, the Maidment had been closed indefinitely since December 2015 after it was deemed an earthquake risk. Until today, the university had been silent on its future. McCutcheon’s internal email […]

SCENE BY JAMES: If New Zealand theatre criticism sucks, then it’s always sucked.

July 12, 2016
[Which is to say, it doesn’t] Yesterday playwright/director/lip sync dynamo and “professional theatre critic” Sam Brooks went full Addison DeWitt against his own profession, dripping venom over the crappy theatre criticism in this country. On The Spinoff he argues: “theatre criticism in this country is fucked… the result: a critical culture muddied by hobbyists, people who aren’t truly passionate about engaging […]
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