SCENE BY JAMES: 2017 – A Theatrical Year in Review

Pleasuredome

[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 playing in Melbourne. All up, the Pop-up Globe report that 215,000 people in Australia and New Zealand saw one of their 396 performances this year.

Auckland theatre seems to be stuck in some overstretched nostalgic time warp, where Shakespeare remains a blockbuster, and we all dressed up for a glorified 80s Karaoke party. Both the Pop-up and Pleasuredome can be seen as theatre industry equivalents of Uber, canny disrupters that have smashed past Auckland’s subsidised-theatre marketplace and achieved a truly commercial proposition. More than just shows, they are production houses, establishing their own venues and contracting a small army of creatives and support staff to keep the machine going and the punters happy.

Pleasuredome ticked my genre interests (immersive theatre, musical), but the final product was disappointing (the company took advantage of their months-long season, another rarity for Auckland theatre, and undertook revisions of the script and staging). Meanwhile, I was on the Pop-up Globe’s case for their onstage gender ratios (which have evened out a bit more for their third season, rolling out now). I am thrilled for everyone who had a great time at the Pop-up or Pleasuredome this past year. Myself, I am content to play the grouchy critic, asking questions, and demanding more.

These productions are worth talking about, and worth taking seriously, because if you’re looking for a snapshot of Auckland theatre in 2017, for many people, this is what they went to (another would be Matilda, the feel-good musical with dark edges, which I rate highly).

What do the popularity of the likes of Pop-up and Pleasuredome reveal about theatrical tastes in 2017? Are we still inoculated to see Shakespeare as the beginning and end of good playwriting? Is the presence of Lucy Lawless or an 80s NYC replica street enough cause us to suspend our desire for a half-decent narrative?

The Pop-up Globe Experience

Both productions are linked in another key way: the commodification of a particular experience. The unique selling-point of their environments is getting audiences into the heart of the action. While in general I found the Pop-up productions too hermetically sealed for my taste (made for the space, with little insight beyond it), there’s no denying the way Shakespeare comes alive in a much more immediate and vibrant way here than under a deadened proscenium arch. The Pop-up Shakespeares are often lot more gimmicky (flaming arrows!) than the productions I’ve seen at the London Globe, but also more joyfully irreverent. I love being a Groundling right up close to the stage. I found Pleasuredome’s promises of immersion to be oversold, but their New York street was fun escapism, which they customised for Halloween and Christmas, and also threw a street party marking World AIDS Day.

The temporary community that is formed during these shows is electric. It heightens what has always been one of theatre’s great therapeutic benefits of being with people, especially in light of contemporary manifestations of social isolation and resulting health risks. There’s an easy line here about getting away from our social media bubbles and finding connection in a theatrical-fantasy space, but don’t forget that posting the selfie to say you’ve been there is just as much a part of the value proposition as being present during the experience itself.

Most of all, these productions do not pretend that we are not there. Pleasuredome and Pop-up offer a non-threatening interactivity. If you want to sit quietly in the dark, go to the movies. You can go to the theatre and send and receive energy to and from the stage. The fourth wall has long been down. Long live theatre.

There’s a huge gulf between the audience numbers of the Pop-up Dome’s and much of the rest of Tāmaki Makaurau’s theatrical landscape. A show at The Basement’s mainstage (the defacto home of independent theatre in Auckland), would reach only 500 audience members over a one-week season, and that’s only if they completely sell out. Many of the shows reviewed throughout the year on Theatre Scenes would not even reach this mark. Within an industry that has made a virtue of the oily rag, you can appreciate how Pleasuredome and the Pop-up Globe really are gamechangers.

Whether you believe that they have changed the game for the better, or for the worse, perhaps come down to what you go to the theatre for. Is it comfort, or confrontation? Escapism, or insight? Ego, or empathy? Drinks and company, or your own personal recreation? All have merit. For those that traveled beyond the PleasureGlobe in 2017, a plethora of experiences and value propositions awaited.

OF FRINGE AND FESTIVAL

Auckland Fringe 2017, having lost out on funding, was on life-support and almost didn’t happen, but it was saved by the valiant leadership of Lydia Zanetti and Helen Sheehan, as well as a grassroots movement by a number of artists who said that they definitely wanted a Fringe by registering for it in great numbers. In the end, there were 123 separate events, playing to a total audience of 23000+.

In my report on the Fringe, I wrote, “The Auckland Fringe has been reclaimed, and finding its own unique messy identity.” Productions included Silo’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, Spirit House by Carl Bland, Rushes created by Malia Johnston, as well as Binge Culture’s Enter the New World, “Ze”: Queer as Fuck and Infectious. I wrote about the value of Fringe for the theatrical landscape:

Sure, there’s an explosion of accessible arts experiences happening all year round in this great city of ours. But the Fringe provides an opportunity to harness it, and also lays down a challenge: what will you show me that I don’t normally get to see? The big international Fringe Festivals, heavy on comedy, have become marketplaces for theatrical product, where work can be on sold and enter the touring circuit (if you don’t bankrupt yourself in the process). The potential of Auckland Fringe is very different: a democratic space for the alternative, where artists and audiences alike can take a punt.

Power Ballad

One of Fringe’s breakouts was Julia Croft’s Power Ballad, which toured to Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of Creative New Zealand’s NZ at Edinburgh season. In its return Auckland season, Rachael Longshaw-Park grappled with categorisation:

It is intentionally difficult to fit Power Ballad into any box as it constantly shifts and subverts your expectations of what a theatre show should be. It wrestles within the space between theatre and performance art, and with no clear narrative or characters, veers away from anything conventional. Instead, Power Ballad presents feminist discourse and social truths through the magic of Julia Croft’s incredible performance and some iconic power ballads. It’s refreshing to see this counter-culture approach to theatre in Auckland.

The Auckland Arts Festival (just under 200,000 total audience) featured a triumphant final shock-pink programme from Artistic Director Carla Van Zon, with international treats like The Encounter, and Every Brilliant Thing, and Aotearoa repped by Cellfish, The Biggest, The Bone Feeder and Peer Gynt [recycled]. The latter play by Eli Kent, produced by Auckland Theatre Company, was a 3 & ½ hour epic. I wrote:

In my reflection on the Festival, I noted that the final question of Kent’s play – “If we all believe in the lie together, isn’t that as good as the truth?” – resonated throughout the 2017 Auckland Arts Festival:

The Encounter, Every Brilliant Thing, and How to Keep an Alien had slippery relationships with fictionality and truth. All were confessional shows purporting to tell a true story, performed by a solo actor with a little bit of help (sound design for The Encounter, an on-stage stage-manager for Alien, and the audience for Brilliant Thing). One of Eli Kent’s themes is the craving for authenticity that eludes us in our post-modern world. The encounters with these shows opened questions of the balance of truth and fiction that we seek from theatre.

THE ESTABLISHMENT

What were the established companies, who derive a substantial amount of their income from Creative New Zealand and other non-box office sources, presenting to their audiences in 2017?

Auckland Theatre Company had a whole year to play in their new Waterfront Theatre. The design work tested what could be done in the theatre, such as Amadeus’ mountains of paper. A revival of Briar Grace-Smith’s When Sun and Moon Collide was programmed for Matariki, which for Nathan Joe did not achieve its promise:

It’s important that our canon exists beyond single productions and texts, and Auckland Theatre Company have done something wonderful in reviving When Sun and Moon Collide. But unlike the collision between the sun and the moon in the title, the two sides of the play don’t form a satisfying union. Where the intimacy of naturalism and the metaphorical power of expressionism don’t quite meet. Instead, we’re left with a production should feel like essential and significant viewing but falls short of the demands of the text.

Nell Gwynn

Nell Gwynn meanwhile engaged in some frothy period drama revisionism. I reflected:

So, one of the more self-evident talking points with this play is how much of a modern woman Nell Gwynn is, and how contemporaneous their entertainment era is with ours…

For the restoration, the revolutionary act of putting a woman on the stage changes everything. While it is immediately a box office smash, Gwynn’s company realise that you can write for any woman you want… real women. New narrative possibilities are opened. (The qualification is that in the actual historical period bawdy, bosoms and double entendre were largely the entertainment drawcards.)

Notably, Director Benjamin Henson was elevated to the ATC mainbill with Red Speedo. Rachael Longshaw-Park thought the play “would usually be a good fit for a more intimate theatre, but with Henson’s direction and design from John Parker, this production manages to capture the tension which infects the Waterfront Theatre’s auditorium with ease.”

Former Silo Artistic Director Shane Bosher returned to the company to direct Cock by Mike Bartlett and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Bosher’s vision of Streetcar had a number of talking points, taking us direct to contemporary Trumpland. I noted:

One thing this choice does is put the boot into a progressivist view of history. If we were watching the safe period-drama version of Streetcar, we might think – sure, there are some things that are still relatable, but thank goodness we no longer live in the 1940s. Bosher’s up-to-the-minute Streetcar says that things aren’t gradually getting better. Indeed, as if to counter the assertion in Obama’s farewell speech, that “the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion” (a play on Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe bending “towards justice”), this production choice suggests that the American streetcar is travelling backwards.   

Sophie Roberts’ take on Peter and the Wolf (using puppetry and live camera work), in contrast, took the fable to Auckland. Rachael Longshaw-Park was encouraged to see Silo Theatre take a risk on such a creative venture:

In a climate where companies tend to play it safe with big names and award winning scripts, it’s comforting to know that one mainstream theatre company is willing to let their creatives flourish and create something new and refreshing.

Red Leap debuted a new work, Kororāreka: The Ballad of Maggie Flynn, which underlined how rare it is to see a company engaging with New Zealand’s colonial history. Though written by Paolo Rotondo, Longshaw-Park noted:

It’s incredibly exciting to see an all-female cast led by a female director telling a female story, and all the women on stage impress with their own strengths. Victoria Abbott is a powerful performer who takes on the role of the young Maggie, bringing forth fiery energy into the character and showing off her physical prowess. In fact, all the cast are physically impressive, hanging tirelessly from the set, running and jumping, and singing and dancing their way through the full hour and forty minutes of the production.

Indian Ink Theatre Company revived their 2002 play The Pickle King and celebrated the company’s 20th anniversary with a nationwide tour for the play. In gender swapping the character Jojo (originated by Jacob Rajan), Indian Ink sought to update the play to reflect contemporary New Zealand. According to Nathan Joe:

What elevates The Pickle King (and Indian Ink as a company) from popcorn entertainment is how big universal themes of love, guilt and redemption are tackled, not to mention the more topical themes of of immigration and globalisation. Every valuable lesson the play has to offer is never asserted aggressively, rather they’re hidden underneath the warm laughs the play often inspires. A worthy revival of a formative work.

#METOO CONVERSATIONS

2017 was marked by a global consciousness raising around issues of sexual harassment and abuse and the gendered systems that perpetuate them. In my wrap-up of 2016 I remarked that gendered issues was one of the most important conversations in Auckland theatre that year, a theme that continued throughout this year. What is especially notable is how urgently the #MeToo conversation was held on Auckland stages, even before there was a hashtag to categorise it. (Although in terms of public reckonings, the response here, unlike in the UK, has been muted – does the closeness and smallness of New Zealand’s theatre industry mean practitioners are well-behaved, or just that the bad eggs are well protected?)

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

The productions began with Silo’s entry for Auckland Fringe, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Prior to the season, the Silo team were out in force at the Auckland Leg of the Women’s March on Washington. I discussed this in my review for Metro:

The Silo team carried banners quoting UK playwright Alice Birch’s text: “Revolutionise… the world… the language… the body… the work.” The Auckland march was not your usual protest: half-hearted chants rose and died. For many, moved to walk in solidarity by the idea that “women’s rights are human rights”, it was a new experience.

One of the remarkable aspects of the Auckland march in January was the complete invisibility of police, even when the 1000-plus protestors defiantly spilled off the footpath to storm up Queen Street. The organisers were told that women are safe. Therefore, no police required. I’ll mention this anecdote to contrast the quote from historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that inspired Revolt: “well-behaved women seldom make history”. Presented in this post-march climate, Birch’s play resonates in its question of what meaningful gender resistance might look like. Does the global Women’s March movement represent a new wave of feminist radicalisation, or will the revolt be short-lived?

Theatre like Revolt poses the questions: How do we create meaningful change? Can theatre create meaningful change? Rachael Longshaw-Park had this view on the production:

Here Silo are creating a valuable and much needed space to invite in mainstream audiences and present them with challenging theatre. It should also be noted the way in which they present their theatre plays a part in this success. At no point, did it feel as if the play or performances were attacking the audiences for being a part of a greater problem of patriarchal narratives, but instead production presents the issues and flashes the mirror back onto the audience without being overtly accusing. By choosing to educate over alienate the possibility of actual change of thought and action is more likely than if we were to leave feeling attacked due to the fragile nature of the unoppressed. It’s comforting to see a theatre company grasp the full extent and implication of the space in which they work in. Here’s to more thoughtful theatre from inception to stage, and to the conversation that follows.

My conclusion was that:

Revolt is profoundly ambivalent about its feminism, whether change is possible, and if it is, what it should look like. There is cynicism about progressivism. There is rage, and there is weariness. In the work scene, the manager asks, “Is this about protest?”, to which Tito replies, “It’s about sleep.” There are worries that we have been too content to equate thought with taking action.

Revolt does not make a firm stand – and just as its teasing us that it might, it subverts itself again and pulls away. It does not offer comfort, but nor does it get too uncomfortable. Both self-identifying feminists and the Bill Englishes of this country will leave without getting too shaken up… Revolt shows how insidious language can be in framing gender relations, and that no profound change can happen until the language itself changes. But Birch’s text also implicitly shows the power of language as a tool for resistance, and has great fun messing around with it. While the revolution waits for another day, Silo’s Revolt continues to chip away.

Later in the year, Ella Gilbert’s Soft Tissue used bouffon-like clowning to tease out issues of gendered expectations and performativity. Nathan Joe astutely observed:

What the show reveals, intentionally or not, is an absence of the private self. The public image of womanhood is scrutinised and satirised under a microscope, leaving no room for the deeply personal. In the constant sea of gender performativity, self is the first thing to drown. After all, how can any person hope to be true to themselves when they’re forced to juggle a myriad of contradictory personae? To be sexy, sweet, ditsy, strong, pure, flirty, all in one? It’s a somewhat existentially terrifying proposition that is softened by the show’s humour.

Jane Doe, originally created by Eleanor Bishop while studying in the USA in response to high profile campus rape cases, used public record court testimony to uncover the ideologies of rape culture. Jane Doe used participatory elements (in itself modelling consent) with audiences invited to read verbatim dialogue and use our devices to post our responses to the content of the show and how we were feeling, which was displayed back at us. Like Power Ballad, it played at the Fringe, did a return season, then journeyed to Edinburgh. Rachael Longshaw-Park responded:

I found myself shaking long after I left Q Loft and escaped the chill of the Auckland streets. I grew concerned over my impending task of reviewing this devastating and evocative work. How could I write objectively about something so deeply personal, without making it about me and not the work? But the fact is, this show is about me, and you, and that girl you heard about in high school, or college, or work. It’s about your nieces and nephews, and sons and daughters who are growing up in a world where “No” means “Maybe” and unconscious means “Yes”. Sexual assault is personal to everyone. This story is personal to everyone. This show is one of the most important pieces of theatre I have ever seen, and its construction and execution is of such a high standard that it could be viewed simply as a piece of art in itself. However, those who need further convincing  that “No” will always mean “No” are the ones who need to see it most.

Eleanor Bishop and Julia Croft were also behind Boys, which played as part of Auckland Theatre Company’s Here and Now Youth season. Remixing Greg McGee’s landmark NZ play Foreskin’s Lament, it traversed gendered battle lines, and just how fucked up New Zealand’s social messages remain for youth as they negotiate their identities. I believe that Boys was the most important work presented on the ASB Waterfront Theatre stage all year. Each performance was followed by a forum with invited guests that responded to the work and added further context. With an all too short season, Nathan Joe wondered how far reaching the effect of Boys could be:

While the postmodern techniques don’t pose an immediate problem to those familiar with Foreskin’s Lament or theatre in general, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the audience who most need it – young males indoctrinated into a culture of toxic masculinity – aren’t likely to be the ones watching it. That maybe a deconstruction of an old Kiwi play might be slightly too niche, no matter how well executed it is.

The final moments of the play are its most telling, where the males are stripped bare of their characters, leaving them totally vulnerable. Amidst the wreckage of real-life pain, they offer a series of redemptive anecdotes. Tiny acts of humanism with their partners, families and friends that suggest the little wars and everyday victories are what makes a difference.

In another key scene, Boys provided what has been glaringly absent from the #MeToo conversation: an acknowledgment of this is what I did, this is what I said, this is how I was, and am, a predator. But Boys too reveals the zero sum game in which we all lose under narrow conceptions of gendered behavior. The revolution is brewing. I hope this is not the last we see of Boys.

THE INDEPENDENTS

The Mountaintop

The Basement’s risk share policy continues to enable a wide range of companies to afford to create work for their space, although there is much more demand for that space than The Basement can programme. One of the highlights at The Basement this year was FCC’s production of The Mountaintop, which takes place on the final night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. I had seen this on Broadway starring Samuel L Jackson and Angela Bassett, but David Fane and Nicole Whippy left an indelible mark on the characters in their own right. Nathan Joe found in The Mountaintop the perfect embodiment of the phrase “equipment for living.” The play was:

a theatrical rally and response to our current climate. A war cry to end all war cries. Calling a piece of theatre more urgent or relevant than ever is an often abused line of thought, but it rings true here, particularly with the topicality regarding the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville earlier this year. This is a work that has only, unfortunately, grown in relevance since its 2009 premiere.

More than simply coasting on the sentimental nostalgia of history, The Mountaintop drips with humanity, so much so you can feel your conscience demanding work to be done. It doesn’t give us easy answers, but it passes the baton on, forcing us to acknowledge the legacies that have preceded us and the responsibilities we owe to each other.

A Slightly Isolated Dog, whose recent productions rely on the participatory play with their audience, bought Jekyll and Hyde to The Basement, which created “a turbulent playground out of the Basement theatre that is a joy to experience.” They then told the story of Santa Claus for The Basement’s Annual Christmas show, but unfortunately by then their formula was feeling tired.

Johanna Cosgrove’s comedy Aunty was another show featuring participation. As Tim George put it,  “Aunty, an obnoxious, self-absorbed but loving woman,” manages “to pull her entire extended family (the audience) together for an overdue family reunion.”

Over at TAPAC, even Indian Ink got on the immersive train with the debut of their new work, Mrs Krishnan’s Party, in which we found ourselves as unexpected guests for the Onam festival held at the back of her dairy (the same dairy that had featured in Indian Ink’s very first play). We didn’t review this one, but look out for its return next year, it is an absolute delight.

As part of a North Island tour, Te Waka Huia by Naomi Bartley played at Te Pou, a resonant response to the 1963 Brynderwyn bus crash and the ways we grieve and remember. Vanessa Crofskey was surprised to find that:

In spite of this sombre context, Te Waka Huia is joyful. As we’re ushered in, the cast break into waiata, a chorus of voices welcoming us into the theatre. This sets the tone for a jovially musical night against a script that is, at times, harsh to its characters… What I left the venue pondering wasn’t the points to nitpick but rather an upheld value of commemoration and celebration. The use of live instrumentals on stage feels like a way to return us to something bigger – tales around the fire. The humble notion of including actors and extras on stage (sitting to the side) while the main action plays out means this story extends far beyond mere lines or bodies on stage. In actuality, the story reaches further, and doesn’t end until long after the play does – we break bread and share kai while real survivors and their offspring give their thanks.

Q’s Matchbox programme is one way companies can be supported to professionally present their work. The season of My Best Dead Friend, written and performed by Anya Tate-Manning, was a “touching homage to her late friend that is soaked in her infectious humour and enigmatic personality.”

The slick yet soulless The Effect by UK playwright Lucy Prebble, directed by Benjamin Henson, seemed an ill-fit for Matchbox. According to Matt Baker:

The decision to present this play as part of the 2017 Matchbox season from Q Theatre’s perspective is that “it showcases a company using their expertise to keep it simple.” Unfortunately, this simplicity has also diluted the savagery of Henson’s style of direction. I don’t doubt Fractious Tash is able to present great work without relying on bells and whistles, but this particular combination of script and casting (with the exception of Irving) simply does not synthesise. The Effect raises interesting, if not problematic, questions, but without a thorough enough investigation of them, a post-show reflection of Fractious Tash’s production feels more like a placebo than the real thing.

The final Q Matchbox production was Alice Canton’s OTHER [chinese]. I named this as the top show in 2017 Auckland theatre for Metro Magazine, and it was recognised at the Auckland Theatre Awards. Tim George called it “An empathetic chorus of human experience.” He wrote:

What I really liked was that at no point did it feel didactic. By layering voices and stories on top of each other, Canton makes her points in the manner of a movie montage, creating meaning out of juxtaposition rather than exposition. One touch I really liked was when there were patches of Mandarin and Cantonese, they went untranslated. Not everything needs to be explained, and some things do not need words to be understood.

OTHER [chinese]
The foundation of Alice Canton’s show was the spectrum exercise: a statement is declared, and participants line themselves up on a spectrum depending how strongly they agree or disagree with the proposition. Its use in the show emphasised the multiplicity of belief and identity, and the reductiveness of singular identity markers. Patiently, gently, the audience got to know the participants onstage (some of whom were actors, many were not). Here we were, humans in a room. Some generously sharing themselves, others gratefully receiving and supporting. Though the show rejected notions of authenticity, it opened a genuine space of understanding. That’s one of the great values of theatre, which Canton’s production exemplified.

EVEN MORE

  • Theatre Scenes was not invited to any NZ Opera productions this year after I stirred the melting-pot and called out NZ Opera’s approach to their production of The Mikado.
  • At the NZ International Cabaret Festival, Rutene Spooner’s Super-HUGH-Man affectionately used Hugh Jackman’s duel star-image as ripped Wolverine and a song-and-dance man to champion undefined masculinity.
  • Brigitte Knight joined the Theatre Scenes team as a specialist dance reviewer. Knight reviewed the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Carmen and Three by Ekman, as well as Old Tricks New Dogs, Rēka and Contrast.
  • Along with Matilda, musical fans also got to see West Side Story and Million Dollar Quartet at The Civic.
  • It’s encouraging to see a number of shows getting return Auckland seasons, these included Hudson and Halls Live, The Mooncake and the Kūmara, Looking at Stuff in Clouds, and Flaps Retouched.
  • The Maidment Theatre was demolished. The University of Auckland has a committee convened to explore a new performing arts facility, but no timeframe.
  • Jacinda Ardern returned to the Auckland Theatre Awards, this time as Prime Minister! She affirmed theatremakers, and said: “When we mention the word wellbeing and we think about the arts; when we mention the word community and we think about the arts. When we mention togetherness, identity, culture, our heritage, and we think about the arts. And I crave the day when we stop explaining ourselves and people just know it.” Revolutionary!

SUSTAINABILITY

Are there lessons we can learn about Pleasuredome and the Pop-up Globe? They demonstrate that there is latent audience demand for the experiential if it is branded and sold in an appealing way. How can this potential be harnessed across the sector?

The Auckland theatre industry remains precarious. The 50+ year institution, the University of Auckland Summer Shakespeare, has concluded it is unable to operate in the same market as the Pop-up Globe (this year there were two As You Like Its, and the Summer Shakespeare one suffered for it). This is a lamentable tragedy, as Summer Shakespeare has been a worthy training ground (indeed, casts from previous Summer Shakespeares are appearing in the Pop-up Globe’s third season). The flipside is that Summer Shakespeare’s model relies on volunteer hours; the Pop-up’s ability to provide continuous employment is laudable. Taking out subsidised companies like Auckland Theatre Company and Silo, much of the rest of Auckland’s theatre would not exist were it not for underpayment, yet we would all be poorer if these productions ceased to be. Of course, when making a show, making money is very rarely the primary goal, but why shouldn’t the artist be able to put bread on their table at the same time they feed their audiences’ souls?

The safe commercial theatre could learn a thing or two from the boundary pushers, so too could the pushers learn a thing or two about business nous from the commercial risk takers. Thus the ongoing dance between the alternative and the mainstream, art and commerce, sustainability and burnout.

The newly released Why Manifesto 2017 – A battlecry for the Arts from within Aotearoa (created through the leadership of Nisha Madhan and a number of contributors) takes up some of these issues. To quote just one of its points:

Art is a social good.

Art is an empathetic experience. Art is pro-society. It’s a social good.  Be good to artists and they’ll be good for you. Making is a positive action. Death to the tortured artist genius! Art is the power of many. Art strengthens community, imagination and innovation.

The Why Manifesto is worth reading for anyone interested in Auckland theatre (and if you’re still reading to the bottom of this post, this is definitely you!).

For us on this website, 2017 has been a continuous struggle to cover the many scenes of Auckland theatre. Theatre Scenes itself is entirely voluntary, and we haven’t always been able to get to everything we’re invited to. With our colleagues at Theatreview sadly having to withdraw from covering the Auckland market, it is even more important that we at Theatre Scenes redouble our efforts, so we can cast a critical eye over the big guns, and amplify the no-budget strivers. So we can talk up what’s good, and talk about what could still be better. So you can agree or disagree with us, and help you articulate your own point of view about what’s happening in Auckland theatre. We hope you join us in 2018 as we continue to discover the ways theatrical experiences can speak to us, move us, and delight us.

SEE ALSO:

– Kate Prior for The Pantograph Punch: Final Flourish: Ten Moments in Auckland Theatre 2017
– Jonty Crane: Best of 2017: Auckland Theatre ; Staging & Props ; Performances

Theatre Scenes Year in Reviews: 20162015 ; 2014 ; 2013 ; 2012 ; 2011 ; 2010

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