I came across the beautifully designed brochure for the fringe festival yesterday in a little shop. The thing is with New Zealand is that often wonderful marketing and branding can hype up things that turn out to be rubbish. I'm not sure if the fringe festival will be one of these. A few shows on the cards look awful, including Death by Cheerleader, a play promising Gossip Girl-esq backstabbing amongst the fictional 'CheerBlacks' team during a Rugby World Cup. Apparently 'hair and trust is torn, nails and hearts are broken, spraytans and secrets revealed as team loyalty disintegrates'. It was probably written to try and steal some rugby fans for the theatre-going audience, but I worry that this drama group has got the wrong idea about why lots of Kiwis choose to watch men running into each other over attending plays. I'm pretty sure rugby is its own form of theatre. And anyway, you wouldn't try and convert theatre-goers to watching rugby by forcing players to consider their 'motivation' and rename the pitch according to stage left and stage right, would you?
Either way, give or take a few more appallingly bad synopses, a few stand out as potential corkers.
'Oh Baby' by the Physical Theatre Co. looks good. The company use ariel dance and acrobatics which stands out from the reams of proscenium arch plays that constitute the schedule. Whether their subject matter of a fertility clinic and its troubled patients will lend itself to this form is yet to be seen, but I'm definitely intrigued.
I got really excited when I stumbled across Playing Miss Havisham - Theatre in Your Living Room, which between the 2nd and 23rd of March you can have performed for you in your own home. This is definitely a more clever attempt at nudging the rugby fans to broaden their viewing by literally standing in front of their T.V. Promising a night of mystery and surprise from an award-winning actress, you've got to ring up and book a slot purely out of curiosity.
I'm a bit dubious about Sirens, a water ballet that is going to be performed in Parnell baths by the 'Wet Hot Beauties'. The idea is lovely, it's billed as a 1930s/1940s inspired performance with a modern twist. The blurb denies any modernity however, instead sounding like an advert for a particularly misogynistic soft-porn version of the Little Mermaid, 'Water nymphs as you’ve never seen them before. Watch and be amazed as seventy salty seductresses lure mighty sailors to their doom. Broken-hearted and hungry, these mermaids from the deep will not be satisfied until they have what they want – men' . We are told that the performance is done with 'Art in mind', whatever that means. The verdict is still out, but it definitely caught my eye.
I'm sure that when March arrives I'll stumble upon some fantastic plays, some fantastically awful, but for now I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. As well as theatre, there's a great programme of comedy, dance and visual arts that I'm sure will be worth checking out.
The Auckland Fringe Festival runs from the 25th of February to the 13th of March, in various venues across the city. For more info go to the website.