Calling all Aucklanders! If you’re looking for some jolly festivities to get you in to the spirit of the silly season, Aotea Square is the place to be.
This year, The EDGE team up with BIG little City to bring us a fun and unique Christmas experience Auckland-style. With an eclectic line up of street theatre, live music, art, dance and more there is something for everybody. Here’s the best news: it’s all FREE.
Back again for the fourth year running is the fantastic Random Acts programme which continues its tradition of taking theatre to the people. I checked out the acts over the weekend and was thoroughly entertained!
I thought Pacific Me City was a very clever spin on a dance routine. Presented by Ura Tabu Pacific Dance, the performance is essentially a mobile interweaving dance mob which takes the living statue mime act to a whole new level. The performance is almost entirely interactive – it’s “success” is heavily dependent on audience participation. Four performers strike a pose in front of four posts which read “…stand here for dance instructions”. It does take a few rather awkward minutes of staring at these frozen performers before the crowd get what is going on but soon there were quite a number of people who were game to get an impromptu dance lesson. I loved the Pacific twist to it as well as those bright and colorful costumes!
My personal favorite was the charming and magical ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by The People Who Play With Theatre. If you love fairy tales and appreciate performance which incorporate beautiful imagery and puppetry, this one’s for you. Imagined and constructed by Auckland playwright, puppet-maker and performer Ben Anderson, this famous poem is quite literally brought to life with the set and performance space being a giant book! With each turn of the page, the world unfolds in a pop-up fashion – this innovative storytelling technique is truly a visual spectacle and engaging experience.
I was drawn to the re-styled truck which doubles as a mobile stage at the edge of the Square so I had high expectations for Comic Interludes, a masked street theatre show inspired by Renaissance European acting troupes and circus. While I enjoyed the energy and comedic antics of the LAB Theatre performers, the actual story left me a little cold. The story was easy enough to follow, it just didn’t have a “hook”. Judging by the dwindling audience, I think the over-the-top mayhem became a little off-putting to some. It’s a mighty shame because they are a talented ensemble and they effortlessly drew the crowd in at the start, they just weren’t able to capture the people’s attention for the entirety of the show.
If you’re not just popping by on a flying visit and plan to spend the afternoon enjoying everything Unwrapping Christmas has to offer (highly recommended!), you will no doubt come across the mischievous trio known as the White Face Crew interacting with passers-by as part of their Unsung Heroes act. From entertaining short skits to spontaneous gags to coming at you with sunblock inviting you to “slip, slop, slap”, this cheeky characters will have you hooked with their silly antics, clowning and physical theatre.
Geoff Gilson of Beautiful Sake Productions and tango partner Victoria Szerdi will transport you to the vibrant streets of Buenos Aires with their sensuous Tango De Construct pop up dance performance. Once they hit the dance floor, I couldn’t take my eyes off them – they glide across the “stage” so effortlessly and with such grace and skill. For those keen to have a go, you’re in luck! This year there is a new offering called Bandstand Under the Stars which gives you the opportunity to not only watch different styles of dance but to learn firsthand from the performers themselves.
Moving Canvas, a dynamic and colorful display of live body art is the last act in the Random Acts programme but which I have yet to see as unfortunately they weren’t performing on the day I was there. It does sound very intriguing though so I am planning on popping down this Sunday to check them out.
Overall it was an extremely fun and fabulous day out in the BIG little City and one I would recommend to anyone – young, old, theatre lover or not – there is a whole array of activities on offer to keep everyone entertained. And if somehow nothing tickles your fancy, pop down anyway for a drink and bite to eat, or a sunbake on the deck chairs – better than staying cooped up at home, at any rate! We may not have a White Christmas but this wonderful Unwrapping Christmas programme proves that a Southern Hemisphere Christmas can be magical too!
Unwrapping Christmas is running until the 21st December at Aotea Square. Below is when the Random Acts are on but for the full programme which includes Bandstand Under the Stars, Christmas Markets and an excellent Live at Lunch line up, click here.