Auckland Arts Festival - Art, colour and culture

"Art and love are the same thing: It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you"

That quote sums up our week at Auckland Arts Festival where we were surrounded with art, music and theatrical performances. It was an experience that added colour and activity to Auckland. Below is a recap of our week and the shows that we watched. 

Macbeth - Emissaries from the Great Lakes

The lights dimmed, the ochestra began their symphony and the choir begun to sing. The harmonies were electrifying and the voices of the choir were so powerful that the moment they opened their mouths to sing I was transported on a journey to a far far away place.

Having never attended an opera, it was fascinating to see the interpretation of the choir's songs was translated as text and projected on the stage. Five minutes into the show Macbeth's text to Lady Macbeth was projected on the screens reading "Babe. Met witches in the forest. Said I will be king. WTF !!? C u lata. xxM"; at that moment we where reminded that it's the remix baby and that set the precedent for the show: a modern day interpretation of Macbeth.

Not only was the production a modern day interpretation it was also a history lesson that presented the story of the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a reminder about our consumption levels. It also gave us a pause for thought in relation to knowing where the materials for our beloved devices and products come from.

In it's re-telling of Shakespeare's tale of ambition and corruption, the production was a visually compelling illustration of the manner in which power cripples the mind. Watching Macbeth go from a man with ambition to a power crazed individual who killed anyone in his path was a telescopic view in the way in which the dictator's mind works. Although elements of the production were fictional the images projected from the genocide were rather chilling. As Macbeth was haunted by the people he killed, images of people injured were projected on the screen in black and white. It was a shock to the system and reminded us that while we are enjoying the play, these killings and happenings are also the stark reality of around 5.4 million people. While we enjoy this production, this is someone's story and till this day millions are still recovering from the effects of the genocide.

As someone who knew about the genocide but wasn't too clear on the details the production was an intelligent way of telling the world the story of the Great Lakes. I was inspired to go home and do some reading about the genocide to understand what transpired in scale and complexity. 

One of the scenes that tugged at my heart string was the image of diamonds that automatically had me thinking about blood diamonds and minerals. As I felt about in my bag for my beloved iPhone, I felt guilty as the cast played at the fact that inhumane conditions for those that work in mines continues because we fuel them with our hunger for the latest devices. The system of forcing children, women and men to work in mines in terrible conditions are sustained by local and neighbouring government officials, and by huge multinationals that draw the minerals out of the region, and make huge profits out of the various stages of production of electronic and industrial goods, and jewellery. 

Overall, the production was a tasteful appropriation of Verdi's Macbeth and the manner in which it was applied in a cultural context was seamless; the drums were beautifully incorporated into the orchestra and my heart was delighted when I heard hints of Zulu in the cast's interactions.

As the designer, director and brain-master of the remix said "I am fascinated with how stuff (religions, philosophies, cultural modes and cultural goods) is washed up or dumped on the shores of Africa and is appropriated, infiltrated, modified and put to new uses. I wanted to take Verdi's opera of witchcraft, tyranny and the will for power, and treat it in the same way: to appropriate it, infiltrate it, modify it". 

The modifcation was present in the blinged outfits Macbeth and Lady Macbeth dorned. If I have to choose who my favourite character was, I would say Lady Macbeth in a heartbeat. Her fierce and over-the-top mannerisms stole my heart.

Othello: The remix - A beautiful marriage between hip-hop and theatre

Fighting the urge to get up and twerk during this production was something I found hard. As soon as the lights dimmed and the beat dropped I knew the audience was in for a treat. 

In the first sequence we are introduced to the cast members and their roles: Othello (Postell Pringle), Iago (GQ), Cassio (Jackson Doran) and Roderigo (JQ). The best part was they rapped the introduction and the entire script of the play! The introduction provided context of what was going to happen next and it served as background information for those (like myself) who have never read Othello.

The production was entertaining and told the story of Othello, a rapper who makes it to the top and takes his crew with him. Along the way one of his boys Iago gets jealous of the success of his friend (Othello) and is dissapointed that although "he been riding with Othello the longest", Casio is the one that gets all the fame.

I chuckled at the way in which Iago describes Casio's music, it made me think about the ongoing debate regarding hip-hop music and how the genre has transformed from being a display of lyric prowess to just being about what gets the crowd going. As a hip-hop lover I couldn't help but agree with Iago and question Casio's talent in relation to what is being presented as hip-hop music.

As the production progresses we see Iago manipulate and use his words to create tension between the rest of the characters. Staying true to the tragedy that Shakespeare wrote: everyone dies. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the production. It was easy to follow and helped me understand what Shakespeare was saying in the original script. My favourite moments have to be when the four main characters played other roles, even the female roles. It illustrated the diverse experience of the cast because they were able to change voices during the production that if one was facing the other way they would think other characters had been introduced to the play. 

Without giving much away, we would award Othello: The Remix 8/10 for the cast's energy and ability to convey Shakespeare's script in a modern manner. The show is still on (16th and 18th of March) and tickets are available here:

Othello: The Remix (Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland) -

Othello: The Remix (Vodafone Events Centre, Manakau, Auckland) -

A White Night - Auckland city coming alive

On Saturday, as a treat to ourselves and a change of scenery we decided to attend a few of the 100+ events hosted by Auckland Arts Festival. It was an experience walking through the different suburbs in Auckland and enjoying art displays in their various forms. For the evening we started off with a bite at Verona while we bopped out heads to Mr Big Stuff and friends on the decks. 

After enjoying a boil-up at Verona, we headed to Silo Park to watch Fijian dance and spoken word. Excerpts of FOR/GIVE/ME/VETI were performed by Jahra Rager, Ula, Eddie and Darren. Below is a clip of the full performance.

When the performance at Silo Park was finished we strolled around the markets then decided to head over to Parnell Road. As we walked along Parnell Road we commented on how we did't know about these galleries even though we have driven and walked on Parnell Road many times. It was interesting walking into the galleries and seeing the various street installations. My personal favourite has to be the selfie-photo booth.

As we enter the last week of Auckland Arts Festival, I urge all art and life lovers to attend one of the shows. We are looking forward to Fela! Visit the event calendar for more details about the shows.

Creative Hub - Art lover's mashup

GIVEAWAY: Fela! The Concert