Hayley Sproull stars in Night of the Living Dead. Photo / Toaki Okano.
More than 80 shows, including 14 world premieres, will make up the lineup of the 2022 Auckland Arts Festival, which will likely serve as a welcome respite for an audience hungry for live theater.
The annual festival returns to venues across Auckland in March with hopes of an uninterrupted run, after the first Covid outbreak saw the 2020 season canceled, while an outbreak in Auckland earlier this year disrupted the this year’s festival.
Despite two unhappy years, the artistic director of the Auckland Arts Festival, Shona McCullagh, said the arts sector remained “optimistic, tenacious and determined”.
“We’re all desperate to connect, we’re completely past Zooms. We do a lot of risk management planning, but it’s full steam ahead.”
She said the festival will follow all government guidelines and recommendations, although current red restrictions will allow shows to take place with a small audience.
The busy program, which includes seven New Zealand premieres, will support around 700 artists and more than 100 team and host staff, McCullagh said.
“A festival is an opportunity for us to reward and reward these artists with the incredible generosity they have shown during times of lockdown, really supporting us to get through this, so I look forward to a chance for people to return this generosity. “
Festival productions that had been postponed include Alatini, the latest production from the minds behind sold-out sensations Sinarella and The Wizard of Otahuhu, and a “Live Cinema” performance of Night of the Living Dead with Hayley Sproull.
Auckland Theater Company, which has canceled three productions due to the lockdown, heads to the festival with a local interpretation of Shakespeare, Lysander’s Aunty, while the Royal New Zealand Ballet presents Venus Rising, three pieces by three choreographers.
The popular Civic Club season of the 2021 festival, where audiences sit on the stage of the iconic Civic Theater, returns with lineup that includes the Topp Twins marking 40 years of performance, Fred Award winner James Nokise and the commission local cabaret show Truth and Mensonges.
The latter is linked to the festival’s theme, the truth, and McCullagh said it would reflect how “artists are powerful antennas of societal dynamics and the zeitgeist.”
Music is on the agenda with the Town Hall music series, featuring everything from pop stars Broods to a tribute to soul icon Bill Withers, while the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra returns to its basics with Victoria Kelly’s Requiem World Premiere.
With border restrictions still hanging over art festivals, local productions are the focus, but the program still emphasizes diversity, including bilingual Chinese spy comedy Spy Duck, and supergroup local African BLKCTY goes to the festival with The Diaspora.
McCullagh said many international artists are now based in New Zealand, having moved here with expatriate partners who returned home during Covid, increasing the country’s artistic output.
“You would be amazed at what is coming out of Raglan these days! “
• The Auckland Arts Festival runs from March 10-27. Earlybird tickets are on sale now through January 6.