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February 23, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Theatre in ’09

Wellington Theatre is rearing to go in 2009. I’m going to give you the low-down on what you can expect from the six main theatres throughout the year, but the last month has seen Fringe Festival shows dotted all about the city, in the bedroom of a central city home, on the street, in a shack up Holloway road…

Wellington offers a great range of productions every year, with loads of classics as well as new New Zealand works, and on top of all this, it’s New Zealand’s year of The Compleate Workes. The aim is to stage Shakespeare’s entire cannon, in celebration of the 400th year since the sonnets were first printed. Many of the works will be performed in Wellington; even the ‘lost’ play, Cardenio, will see its world premiere at Victoria University.

So far in 09…

The Compleate Workes kicked off with a thirty-something cast staging the great Battle of Agincort in the Amphitheatre outside Studio 77, in Henry V.

There are still a few shows going in the Fringe Festival, which wraps up this week—check out our picks on the Salient website. Those still to come include 2009, A Space Odyssey (an all-woman circus) and the Improvisiors are taking tours of Jackson Street Petone, in Jackson Street, The Short and Incomplete History of a Very Long Street.

The Compleate Workes festival will give us the chance to see more shows outside the theatre (there’s rumor of something to be seen in Parliament’s debating chamber!), but here’s where you can catch a show most nights of the week.

BATS Theatre

My THEA 101 tutor in 2006 told me that BATS should become my second home over the next few years, and a wise man he was. Not only can I be sure to be entertained by up to three fresh energized shows a week, but before and after the performances, it’s just a darn good place to hang out, and one the few spots in Wellington with a candy bar, selling $1 mixtures. BATS does a great job of making live theatre accessible, keeping tickets on par with movie prices. Students can see most shows for just $13.

Most of the BATS programme is made up of premiering New Zealand productions and is home to three festivals of new works each year. You can still catch BATS’s last Fringe show for the year, Wolf’s Lair, until 7 March—and I think you should.

In June, The Young and Hungry Festival of New Works showcases the talents of Wellington’s up and coming (if that’s you, Google them—auditions in March). Later on is the Dance Your Socks Off festival, which is a great chance for dancers and non-dancers to see a range of real dance shows and many theatrical gems that have managed to weasel a season in this slot.

Other shows to watch out for at BATS this year are A Brief History of Helen of Troy, a new American play exploring female sexuality and ‘those shitty teenage years’ and an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler , where this volatile woman of the nineteenth century is thrown into a modern Wellington setting.

Circa Theatre

Beautifully placed on the waterfront, Circa has two performances spaces—Circa One and Circa Two. Circa One hosts the mainstream shows, including many quality productions by the big names (watch out for Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll this month). Meanwhile, Circa Two provides the edgier side, although this year’s line up looks safe and solid. There’s an improvised puppet show with The Improvisors and a “good old fashioned sex romp” with Entertaining Mr Sloane.

While usually I lean toward what’s on at Circa Two, the one to catch my eye this year is Blood Wedding, opening in May on the main stage. Tickets are more expensive here than at BATS, but your best bet is to show up an hour before the show starts for an $18 standby.

Downstage Theatre

We’ll find out in the next few weeks what will be the “Pick of the Fringe,” the season that restages three of the top shows to have hit the Wellington Fringe Festival. There have been some standout productions this year, so this promises something pretty special.

Turbine is on right now: a romantic comedy about windfarming—and human opposition to change.

Further down the line, as part of the Compleate Workes comes Othello Polynesia. The Blackfriars present a palangi Othello in a Polynesian society. The Blackfriars have been making quite a name for themselves in Auckland—I wouldn’t miss them!

Downstage also does cheap student standby tickets on the night.

Gryphon Theatre

Stagecraft presents a range of amateur works each year. Coming up this year is Eve Ensler’s Necessary Targets, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

St James Theatre and The Opera House

These are both beautiful opera houses, where you can catch those big touring productions, including musicals, opera and ballet. Tickets are expensive, but you get to dress up and have a totally different experience than packing three shows into a night at BATS.


About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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