The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

It’s almost that glorious point in Wellington’s calendar when the New Zealand Festival  (23 February – 18 March), the Performance Arcade (23-25 Feb, 1-4 March) the Pride Festival (24 February – 10 March) and the NZ Fringe Festival Wellington  (2-24 March) are all on at the same time. I love it for the exciting mix of performances and installations we can see – local performers on the same stages as international ones, and newcomers mixing it up with established practitioners.

The Performance Arcade opens tonight (sneaky!) at 6pm. Lap Strap by Steffi Weismann  starts at 7:30pm. (I’m so intrigued. A wearable toolbelt of audio equipment? Excellent.) On Friday there are events from lunchtime and live music from 5:30pm. The festival’s ‘special architectural arrangement of shipping containers’ provides an exciting space for experimental performance art and installations. Many of these focus on contextual relationships between the performer, the audience and the space.

The New Zealand Festival opens this Friday night at 7pm with free, whānau-friendly Kupe a community extravaganza on the waterfront. As waka sail into the harbour near Taranaki Wharf a 1000 strong group will welcome them with a haka that references the arrival of Kupe, and the two taniwha of Wellington Harbour. There’s also a massed choir performing music by Warren Maxwell. (Many other shows open on Friday night as well.Kupe is the first in a series of events that make up A Waka Odyssey. Part two Kupe Landing  is in Petone on Saturday when waka hourua and waka taua will land allowing us to get up close and personal with the waka and their crews. There’ll be live music, DJs, performances, and food stalls. Part three Kupe Dreaming  features a collection of events celebrating our place in the Pacific.

Pride Festival welcomes us with Out in the Park at Waitangi Park on Saturday 11am – 4pm. The queer fair celebrates with free entertainment from drag queens and kings, singers, dancers, and comedians! The festival concludes with the Pride Parade on Sunday 10 March. In between there are panels and workshops and classes and public talks and mass and shows. Some of the shows are also featuring as part of the NZ Fringe Festival Wellington.

This festival  welcomes all comers You can get a taste of a whole bunch of events with The Great Fringe Cabaret Showcase on 1 March. It promises a ‘night of organised chaos’ which sounds like fun. There are twenty-two free events and many more for koha or low-ish cost tickets. (A quick note about koha shows: koha is a gift to the performer/s for the work they have put in to the show. It’s not a gold coin. It’s a bunch of gold coins. Give generously if you can.)

What are you looking forward to?


Review: Aunty

by Jess on February 14, 2018 in Comedy, review, Theatre

AUNTY is billed as a family BBQ, and it certainly delivers. Half the opening night crowd was clearly back again after the first season, which adds to the ‘new partner at family Christmas’ vibe for first timers. Who hasn’t met a boisterous relation and silently wondered, ‘can I laugh? Am I going to be next?’

Yes, and quite possibly.

Johanna Cosgrove does a masterful job turning the theatre into the home of the matriarch of a large, chaotic family. Much like a dinner with the eagle-eyed, filterless relative we all know, love, and fear, there’s no hiding down the back at this show.

AUNTY moves from hilarity to awkwardness to profundity with each wee glass of wine. To paraphrase Tolstoy, ‘every family is dysfunctional in its own way.’ Cosgrove will have you pondering your own family’s quirks, memories, and traditions.

AUNTY is on at BATS until Saturday 17 February. Forget to bring a plate at your own peril.


Review: Body Double

by Jess on November 15, 2017 in review, Theatre

Female desire, that most elusive of quarries. We should be chaste, but not prudish. Experienced, but not too slutty. Up for anything. Well, not that. Or that. Maybe just don’t talk about it?

It’s enough to make a girl want to take a vow of celibacy and retire to a cave with a half-dozen rescued cats.

Enter Body Double, a new work at BATS that explores the silence, contradictions, joys, and shame around women’s sexuality and desire. Watch as two straight women explore their own desire in vivid, awkward, hilarious, and moving detail. It’s as though Karin McCracken and Julia Croft are making up for two lifetimes of being told to shut up with an hour-long show. It’s an emotional rollercoaster (much like being a sexual woman in modern society), to say the least.

The stage looks like a classic interpretation of heaven – all flowing white gauze and a fuzzy blanket that begs to be patted – until you notice the floor is covered in plastic tarp, as though ready for the slipperiest of orgies. Virgins and whores, indeed.

McCracken and Croft move seamlessly from cringeworthy tales of disastrous hookups to secret fantasies to rape culture to faking orgasms to the absurdity of media, all bound by an accessible discussion of just how much of our understanding of female desire is socially constructed and performed. If we want romance and tenderness, it’s because we’re conditioned that way. But if we buck the stereotype, are we just playing right into the patriarchy’s hands? Are any of our desires really ours? Does it matter?

While the performers are undoubtably brilliant, the show’s use of live video deserves a special mention. You can revel in the enthralling tech to distract from the sinking realisation that you might be the unnamed partner in that embarrassing reenactment. There’s something compelling about watching the carefully curated version of a scene projected on a screen even as you can see the performers in their entirety. Even when we know what we’re experiencing is a construction, that doesn’t make it any less real.

Without giving away too much, this show combines two of my great loves – chicken and sex. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe in relatable horror. Truly something for everyone.

If you are a woman or have ever wanted to fuck a woman, you too should see it. If you’ve ever caught yourself intellectualising the problematic-ness of literally everything you’ve ever loved, you’ll like Body Double. If you are currently fucking someone (of any gender – let’s be real, we are universally bad at talking about sex), you should see it together, and then stick around BATS, have a drink, and discuss your own desires.

That’s the only way we ever move forward, so kudos to McCracken and Croft for giving us so much juicy fodder for that conversation.

Body Double is on at BATS until 25 November and again at the Auckland Arts Festival at the end of March next year.

All photos by Tabitha Arthur.

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Review: Zest Food Tours

by Jess on October 31, 2017 in Uncategorised

An eating tour of Wellington? That’s basically every weekend in my life, but it hadn’t occurred to me to try a structured one. Enter Zest Food Tours, who run eating extravaganzas masquerading as walking tours. Get your culture and history while also stuffing your face? Yes please.

We took a condensed sampler version of the Capital Tastes tour – stopping briefly at some of the locales to talk about what we’d eat there instead of actually eating – but still had a solid couple of hours meandering the city. The real version is three and a half hours of intense snacking and leisurely strolling, rain or shine. 

The target market for tours like this is usually tourists, but our guide had so many tidbits and factoids about Wellington that even our group of experienced eaters and bloggers learned new things. Heather is bursting with love for Wellington’s food scene, so the tour feels more like a day with an enthusiastic geek friend than a stuffy tour. She happily ventured on tangents based on what we knew or what we were interested in, so there’s definitely something for everyone. 

We started with coffee and a scone at Mojo, where we heard the origin story of how Wellington became Graceland for coffee aficionados. We then wandered on along the waterfront and Civic Square, and chatted about architecture, history, and earthquakes on the way to Gelissimo, where we sampled some of the wares while learning their history and the difference between ice cream and gelato. 

The Zest team has put the time into building relationships with the establishments they visit, so you feel like a warmly-welcomed friend of a regular instead of a pesky tourist. Case in point – we happened across Graham, the owner, as we were sampling gelato at Gelissimo. He immediately invited us into the back kitchen (thus ticking ‘Wonka-style ice cream factory tour’ off my bucket list) to show us where the magic happens, and let us taste a few experiments from the freezer. 

(Pro tip: always ask a producer about their favourite. Chances are they’ll give you another sample.)

The tour includes a detour for cheese and accoutrements at Moore Wilson’s, a nice way to showcase products from the wider region. We wrapped up in the Hannah’s Laneway, where the full tour would sample their way through the Leeds Street Bakery, Fix & Fogg, and the Wellington Chocolate factory. The guide would typically send their charges off with a list of personalised recommendations for further eating, but we just swapped stories of our favourite haunts. 

The standard tour is a solid half day of exploring (longer if you go for the Gourmet package and get a two-course wine-matched lunch at the end), and naturally lends itself to continuing on to one of Wellington’s many bars or cafes, so it would be a great way to entertain visiting family members (or get someone out of the house while you decorate for a surprise party). The walking bit is definitely secondary to the eating, so while you should wear comfy shoes, you don’t need to be especially fit. 

Zest will tailor the tour to any tastes, so it could be a fun activity for a pre-wedding do, corporate team building exercise, or birthday party. As Heather rattled off some of the themed tours they’d done in the past, I got the impression she’d welcome the challenge of creating a tour for a really specific set of interests, so bring her your pickiest relative.

All in all, it’s a delicious reminder of just how much this town has to offer. I left wanting to sign up to become a tour guide.  The $185 price tag may feel a bit spendy, but the intimate size (capped at eight people) and personal guide make it more of a treat yo’self kind of day than following around a robot guide waving a flag and reciting a script. Sometimes, when you’re overwhelmed by options, it’s nice to let someone else make choices for you. Also, there’s a lot of food. 

Recommended for venturing beyond your usuals, or introducing new arrivals to the joys of eating in Wellington. Or just getting your visiting family out of your hair for a few hours. 

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