More than 50 shows and events ranging from raunchy adults-only cabaret to in-depth discussions among the literary intelligentsia will be staged in verdant surrounds when the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival returns in February.
Now in its 20th year, the annual festival is firmly established as the Waikato’s premier arts event. Always enthusiastically embraced by culture vultures from around the region and beyond, the outdoor festival showcases a selection of works from the Waikato’s creative community and a hand-picked crop of national and international touring shows at 20 venues within the 54-hectare gardens.
The line-up for the 2019 festival, which will run from February 20 to March 3, was revealed at a special launch event at the gardens on Wednesday afternoon attended by dozens of dignitaries, local politicians, artists, actors and other creators.
Theatre, music, dance, circus, comedy and literature all feature in the programme designed to appeal to all ages and budgets, with the headline act being a show called Deluxe Deluxe,produced by the Australian cabaret company Strut & Fret.
Scottish-based folk duo Jamie McClennan and Emily Smith; Italian jazz violinist Luca Ciarla; popular Hamilton duo Looking for Alaska; and Aria-nominated Australian duo Mama Kin Spender are among the musical acts performing.
The Pacific Crystal Palace will play host to comedy stars Pax Assadi, Melanie Bracewell, Wilson Dixon and 7 Days stalwart Ben Hurley.
Another show is The Case of Katherine Mansfield, a one-woman show starring Fay Van Der Meulen as the titular writer.
Van Der Meulen, who was one of writer-director Louise Keenan’s drama students at Morrinsville College, won the Up and Coming Actor award at the 2016 Norfolk Island Theatre Festival and has recently completed her second year at Victoria University, where she is studying towards attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Theatre studies.
Van Der Meulen and Keenan had often talked about doing a one-woman show together. During a search for appropriate scripts, Van Der Meulen happened on The Case of Katherine Mansfield by New Zealand playwright Catherine Downes, which delves into the thoughts and aspirations of the young Mansfield as she searches for her voice, individuality, health and freedom.
The pair agreed it would be a perfect piece to mark the 125th suffrage celebrations in New Zealand and under the auspices of Keenan’s newly formed theatre company Cheeky Pukeko Productions, the play was staged for short seasons in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu in August and September.
Comedienne and raconteur Penny Ashton will bring her show Olive Copperbottom to the Medici Court. The one-woman production is described as Oliver! crossed with Blackadder, with a feisty feminist twist.
Another show tipped as a must-see is The Creamery, which combines live music, theatre, dance and red hot wax. It is described as a tempestuous tale of two rival cheese makers – “passions boil over as the curds are separated from the whey”.
The festival programme also features the return of much-loved annual events such as Opera at Twilight and the Sunset Symphony.
Tickets go on sale from Thursday at ticketek.co.nz.