Once a year Wellington goes a little weird. No, not the rugby 7s, that’s mad. Each year the NZ Fringe Festival takes people to the edge of reality with an explosive month of performance theatre modelled on the huge Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Between February and March, from nowhere new plays, musical experiences, filmatic and theatrical experiments, dance and acrobatic displays emerge with energy not seen anywhere else in New Zealand theatre. Around 60-70 shows and exhibits jostle with the normal offerings and delight audiences. While some are very odd and experimental others showcase mainstream new talent and well known entertainers trying something different.
The festival runs every year, while the Arts Festival is at the same time every other year. Some years you can only tell the difference by the ticket prices for the more serious festival.
You can look at the programme on the Fringe website and plan your dramatic poison, some will be in theatres, some in streets and shops and other morsels in strange venues. There have been plays in crowded streets, in actual retail outlets, lifts and even one in boats on the sea entered over the years.
One year the festival was won by a play performed in a hotel room, narrowly beating out a range of original plays and cultural performances. The following year a play on a stage about flatmates that killed their visitors and another performed in a café while the cast served coffee to the audience while the chef chased them with a knife were the talk of the performances.
Plays where an empty floor in a high rise is turned into a working office with Narnia through the door in the stationery cupboard, and everyone is suspended in harnesses are nothing new.
If you want to see where kiwi youth and alternative theatre and entertainment’s heart is, come to the Fringe. The performances are affordable, different, often challenging and, usually, some are just plain odd.