News & Reviews

Check out insights into what’s happening around Christchurch and reviews of the latest theatre, music and movies. Want to share your own opinions? Feel free to leave a comment.

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The New Zealand Opera returns to the Theatre Royal with another extremely impressive production in Verdi’s La traviata. Sheer audiovisual spectacle from the opening moments to the tragic finale, it’s a glittering night out in the suitably majestic surroundings of the Isaac Theatre Royal. The company continues to operate with what are probably the highest stage production values in the country. Opening in courtesan Violetta’s residence in Paris, the stage is essentially spare but festooned with a dazzling array of chandeliers and drapery and houses an enormous glass box that at turns becomes reflective or transparent through clever use of lighting, and impresses with its sheer towering size alone. Despite such a magnificent edifice and surroundings though, what dominates the stage is Madeline Pierard’s Violetta, dazzling in a red dress and very much the life of the party. Living a life of enjoyable if shallow glamour as a kept woman for...
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The Blue Man Group finally arrives in Christchurch as a fully-fledged international entertainment phenomenon; with permanent shows running in several cities and multiple touring groups on the go most of the time, there’s blue men all over the place. With three of the curious, almost alien-like bald blue fellows currently holed up in the Theatre Royal until the 3rd of July, the city now has the chance to see the rather indescribable show that has wowed crowds all over the world. The Blue Man Group experience is a mixture of energetic percussion on unusual instruments, technical wizardry, audience participation, silent comedy and circus-like tricks. At the heart of it all are the multi-talented performers that are the blue men themselves, mute but wonderfully expressive, and each able to get a reaction out of a packed Theatre Royal with a turn of the head or a raised eyebrow. Their skill set...
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Transforming Horncastle Arena into the magical and imaginary world of Quidam – thought up by a bored and ignored young girl – is a big ask, but with 20 years of honing their craft behind them, Cirque du Soleil drops you right up smack in the middle of this ethereal ‘hood. On the eve of retiring their long-running world tour (right here in Christchurch!) Québec’s finest are not so much going out with a bang, but rather a super nova with this spectacular performance. At the forefront of pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the human body, Quidam blends a rich line of comedy with outrageous costuming, some slightly sinister characters, ridiculous feats of strength and gravity defying aerobatics with pulse quickening, heart-in-the-mouth, cringe-inducing moments and haunting song in what is quite possibly one of the best night’s entertainment going. With all the action accompanied by a live...
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If you think the body is a remarkable instrument – you ain’t seen nothing yet’. Christchurch Arts Festivals’ breath-taking entry A Simple Space is exactly what it says on the box – black floor matting, a few lights and up close and personal with some serious acrobatics by way of the tremendous talents of the aptly-named seven-piece Australian circus troupe Gravity & Other Myths.There’s no special effects, elaborate costumes, gimmicks or circus-type frills and, occasionally, no shirts in this pared-back and relentless 60 minutes of gravity-defying human towers, dread-inducing tumbles and falls, ridiculous feats of strength and balance, strip-speed-skipping and taking ‘I could do that standing on my head’ to a whole other level!The deft, dexterous performers totally own the stage, and at times there’s so much going on as bodies are substituted for jungle gyms, skipping ropes, musical instruments and Frogger-style landing pads that it’s hard to keep up...
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You’ll never look at your garden the same after witnessing the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s glorious adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The epic battle between the Fairy King Oberon (MacLean Hopper) and Queen Titania (Tonia Looker) plays out on the stunningly beautiful, magic fairy-dust sprinkled Isaac Theatre Royal stage; now a luminous, ethereal, shimmering elven landscape, courtesy of the talented Tracy Grant Lord (who also rocked some serious fairy cred with the costumes, which left many of the younger female audience pining after the butterfly-wing-delicate ensembles) kept suitably mystical by Kendall Smith’s lighting. Liam Scarlett’s seamless choreography with a youthful bent beautifully combines moments of wit with melodrama, while showcasing the stunning techniques of the talented cast en-pointe as they flit, sweep and float across the stage. Standouts include Kohei Iwamoto’s career-defining lightning in a jar performance of Puck –  as if the character had come to life...
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The Royal New Zealand Ballet seems to have a major hit on its hands after the sell-out world premiere of The Vodafone Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Wellington on the 20th of August – good news for Christchurch audiences with the production heading to the Isaac Theatre Royal from 27-29 August, to be accompanied by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. The brand new ballet by 29 year old British choreographer Liam Scarlett, one of the most sought-after choreographers in the world today, seems to have won over critics and audience members alike. “The magic and delight never let up. This is an absolutely splendid production of which choreographer, Liam Scarlett and the Royal New Zealand Ballet can be justifiably proud” says dance critic Ann Hunt from the Dominion Post. “One can see why he (Scarlett) is the current wunderkind of British ballet.” Jennifer Shennan noted that “The dance rises...
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Finding beauty in the discarded and vast emptiness, Christchurch artist Gail Batchelor’s upcoming exhibition Wearing Coats at Qb Studios features a fascinating collection of lyrical abstract paintings and monochromatic collage prints. This thought-provoking series, based on the peeling hulls of derelict fishing boats Batchelor found in Moeraki, is inspired by the many layered and broken surfaces of these retired vessels, their endless trips out to sea, and their quieter times of rejuvenation and repair. Utilising enamel paint to create vibrancy and resilience, the pieces are canvassed on wooden boards or aluminium sheeting. Batchelor deliberately layered and sanded back the works achieving the complexity of texture and colours reflective of the many hands that have worked on these boats, and of the accidental spills, the patches, and the continual cycle of wear and maintenance over time in one of nature’s most beautiful and mercurial environments. Also on exhibition will be prints...
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The gilded interior of the restored Isaac Theatre Royal is an appropriate setting for the New Zealand Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s sorrowful tale of a devoted Japanese woman, Butterfly, who chooses entirely the wrong man to fall in love with – caddish US naval officer Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. This tragic affair of the heart unfolds on a visually simple but truly striking set of Japanese screen doors that seamlessly slide, fly and adjust to form a puzzle-box like series of dazzling interiors and partitions. It’s magnificently lit throughout, and behind it all a layered backdrop of cherry trees is artistically vibrant enough that you’re in danger of having it distract you away from the actual show. Not for long though, because the lavishly-costumed international and national cast brings its A-game to the performance, led by Anne Sophie Duprels as Butterfly. The French star has played the role all...
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The Court Theatre’s new play Niu Sila offers a couple of dynamic theatrical team-ups; firstly between New Zealand playwrights Dave Armstrong and Oscar Kightley, and then between actors Greg Cooper and Semu Filipo, who take the task of bringing their creation to life entirely upon their shoulders. The play focuses on the friendship of two ordinary New Zealand kids growing up in the 80s – Samoan Ioane and Pakhea/Palagi Peter, and the ways in which 1) the differences in their family cultures affect their ongoing relationship; and 2) the differences in their family cultures don’t actually matter a damn. With the story tracing Peter and Ioane’s lives from a shared first day at school to middle age, the two actors must not only convincingly play their characters at different ages, but also take on all the other roles of the people in Peter and Ioane’s lives – parents, schoolmates, relations,...
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One Man, Two Guvnors, as directed by Ross Gumbley, is a hilarious comedy that will keep you laughing throughout and all the way home. An adaption of 18th century Italian play The Servant of Two Masters, the British comedy is set in the charming and scandalous UK sea-side town of Brighton in the early 1960s. Full of flamboyant attire and colourful characters, the slap-stick comedy and pantomime routines were seamlessly delivered by the professional and talented cast. Tom Trevella was a stand-out in the lead role of Francis Henshall, a simple Brighton local who finds himself in the predicament of serving two masters. His superb acting, combined with his comic-wit, bought this character to life. The plot, which stems from the trickiness of Henshall’s situation, is light-hearted in its delivery of themes of love, jealously and panic, using contemporary jokes and music. From cockney gangsters to bumbling aristocracy, the play paints...