Whangārei Fringe is back: let’s get weird!
Over 17 days and 21 venues, there are more than 120 weird and wonderful events to discover – many of them free, koha or low-cost. Half the events are by Te Tai Tokerau locals, and some top-notch performers are coming from around the country too.
With so much to choose from, it can be difficult to decide what to see. Do you want to laugh? Be scared? Get out and about? We've got you covered. Here is a guide to some of the festival’s highlights.
EDGE OF YOUR SEAT
Sci-fi drama ALONE has won over audiences (and collected awards) for its gripping tale of feminism, climate change, David Bowie, and whether tomato sauce belongs on instant noodles. The world premiere of The Wedding blends gothic horror, clown work and physical comedy to tell the story of an ill-fated wedding in distant Latnovia. In Scary Stories, Scary Pictures, local author Michael Botur reads from his new horror fiction collection while Shane Evans creates a horror-inspired artwork. And Waiting for Checkout seats actors around a table for the world-premiere reading of a new play set on an island, in a horrible hostel where no-one knows the check-out time.
Award-winning international cabaret and burlesque performer Jojo Bellini sashays into town with her comedy cabaret Bondage Queen Sings the Hits, celebrating body and sex positivity, and 80s music. Funkyray Cabaret won two awards at the 2020 Whangārei Fringe, and tickets to this night of circus, flow-art, aerial, burlesque, dance and more should sell out. Pat Goldsack’s Swingers Club and Brothel is a sexy, silly audience with an 87-yearold grandmother who has a chequered past. Then there’s Comedic Lube Wrestling – the organisers say it will be (somewhat) educational as well as funny. Seeing will be believing.
MADE FOR WALKING
Grab some comfy shoes and discover creativity and theatre on the streets of Whangārei. The Drifting Room’s creator describes it as a walking bus for the curious, like wearing a cloak of invisibility, as you drift around Whangārei’s CBD inside a mobile theatre – it only fits eight people per show, so sign up soon. George Fenn, aka Router Sidewalker, lets the audience choose the direction of travel as he tells tales about the history and future of local landmarks.
Sarah-Jane Blake, who co-created 2020’s A Fantastical Journey by Boat, returns with (Im)possible Promenade, a trail of surreal, augmented-reality curiosities around the Hātea Loop that are accessed by QR codes. And MD Gallery is the starting point for a guided Evening Tour of Westside Galleries.
The Northpower Hātea Me Hearties (Oct 2, 11am–2pm) free buskers festival, stretching from the Canopy Bridge to Hihiaua Cultural Centre, is Fringe’s biggest party. Come for the music and the mermaid parade, stay for the mud kitchen, circus antics, community quilt workshop and more. Check Fringe social media for updates if the weather looks dodgy.
Circus Kumarani’s youth group goes galactic with circus and music at Lost in Space, and kids can learn circus skills that weekend at the Kumarani-run Circus Workshops. Theatre offerings include a charming local collab between Company of Giants and Evan Heasman (aka Soju Shots) called The Living Forest, Northland Youth Theatre’s gentle retelling of The Happy Prince, and a cheeky clown with her toy friends in The Tiny Show. There’s music for young ‘uns at Whangārei Central Library (Oct 8, 10 and 11), and Fringe the City lights up Pūtahi Park with an evening performance by Fire Frenzy, music and more free Fringe fun.
Verbatim play Barrier Ninja offers a rare window into the experiences of nine people in the health system, with laughs and insights, via Paparoa resident Julie Edwards. In Climate Imaginaries, scientist-creative Matt de Boer and multimedia artist Kim Newall create improvised sound and visual projections that offer more positive visions of transition through the climate crisis.
The uber-talented Morgana O’Reilly (Housebound, Mean Mums, INSiDE) bares all – literally – in her uplifting solo show Stories About My Body; Adam Rohe tells the story of his transition (and making a doco about it) in Man Lessons: The Live Show; and Hokianga’s Sarah Macombee and guests perform songs from Put Up and Shut Up!, about a teenage girl forced to give up her baby.
LAUGH YOUR SOCKS OFF
Down an alleyway, through a nondescript door, lurks the new McLeod’s Fringe After Dark – the R18 venue for most of the festival’s comedy. Expect to see the likes of Brendhan Lovegrove, Ray O’Leary and Becky Umbers, The Awkward Indian Guy Act, The Project and 7 Days warm-up act Steven Lyons, 2023 Billy T nominee Jack Ansett: Triathloser, and other local and national comedians competing for your belly laughs. Tom Sainsbury’s Rumour Has It plays up the hill at ONEONESIX.
UM, WHAT THE?!
The joy of Fringe is that sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Or even when you saw it, you’re not quite sure what just happened. Mermaid Bait – The Elevator Tour involves local band Mermaid Bait leading people around town like the Pied Piper on a musical tour of elevators. The Imaginarium, an installation in the window of MD Gallery, invites people to be voyeurs of unexpected and changing moments. And there’s no script for Access, just actor Hamish Annan and an invitation to sit opposite him to explore human connection and emotions.
Folk lovers are well served, with mini-folk festival What the Folk, Whangārei!, the gutsy harmonies and storming fiddle of Laldy (with returning Whangārei-ite Rachel Evans), and folk-punk and folk-rock by Cicada. Expect originals and high-energy covers from mixed-ability band Mutes from Mars, and rock/reggae/punk/ska dynamism from Kyle Fury & the Rei Guns. Local singer-songwriters Nina Lane and Tui Mamaki (The Moon and the Machine) shine, and Maggie Cocco’s Science for Sociopaths premieres the next iteration of Cocco’s collaborative performance.
FOR ART’S SAKE
Local galleries offer plenty of thought-provoking, whimsical work, such as: the word-based works of Sloganoff; feline friendships in Cats & Their People – Affectionate Portraits of Furship; exploring virtual reality in The Open Virtual Studio; the annual Quarry Ceramics Awards and Exhibition; and action figures when they’re off duty in The Secret Life of Inaction Heros (now in the window of Paperbag Princess).
This is only a fraction of what’s on offer! So pick up a programme or check out the full line-up online, where you can search by genre and date. Book online at eventfinda.co.nz or buy tickets in person at the Fringe box office (ONEONESIX, 116 Bank St), 10am–1pm Tuesday to Friday during the festival.
Shows are already selling out, so book soon!
Story originally printed in Savvy, The Northern Advocate, 1 October 2022.