The world will be delivered to Auckland’s doorstep in March 2016 in an exceptional line-up of theatre, dance, music, circus and cabaret announced by Auckland Arts Festival today.

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From 2 – 20 March, Auckland will play host to hundreds of artists and companies from around the globe who will descend upon the region to take part in the country’s premier annual festival of New Zealand and international  arts.

Events will get off to a sizzling start when French fire masters Carabosse ignite thousands of flames and set the lower slopes of Auckland Domain alight with the magical Fire Garden. Part after-dark dreamscape, part steam punk playground, the Fire Garden will set imaginations aglow and reveal an extraordinary flickering art work never seen in the city before. Shared by families, friends, lovers or the plain curious, the Fire Garden’s golden glow will leave a warmth and intimacy across the landscape long after the final flame has been extinguished.

Another New Zealand first, The James Plays make their Festival debut, bringing to life the turbulent 15th century reigns of James I, James II and James III of Scotland. Described by the UK’s Guardian as ‘Better than Shakespeare’, and by The Telegraph as ‘the most elating things you’ll see all year,’ The James Plays are event theatre at its most exciting.

Also a must-see is m¡longa, the unique collaboration between tango superstar Nelida Rodriguez de Aure and genius choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Babel). A heady and seductive mix of Latin aesthetics and state-of-the art video design, m¡longa features no fewer than 12 virtuoso dancers and an on-stage five piece orquesta tipica,to transport audiences to the sass and hubbub of the streets and nightlife of Buenos Aires.

Symphonic folk on a grand scale will be unleashed in the sweet surroundings of The Civic when superlative singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens performs as part of Auckland Arts Festival 2016. With a virtuosic eight-piece band, Stevens will perform the beautiful, symphonic folk suites of his latest album alongside upbeat favourites in this visual and sonic extravaganza. Another festival favourite, the American singer-songwriter John Grant makes his New Zealand debut with his Icelandic band pumping out new wave, electronic, industrial rock and pastoral chamber-pop that really gets at your inner Viking.  

Making its very first staging in Aotearoa, John Adams’ modern masterpiece, Nixon in China brings together a stunning cast in a Festival co-production with Auckland Philharmonia and New Zealand Opera. The truly international cast from China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand – including Simon O’Neill and Madeline Pierard -  are directed by newly announced Arts Laureate Sara Brodie (Don Giovanni).

Auckland Arts Festival artistic director,  Carla van Zon writes, ‘The arts are like a waharoa to a new world, a gateway to welcome you to different cultures, art forms, generations and beliefs.’ So it’s fitting that diversity is at the heart of the 2016 Festival programme, and audiences can cross cultures without ever leaving Auckland.

Neil Ieremia’s and Swee Boon Kuik’s Changes 變, performed by Black Grace, sees two cultures co-exist and create side-by-side, while Nina Nawalowalo’s Marama is a beautiful, breathtaking visual theatre piece told by women of the south Pacific.

Sophocles meets South Korea in The Chorus; Oedipus, a highly original theatre work from Seoul’s LG Arts Centre, using a thoroughly modern mix of music, dance and drama to relate the Greek tragedy Oedpius Rex as music theatre for today. And 2,500 years of oratory from a plethora of different cultures and contexts more than stands the test of time when Flemish artist Valentijn Dhaenens shape shifts, croons and loops his way through history in the jaw-dropping theatrical tour-de-force BigMouth.

Regardless of where you live in Auckland, the Festival’s Close Encounters series will be returning to a neighbourhood near you. Experience the joy that is Noreum Machi – a five piece new-wave Korean music band, in pop-up performances throughout the city; the award-winning adaptation of Wolf Erlbruch’s children’s book Duck, Death and the Tulip – a gentle puppet show about a duck and his mysterious friend – tours to Takapuna’s PumpHouse Theatre; while the equally family-friendly Waves – the beguiling story of Elizabeth Moncello who learns to swim with the help of fish, penguins and other amphibious friends – travels to Piha and Waiheke. Huffington Post’s ‘Favourite Female Comedian’ Desiree Burch takes a funny and inclusive look at the scary and divisive subject of race in Tar Baby at New Lynn’s TE POU Theatre; and Jamie McCaskill’s gripping piece of documentary theatre, Not in our Neighbourhood, brings the voices and experiences of domestic abuse survivors and support workers to Te Oro in Glen Innes.       

The concept of circus takes on new meanings at Auckland Arts Festival 2016. 360 ALLSTARS replaces acrobats with breakdancers, jugglers with a basketball freestyler and unicycles with a world champion BMX flatlander, to connect the street with the elite, delivering a radical urban circus.

No festival is complete without a classic big top however, and at The New Zealand Herald Festival Garden  you’ll find the Circus Ronaldo Big Top Tent, home to the topsy-turvy pizza-flipped word of La Cucina dell’arte, where sixth generation Belgian circus brothers, Danny and David Ronaldo, serve up hearty helpings of slapstick, vaudeville and traditional commedia.

Kitty corner to the Big Top  and fresh from sell-out seasons in Berlin, New York and Sydney, the world premiere of Meow Meow’s ‘kamikaze cabaret’ Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, takes top billing at the spectacular Spiegeltent, home to a hugely diverse and unique line-up of top international and local musicians and performers.

Hot on the heels of last festival’s sell-out Lady Sings the Blues, Tami Neilson, Bella Kalolo and Anna Coddington pay tribute to the iconic Dusty Springfield in Dust to Dusky, while other Spiegeltent highlights include Grammy-nominated New Yorker, Emily King, the brilliant and batty Shooglenifty and the homegrown talents of Don McGlashan and Shayne Carter. Plus a drag diva or two!

Back by popular demand, RAW returns in 2016 with  audience sessions of theatrical projects handpicked and presented at different stages of development:  Scotty Morrison and Inside Out Production’s Hinemoa and Tutanekai, the Jason Te Kare-directed Cell Fish; and rehearsed readings of Silo Theatre’s Black Tree Bridge by Chye-Ling Huang, and Ahi Karunaharan’s sweeping saga TEA.

The visual arts’ night of nights – the iconic White Night – will see one Saturday evening lit up until midnight by free exhibitions and visual arts installations across Auckland.  The Festival’s wide-ranging visual arts programme also includes a series of stunning exhibitions, including the New Zealand premiere of the secret and magic world of Kathrin Simon’s Full Moon Kingdom; Aotea Squared – members of TMD Crew’s live urban Pacific art installation in the Festival Garden; and more than 100 works by photographer Fiona Pardington in A Beautiful Hesitation, at Auckland Art Gallery.

Carla van Zon says she and the Festival team are delighted and proud to offer a festival programme that reaches out to all audiences, crossing cultures, art forms and generations.

“Our 2016 festival is a small gem that we hope will offer pleasure, challenge, spectacle and insights,” says Ms van Zon.

“It showcases new works, traditional works and works that are unabashedly populist; many are by artists reflecting the city we live in.”

Ms van Zon says of special significance is the Festival’s World Premiere Season, featuring a roll-call of New Zealand artists, including Te Pō –a surreal theatrical work by Carl Bland and starring Carl, George Henare and Andrew Grainger, and punctuated by songs of Māori show bands; the one act opera Brass Poppies, by Ross Harris and Vincent O’Sullivan (Requiem for the Fallen); and John Psathas’ No Man’s Land – an unprecedented large scale work incorporating 150 musicians from around the globe, performing both live and virtually.

She says the Festival also focuses on introducing as many young people to the arts as possible.

“The future of our world is in their hands; and in a fast changing society the arts help us to reach out across borders, barriers and cultures to understand each other better. The arts tell us about ourselves and express the diversity of the community that we live in.”


The full Auckland Arts Festival 2016 programme can be found at

For more information, interviews and images contact Meredith McGrath, PR and Media Manager, at [email protected] +64 09 374 0317 +64 274473247

About Auckland Arts Festival

Auckland Arts Festival is Auckland’s premier festival of New Zealand and international arts. The globally recognised event celebrates people and culture, and showcases the unrivalled location, cultural diversity and vibrant energy of New Zealand’s largest city.

Previously a biannual event, from 2016 the Festival will be held annually.

Nearly 1.4 million people have attended the Festivals to date.

Auckland Arts Festival is governed by the Auckland Festival Trust. Trustees are John Judge (Chair); Rick Carlyon; Beatrice Faumina ONZM; Sarah Judkins; Tarun Kanji; Margaret Kawharu MNZM; Jim Moser; Fred Ward.

The Trust receives core funding from Auckland Council through the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act, and Creative New Zealand through the Toi Totara Haemata programme.

Significant support for AAF 2016 is received from Foundation North, Pub Charity, NZ Community Trust, The Lion Foundation.