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Metro’s Picks for Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Arts Festival

Some good places to start with the 2024 Festival.

Metro’s Picks for Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Arts Festival

Feb 26, 2024 What's On

This March, the Auckland Arts Festival will ride once more into the city, looking to gently distract us all from the start of autumn and the long slog back to another summer. And it seems to be getting its pre-Covid mojo back, with more than 60 events programmed over the month, kicking off with a mass singalong of “waiata and Kiwi classics” in Aotea Square on 7 March (which, depending on your feelings towards this sort of thing, is either going to be the best or worst thing that could happen to you in 2024). With so many events programmed, please allow us to take some of the decision-making grind out of the equation as we present to you our picks of the fest:


Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett
Spiegeltent, Aotea Square
Wednesday–Saturday, 7–24 March

No one is more dedicated to anything in this world than the AAF is dedicated to putting up the Spiegeltent every year and booking cabaret acts for it. This year, it’s Bernie Dieter, “kabarett superstar of East Berlin”. Expect semi-filthy Weimar-influenced theatrics, songs, jokes, circussy shit and presumably a slightly menacing accent. This place is always a good option if you’re coming out of another show and itching for more, but best avoided if you have a phobia of audience participation. 


Aotea Centre
8-10 March

Australian Dance guru Stephanie Lake is not known for shy and retiring expression in her contemporary dance productions and her show Manifesto is as big and as bold as it gets. Nine full set rock drumkits atop pink silk-draped plinths arc across the stage, deliver driving rhythms that shunt the air around your chest and flood you with endorphins. Nine dancers join them on stage, matching their beats with movements that Australian audiences have described as gravity defying, convulsive, fluid and mesmerizing. Lake has called Manifesto her “Tattoo to Optimism” and it’s set to be one of the Festival’s ‘not to be missed’ events.


Angélique Kidjo
Auckland Town Hall
9 March

Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese singer, songwriter, actress and activist whose music tends to a playful mix of Afrobeat, funk, jazz and traditional West African sounds. She has recorded 16 albums and won five Grammy Awards and the Polar Music Prize, and was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2021. Here, she’ll sing accompanied by kapa haka group Angitū. If, despite that extremely impressive resume, you are still on the fence, a dive into her occasionally insane music video archive on YouTube is well worth your time — start with ‘Batonga’ from Logozo (#37 on Thump magazine’s greatest dance albums of all time) or ‘Agolo’ from Ayé.


Jeff Mills – Tomorrow Comes The Harvest
13 March
Town Hall

The Detroit Techno legend returns to Auckland, this time with his ensemble, Tomorrow Comes The Harvest in which Mills is joined by keyboardist Jean-Phi Dary and tabla drummer Prabhu Eduard. Hints of techno come through in the music but it’s much, much more of an Afrofunk/Jazz show and you should prepare to be standing for much of the show as the music really does demand some sort of bodily movement.


Afrique en Cirque


Afrique en Cirque
The Civic
14–17 March

If Angélique Kidjo leaves you with an insatiable desire for more Afro-jazz, then this is the Guinean circus for you. More on the tumbling end of the circus arts spectrum, Afrique en Cirque by Yamoussa Bangoura (Cirque Éloize) is regularly sold out and should be the most energetic show in this year’s programme. Another note here for audience-participation-phobes: the festival guide hints that there’s a bit of a ‘get up from your seats and dance along’ vibe on this one, but it should be a small price to pay to see contortionist Mohamed Ben Sylla in the flesh (stay away from his Instagram if you get squeamish about that stuff).


An Unfunny* Evening with Tim Minchin and His Piano
Great Hall, Auckland Town Hall
21–22 March

In the dark days before every show on TV was some variation of Jimmy Carr plus other British comedians, every show on TV was some variation of Rove McManus plus other Australian comedians, and perhaps the most enjoyable of that regular rotating cast of Australian entertainers was Tim Minchin. One of the great modern Australians, Minchin is perhaps most notable these days for writing the music for the multi-award-winning musical version of Matilda, and is here playing what looks to be a mix of songs from that, his musical version of Groundhog Day and songs from his own records, likely leaning towards 2020’s Apart Together. He sold out last time he came, so best get in early to get tickets for this one.


SkyCity Theatre
19–24 March

An honest-to-god proper illusionist. There’s been some discussion of how the live magic world has been ruined by all the spoilery how-to videos on YouTube, but it’s high time it came back; and for everyone else who thought there should be more of this stuff after Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2 and that clip of David Blaine freaking out Harrison Ford in his house (google it, it’s wonderful), now is your chance to finally see some decent magic again, in person, in Auckland. This show by Scott Silven was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and wraps the magic up in an autobiographical narrative about growing up in Scotland, using ancient myth as a window into the tricks. If you are anything like me, you will be willing to tolerate this packaging in order to get from one astounding illusion to the next. 


Gravity & Grace
Q Theatre
21–24 March

American writer and sometime New Zealand resident Chris Kraus, before finding success with 1997’s I Love Dick, found failure making a poorly received science fiction movie called Gravity & Grace in Auckland in the mid-1990s. Not wanting the experience to be a total write-off, she used it alongside other well-known failures and sad visionaries in her second novel, Aliens & Anorexia (2000), which forms the source material for this play by Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken. Well done to them for finding the holy grail of source material: a dream mix of local content and credible internationalism that should give the play a good chance at a continuing life overseas after this world premiere.


O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma le Papa’ai
ASB Theatre
Tuesday 5th – Saturday 23rd

Open Stage: Not King Lear
Loft, Q Theatre
Friday 8th – Saturday 9th

Not one, but two King Lear/Succession-eque shows this year and both look good!


Pictured above: Wonders

Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Arts Festival runs from 7 to 24 March throughout the city.


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