In the stars
* The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu is celebrating Matariki - the Maori New Year - with an artistic flourish.
"A fantastic opportunity for us to bring together a range of events and exhibitions that help to connect us with our Maori heritage," the gallery's director, Jenny Harper, says. "Matariki gives us an opportunity to reflect on what has gone before, and what is in the future."
Inez Crawford's Bouncy Marae takes centre stage in the gallery's foyer (until July 27). Designed to catch the eye of children and inspired by Crawford's childhood impression that her marae was a fairy-tale castle, this bouncy-castle wharenui is brown on the outside, bright pink inside and free for children to plunge into with relish.
The William Sutton Gallery has been transformed into a large artwork. Christchurch artist Darryn George uses intricate patterns, insistent rhythms and an eye-popping palette of red, black and white to fill the gallery's hushed white cube with pulsating light, language and pattern. Stretching more than 50 metres and reaching from floor to ceiling, Pulse fuses customary Maori art with contemporary abstract painting (until August 24).
Inspired by the vast journeys made by early Maori navigators, Travelling Light is an exhibition filled with star maps, sea journeys and night flights. The star of the show is also a treasure in the gallery's works- on-paper collection: Ralph Hotere and Bill Cuthbert's Pathway to the Sea - Aramoana, a suite of prints that overlays the land and skyscape of Aramoana with flight paths, light lines and flight lines (until July 13). The exhibition also includes a weaving by Ani O'Neill, Lonnie Hutchinson's cut-paper work featuring the peaks surrounding Lyttelton harbour, and Lisa Reihana's digital photographic work on aluminium.
A tribute to Hone Tuwhare, the acclaimed Maori writer who died earlier this year, will be held at the gallery at 7pm on Friday, June 27. The evening of poetry and performance will feature Apirana Taylor, Tusiata Avia, Bernadette Hall, Brian Potiki, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Danielle O'Halloran, Ben Brown, Doc Drumheller, Ciaran Fox and others. Admission free.
On Sunday, June 29, Christchurch singer Sheree Waitoa (aka Sista) will give a free concert at 2pm at the gallery - an act influenced by jazz, reggae and Maori culture.
* Papanui High School provides a different perspective on Shakespeare's sublimely silly comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream (7.30pm, June 25 to 27, Papanui High School Hall). The young cast presents a psychedelic '60s Shakespeare complete with hippy fairies and bumbling drama queens. Watch spellbound as the star-crossed lovers frolic in the fog and the fairies come straight from Woodstock. Groovy! For bookings phone 352-6119.
* An all-New Zealand cast will present NBR New Zealand Opera's production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel in Christchurch's Isaac Theatre Royal on Saturday, July 19 and Monday, July 21.
Returning from overseas to sing the title roles are mezzo-soprano Anna Pierard (Hansel) and soprano Ana James (Gretel).
James has completed a two-year term as a member of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, in London. Pierard has received critical praise in New Zealand and overseas.
Helen Medlyn joins the cast as Witch and Mother. Baritone James Harrison returns from Britain to sing the role of the Father. Two of the Dame Malvina Major emerging artists, sopranos Barbara Graham and Barbara Paterson, share the role of Sandman/Dew Fairy. Michael Hurst makes his opera-directing debut with Hansel and Gretel. Tecwyn Evans and Michael Vinten share the conductor's podium with core and associate players drawn from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra for the production's South Island leg. Hansel and Gretel will also be performed at Timaru's Theatre Royal on July 23, Wanaka's Lake Wanaka Centre on July 28 and 29 and Greymouth's Regent Theatre on August 1.
* Queenstown's Park Hotel will host a new exhibition by Maori sculptor Rua Paul. The Journey and The Arrival (July 6) features 40 new sculptural pieces in a purpose- created space. Paul held The Journey in Christchurch two years ago.
The story of the people and treasures which came to Aotearoa on the first waka is told in sculpture and artworks highlighted with an educational and visual multimedia presentation. Open to the public on Sunday, July 6 (11am to 3pm).
Paul has worked throughout the Pacific as a carver and studied traditional forms of carving, canoe making and early navigation. His apprenticeship began under Paki Harrison, a leader in his own generation of Maori art and a leading expert in carving. Paul's work includes five major meeting-house projects in the Auckland region.
Twist and shake
* Christchurch's Top Dog Theatre will present John Godber's play Shakers at the University Theatre, in the Arts Centre (August 20 to 30).
Set in a trendy cocktail bar in the north of England during Maggie Thatcher's yuppie '80s, Shakers is a funny and honest look at the lives of four waitresses, and what each of them is aspiring to, or maybe not aspiring to.
Top Dog has previously presented Godber's all-male-cast companion piece Bouncers. In Shakers, the four- person cast becomes the range of characters who walk into the bar. Anna Willow will play Mel, who's seen it all before. Jay Versteeg plays Adele, a single mother who has to work to support her three-year-old daughter. Nikki Bleyandaal plays young Nicky, who dreams of being a dancer and Catterina Tilby plays Carol, with her A levels and Arts degree, but no proper job. Book at The Court Theatre. –Christopher Moore