Let the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival begin

Theatre, circus acts, music, comedy

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 14:02 13/02/2014
Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
Festival time: Chris Williams, left, and Hamish Nathan pore over the programme detailing the wide range of attractions at this year’s Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

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Poetry, theatre, circus acts, opera music, comedy, live art, busking, burlesque and even a teddy bears' picnic.

There really is something for all tastes at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

And that's the point festival director Hamish Nathan and Chris Williams, the chairman of the Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival Foundation, are particularly eager to point out to inhabitants of the city.

The 14-day series of events is due to begin tomorrow night with Symphony in the Gardens, a concert featuring the Opus Orchestra and the spectacular Deborah Wai Kapohe, under the baton of the acclaimed conductor James Judd.

And although Nathan and Williams are likely extremely familiar with the festival's events, an opportunity to peruse a copy of the programme has the two excitedly flipping through it, eagerly pointing out to each other what they are most looking forward to seeing.

"There's so much in the programme this year, it's hard to know where to begin," enthuses Williams, before quickly pointing out Melbourne Ska Orchestra, the 30-odd piece band with the self-explanatory title from across the Tasman as a likely highlight.

Symphony in the Gardens, Battle of the Bastards (a look at Shakespeare's best villains through the eyes of comedian David Ladderman) and Odyssey, a multi-layered theatre work combining intimate drama and Greek tragedy, are other shows he lists as must-sees. "But everything is a must-see. I'm going to try to get to at least a couple of shows each day."

Nathan is also looking forward to seeing Melbourne Ska Orchestra and the opening night concert.

"The entire first weekend is just going to be massive for us. It starts off with [comedy show] The Bitches Box on Friday night and just keeps going, including the midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hopefully everyone will still have some energy for the Melbourne Ska Orchestra show on Sunday.

"Look out for the circus stuff, which kicks in on Wednesday. We have got circus theatre on a scale we have not done before this year.

"There's In Flagrante, a saucy cabaret show just back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival . . . and Dame Malvina's show on Friday. There's a lot of talk about this being her last concert tour, and I think a lot of people will want to take advantage of that show to go and see her."

Parents with youngsters are not left out of the organisers' considerations. A teddy bears' picnic on the Rhododendron Lawn, from 10am till 2pm on Saturday, will feature plenty of food stalls and entertainment for children and their beloved bears alike. At 2pm, a series of sculptures inspired by Alice in Wonderland will be unveiled, and there are numerous storytelling and theatre events being staged at family-friendly times.

Tickets for each of the events in the various parts of the Hamilton Gardens are on sale now and can be purchased from the Hamilton iSite offices near Garden Place; the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts; online at hgaf.co.nz/tickets, and by calling 0508 484 253.

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- Waikato

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