AUT Dominion Road Stories – Auckland Arts Festival

This weekend the iconic Dominion Road is a hub of theatrical activity and festivities as the Auckland Theatre Company in association with the Auckland Arts Festival present us with an “extraordinary neighbourhood theatre” experience.

AUT Dominion Road Stories celebrates the rich and colourful history of Auckland’s street-of-a-thousand-stories.  Whether you see just one performance or you make a day of it, there is something for everybody.

The Dominionator Cardboard Collision is an interactive workshop-themed show targeted at primarily 5-8 year olds, though the adults are welcome to join in on the fun!  Led by the Town Planner, the children – the “inventors and creators” – must design and create their own vehicles of the future in order to test the “grand luge”, a cardboard slope set up at one end of the hall.  With an array of tools and props at their disposal and a team of mechanics on hand to help, there is plenty to get the creative juices flowing.

For those who have always wondered of the history behind Dominion’s Road “Chinatown”, Walk Eat Talk is a must-do and was my personal favourite.  You will get a whole new perspective on what defines performance space as the entire show unfolds on a “moving stage”.  You explore the side streets, alleyways and restaurants on and off Dominion Road while being led by an audio guide and surprise visitors along the way.  The show is fun, engaging and will leave you with a craving for dumplings at the end of it!

If you would like to carry on walking down memory lane, The Story Emporium makes a good next stop.  There is a poster exhibition with insightful testimonies from various Dominion Road shopkeepers and also a lovely collection of heritage photos which have been transformed beautifully into postcards.  You are welcome to take these as a memento or write your own Dominion Road story if you have one which I thought was very in keeping with the storytelling theme.

Bowled Over proves that you are never too old to put on a bloody good show!  Directed by Ben Crowder, it centres around neighbourhood icon the Balmoral Bowling Club which also happens to be where the story takes place.  When the bowling club comes under threat of being demolished, how far will a group of feisty pensioners go to save it?  From hilarious acronyms to a devious plan involving neenish tarts, this play is guaranteed to entertain and tickle your funny bone.  The cast is the young-at-heart senior citizens performance group Marvellous and put simply they were indeed marvellous!

If chamber music is more your style, Pav On Dom will go down a treat.  This behind-the-scenes style performance directed by Jonathan Alver is inspired by the true story of the day Pavarotti came to rehearse at the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.  With the Maestro’s imminent arrival, his Minder and the APO orchestra manager are stressing in equal measures as they feel the pressure to impress.  This delightful high comedy is brilliantly written and well conceived with stellar vocal performances from Bianca Andrew and Bonaventure Allen-Moetaua.  Be prepared to sing along!

The day of festivities wraps up in Potters Park with Come Dancing, a celebration of the Dominion Road dance culture from the 30s through to the psychedelic 60s.  You are invited to bring a picnic basket to enjoy while you watch over 100 volunteer dancers “dance the decades away”.  Featuring live music by the superb Tuxedo Swing and performances by sultry songstress Coco Davis and Balmoral’s own show girl extraordinaire Candy Lane, it is a treat to both the eyes and the ears.  I particularly liked the way the dancers mingled among and interacted with the crowds, blurring the boundaries between on and off stage.

Unfortunately the weather is far from ideal but if you are willing to brave the rain, I would thoroughly recommend making a trip down to Dominion Road for this fantastic community event.  I tip my hat off to everyone involved and I sincerely hope that there will be more events of this nature to come!