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Wellington’s Binge Culture takes out Fringe awards

Wellington’s Binge Culture takes out Fringe awards

Ralph Upton Instructs Passers By On Binge Culture's Whales: Photo by Philadephia Jackman

The year is off to a good start for Wellington Theatre Collective, Binge Culture who last night won three awards, including “Best of Fringe” at the New Zealand Fringe Festival Awards.

Binge Culture created three new performance works for NZ Fringe, including outdoor spectacle, The Whales, which won “Best in Fringe,” “The Creative New Zealand Award for Innovation,” and the “Fringe Outdoor Award.” Their two indoor performance works For Your Future Guidance and Beep Test* were also both nominated for the Creative New Zealand Award for Innovation. For Your Future Guidance, was the runner up for the “Fringe of the Fringe” award at Auckland Fringe Festival and will also be performed in the Dunedin Fringe Festival 21-23 March.

The three Binge Culture shows stood out for their inclusion of and trust in the public. In The Whales, Binge Culture performers, dressed as conservation workers, approached passers-by, some who had come expecting a performance and some who were simply out enjoying the waterfront, handed them buckets and put them to work to save a pod of beached whales. The whales were thirty-three performers who had swum through the city, from Cuba Street, through Civic Square and found themselves beached outside Te Papa. “We aimed to make something accessible, in which the public could play an integral part,” says The Whales co-producer, Fiona McNamara. Company member Ralph Upton commented that "the highlight for us was the way the children responded to the whales – from driving a tiny tractor to singing songs to keep their whale calm, they really showed the adults how to do the job".

Those who missed out on The Whales can look forward to their return in Binge Culture's next work. The group originally came up with the idea of a participatory whale stranding as part of their 2011 Fringe show This Rugged Beauty, which they describe as a "huge, doomed ad for New Zealand" and which was nominated as "Most Original Production" in the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Their next project is to rework and expand that show in partnership with Downstage and Victoria University.

Binge Culture Collective formed in 2008 and in 2009 was awarded “Best Newcomers” at the NZ Fringe Festival and “Most Original Production” at the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Street theatre specialists, they won “Best Outdoors” at the 2010 NZ Fringe Festival and performed in a paddock atop Takaka Hill at Canaan Downs New Year Festival in 2009. Their show Wake Less, originally commissioned for BATS Theatre’s 2011 STAB season, was performed in Auckland in early 2012 as part of the New Performance Festival at The Edge and was singled out by theatre reviewers as a highlight of the festival. Binge Culture Collective a Resident Company at Downstage Theatre and is generously supported by Victoria University of Wellington. The Whales received Creative New Zealand Kakano funding.

The team behind Binge Culture’s Whales is Joel Baxendale, Rachel Baker, Simon Haren, Isobel MacKinnon, Fiona McNamara, Claire O’Loughlin and Ralph Upton.


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