Fringe Winners Show Flair And Creativity
A letter performed from a father to his young son, a walk-through time capsule and an out-there cabaret show were the big winners at the first Whangārei Fringe Festival.
After 17 days, the festival ended with an awards ceremony earlier this week (Mon 26 Oct). Waiting took out the Best In Fringe award for the festival’s stand-out event.
Auckland-based actor/writer Shadon Meredith and director Amelia Reid-Meredith devised a memorable one-person show, charting Meredith’s life story and exploring the idea of waiting, that lingered on in hearts and minds, according to the judges.
“This was a particularly strong field of contenders. Waiting is a polished piece of performance that took us on a journey through characters, time and personal turmoil. The minimal props were used to great effect, and the delivery was warm and poetic. Many of us kept coming back to this work, and how it left a profound impression on us.”
Whangārei-born Thomas Gowing won the Bright Light award (for a memorable performance that deserved extra recognition) for The Archive, a walk-through installation in a vacant CBD building.
Gowing interviewed a range of locals about their hopes, worries and stories, and projected the footage in spaces throughout the building. The show asked audiences to imagine they were stumbling across a physical and digital time capsule of 2020 after a catastrophic world event.
The judges said, “The Archive came very close to winning in a number of categories, and we felt it deserved further recognition. It created an immersive atmosphere, made space for us to hear our community’s stories, and got us thinking and feeling. It took us on a journey, too, and that’s what the best art does.”
Funkyray Cabaret, a collection of local performers in circus, aerial arts, dance, burlesque and more, took out the Teamwork Makes The Dreamwork award for collaboration/ensemble work, as well as the Audience Choice award.
The judges said, “Funkyray Cabaret took us to some places we really didn’t expect to go, and kudos goes to the wide range of organisations and individuals who brought their many and varied talents together to create a most excellent show.”
The Cherry Popper award, for a promising new work that had its world premiere at the festival, went to The Covid Snapshot Show. The new work was collectively devised by Whangārei Girls’ High School students, who wrote about their own experiences and interviewed people at the coalface of our country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The judges said, “From heartfelt one minute to tragi-comedy the next, The Covid Snapshot Show beautifully captured an experience that we all passed through this year, which needs to be seen and processed. Our judges reported the audience in laughter one minute and tears the next.”
Other winners were:
- The A Genre By Any Other Name award, for a work that pushed the boundaries of a traditional genre and stepped into the unexpected: A Fantastical Journey by Boat.
- The No-Frills Fringe award, for creating a quality performance on a shoestring budget: The Willing Horse.
- The Side Splitter award, for consistently delivering moments of hilarity, surprise and delight: Bullrush Improv.
- The Performers Without Borders award, for developing a performance that enabled Fringe to be accessible to all: Circus Extravaganza.
- The Nooks & Crannies award, for creating work that made the most of Whangārei’s underused, overlooked spaces: Free Art Friday.
Festival co-founders Hayley Clark, Laurel Devenie and Georgia-May Russ are delighted with how well the public and the Whangārei arts community supported the festival.
Clark says, “Fringe exceeded our expectations in every way, from the number of registrations to the huge community support of volunteers, audience and enthusiastic promoters. It really emphasised and celebrated the fabulous local talent we have in Whangārei across a vast range of arts disciplines.”
Several events sold out, and extra shows were added to cater for audience demand. The Fringe team estimates audience attendance of nearly 8200 people, not including the Hatea Me Hearties! buskers festival, which attracted between 2500 and 3000 people. Of the 90 Fringe events, 58 were locally created and 32 were by visiting artists. Approximately 451 artists were involved in the festival in total, comprising 371 local individuals and 80 visitors.
Russ says, “Audiences were delighted to have so many events to choose from and so many people got to multiple events, often racing to several in one day. Lots of people are excited for next year’s festival and we hope to make that happen, if funding allows, after some serious catching up on sleep!”
Devenie says, “We expect some of the events in the fringe will make a comeback in the next few months and we hope some people have got the kickstart they needed to develop new work and creative ideas. If people want to keep up with events in Whangārei all year round, we encourage them to follow Oneonesix, Northland Youth Theatre, Circus Kumarani, Naughty North Comedy and other creative organisations through their websites or social media.”
Mayor Sheryl Mai says, “In the past few years, the creative sector in Whangārei has grown and evolved beyond expectation, in ways we could only imagine. Whangārei Fringe Festival further reinforces what a strong creative community Whangārei has and the festival's impact on Whangārei has been entirely positive.
“Whangarei District Council is proud to have supported the first Fringe Festival in our district and would welcome Fringe as an annual event. I congratulate all who organised, participated, volunteered and attended this fabulous, kaleidoscopic festival. Well done!”
A full list of winners, finalists and judges comments is available on https://www.facebook.com/WhangareiFringe/.