Whangārei Fringe Announces Awards For 2022 Festival
A comedic, masterful show about accepting your body and a surprising, ever-changing performance installation in the window of MD Gallery were among the big winners at the 2022 Whangārei Fringe Festival awards, held on Sunday October 16.
Morgana O’Reilly’s Stories About My Body took out the Best in Fringe award, for the most outstanding show of Whangārei Fringe 2022. The solo show was an absorbing ride, the judges said, charting O’Reilly’s relationship with her body through funny, sad, cringe-worthy and surprising stories.
“Her mastery of storytelling was evident, weaving together powerful punches of comedy and honesty that resonated with men and women alike. It takes guts to talk about the struggle to accept yourself, and Morgana was raw and honest in a way that kept us invested in her journey while thoroughly enjoying the ride. She’s at the top of her game, generous and brave, and we walked away reminded of the wonder of being alive.”
The Spirit of Fringe award was won by a collective of Whangārei locals, led by Meg O’Halloran and Eursula Fleig, and including DJs from the Beagle Radio crew. Their event, The Imaginarium, was a series of happenings in the window of MD Gallery on Rust Ave, where passers-by were invited to peek into the worlds of others.
The judges said this event best embraced and embodied the ‘let’s get weird’ spirit of Whangārei Fringe.
“We saw Donald Trump ironing, a frustrated teenager, unicorns playing with other unicorns while blowing bubbles. CitySafe saw a piece in progress about domestic abuse and had to be stopped from calling the police. A goat and rabbit played cards, and a raven with an afro typed... something?
“They created something that surprised people out of their everyday routine. There was a whole schedule of performances over two weeks, baffling everyone from road workers to the Wallaroos – who made return visits – and some people became Imaginarium groupies, returning day after day. We didn’t always understand it, but perhaps that wasn’t the point. They got weird, and we loved it.”
Across 17 days and 21 venues, Whangārei Fringe 2022 featured more than 120 arts events from Northland and around the country. Of those, half were staged by Te Tai Tokerau creatives.
Two individuals were recognised for their stand-out performances across all genres. Auckland-based Barnie Duncan got a nod for his controlled physicality and absurd comedy in Barnie Duncan is Funny for One Hour, and Whangārei local Tomasin Fisher-Johnson was acknowledged for her polished, open clown performance in The Tiny Show.
Festival co-founder and producer Laurel Devenie says it was exciting to see such a surge of support from the community to help make Fringe happen again.
“We had nearly 100 volunteers step up to help us, and we couldn’t have run the festival without them. People helped us turn an empty shop in John Street into a comedy club, the wonderful Octagon came on board as a Fringe venue, and the central library hosted heaps of events – including being the starting point for Mermaid Bait’s elevator tour. The festival felt like a real celebration of Whangārei, and how many interesting people live here.”
Festival co-founder and producer Hayley Clark says she was pleased that a third of events were free or koha, making the arts accessible to more people.
“It was also awesome to see more events out on the streets of Whangārei this year, taking people by surprise and bringing a bit of weirdness to town. We stage this festival to give creatives a platform to experiment and put new ideas out there, and we loved seeing the amount of people – especially locals – who were trying something new and stepping out of their comfort zone.”
Other winners were:
- Kotahitanga Award for an event that strengthens and builds community: What the Folk, Whangārei!
- Best Music, for a truly outstanding musical experience: Tutukaka-based Tui Mamaki for The Moon and the Machine (Songs from Beneath the Hood of a Mother).
- Best Comedy, for the funniest show in Fringe: Pat Goldsack’s Swingers Club & Brothel
- All the World’s a Stage Award, for the best performance that makes use of a non–traditional venue: Whangārei band Mermaid Bait – The Elevator Tour.
- Spotlight Award, for a stand-out work that shines a light on a significant societal issue: Barrier Ninja (featuring Kaipara-based Julie Edwards).
- Northpower Bright Spark Award, for an impressive up-and-coming act that the judges think has a bright future: Whangārei singer-songwriter Cicada.
- Best New Work, for a stand-out new work: Hokianga-based Sarah Marcombee’s Put Up and Shut Up! Marcombee’s show and the two finalists (The Tiny Show and To Be Frank) will each receive development support from ONEONESIX, Northland Youth Theatre or Creative Northland.
Whangārei Fringe is supported by funding partners Creative New Zealand and Northland Inc, and platinum sponsors Northpower and McLeod’s.