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Auckland Arts Festival Kicks Off Tomorrow

Arts-lovers, take your marks... The annual Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) kicks off tomorrow, Wednesday 8 March.

For the next 19 days, the AAF will once again envelop the city in vibrant music, dance, theatre and art. The 2017 programme, the final Festival curated by Artistic Director Carla van Zon before her retirement, serves the city seven world premieres, and 23 New Zealand premieres and events exclusive to Auckland. The programme includes works performed in English, Mori, Cantonese, Smoan, Tongan, Spanish, French, Serbian, as well as audio description and New Zealand Sign Language.

There are nearly 50 individual events this year, delivered by nearly 1000 artists, aged between 6 and 71, and hailing from 20 countries. Along with the usual beer, water, lemons and energy drinks, artist riders include everything from bicycles, to Marlborough red wine, to raw honey and fresh ginger.

The AAF 2017 also brings the fifth annuAl White Night, on Saturday 18 March, which features hundreds of events, exhibitions and pop-up performances across the wider Auckland City.

As of tomorrow, city dwellers and Festival-goers can once again unwind and luxuriate in the Festival Garden at Aotea Square, home to the famous Spiegeltent. The Festival Garden is a vibrant hub at the heart of the city where visitors can purchase food from gourmet food trucks and suppliers, Moa beer and Brancott Estate wines at the Festival Garden Bar and enjoy them all with visual artworks, free performances and fun for the whole family.

This year's Spiegeltent is the Victoria Spiegeltent, from Belgium. At 25m in diameter and at 48 tonnes, the Victoria took 12 people two days to erect. Seating 658 delighted audience members, it is the largest Spiegeltent of its kind to visit New Zealand. With superbly-kept mirrors, staiNed Glass windows, ornate woodwork and velvet drapes, it is also one of the most beautiful.

Along with the Spiegeltent, the Festival Garden is also home to the iHeartRadio Sound Lounge. The iHeartRadio Sound Lounge offers a series of free performances (please see for programme and schedule). This year's line-up includes Esther Stephens and Paul McLaney, DJ Belleville, Walters Booth Quintet, Leonard Charles and The Spooners, as well as special performances by Mara TK performing the songs of David Bowie, Anna Coddington doing the songs of Prince and Trip Pony doing the songs of George Michael.

Kicking off this week in the Festival programme is the Colenso BBDO season of La Soirée in the Spiegeltent. This hilarious and brilliant adults-only contemporary cabaret, featuring the crème de la crème of variety circus performers from around the world, opens on Wednesday.

Also opening on Wednesday is Power Plant, a captivating nocturnal bush walk of enchanting light and sound installations that will illuminate the Auckland Domain for 11 nights, and Cirque Eloize's iD - a stunning family-friendly event in which mind-blowing circus meets urban performance, trial biking, break dancing and more.

Three new New Zealand plays open this week. The first is the world premiere of Cellfish, a dark comedy blending prison life, Shakespeare and M?ori mythology into a tale filled with revenge and intrigue. Suspenseful, with a noir sensibility, Cellfish is a story brimming with aroha, irony and humour.

The second is the Auckland premiere of The Biggest. Written by Hauraki's own, Jamie McCaskill, this is a brand new work set in Thames featuring NZ acting legends Jim Moriarty (Mahana), Peter Hambleton (The Hobbit), Apirana Taylor and Kali K?pae (Not in My Neighbourhood, H?koi). The Biggest follows a bunch of mates trying to hook the catch of a lifetime. Blunt, irreverent and cheeky, this play is a whale of a time in small town Aotearoa.

On Thursday, four of New Zealand's most respected musical revolutionaries will examine the poetry, politics and relationships that have spun the wheels, and turntables, of generations. In Revolutions, playing at the Festival's Spiegeltent, Moana Maniapoto, Warren Maxwell, Rob Ruha and Jon Toogood will perform an intimate and superbly fun acoustic set, with songs that include Maniapoto's Treaty, Trinity Roots' Home, Land and Sea and Shihad's Free.

Also on Thursday, Auckland Theatre Company's Peer Gynt [recycled] opens at the new ASB Waterfront Theatre. Eli Kent's new work is a bold, raucous and irreverent contemporary response to Henrik Ibsen's classic play-in-verse.

And Friday will take audiences on a journey into the Emperor's rice paddies in Taiwan with RICE, by one of the world's longest standing and most highly regarded contemporary dance companies, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. RICE is a showcase of astounding contemporary dance which tells a mesmerising story of an ancient grain and humankind.

The Auckland Arts Festival takes place 8-26 March 2017. Full programme at

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