New Zealand at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival

2019 sees 28 New Zealand companies at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with many festival favourites returning : Scotland’s favourite New Zealand showband, Modern Māori Quartet return with two very different shows; A Slightly Isolated Dog take on the Edinburgh inspired novella Jekyll and Hyde; Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, the team behind the acclaimed  Power Ballad at Summerhall, return with a new performance work exploring gender and sexual politics; Java Dance once again take to the Edinburgh streets with their acclaimed site specific dance piece Back of the Bus while  at the Bijou in George Street they celebrate the sensuous pleasure of Chocolate;  the musical comedy duo Two Hearts launch their ‘Comeback Tour’ and Trick of the Light return with a new show Troll, a wonderful mix of mythological and modern storytelling.

Making her Edinburgh debut Joanna Cosgrove, winner of Best Comedy at the Auckland Fringe 2017, brings her multi-award winning Kiwi cult hit Aunty to Assembly George Square, fresh from sold-out seasons across New Zealand.  This one woman tornado is an homage to the Aunties we love (and love to hate). It’s another rowdy family get-together and the Sauvignon starts flowing, new boyfriends are lovingly embarrassed, and everyone in the audience becomes part of the ‘whanau’ or extended family.

Another Edinburgh debut is My Best Dead Friend ​at Summerhall, a one-woman storytelling-comedy-theatre show based on real life events, performed by Anya Tate-Manning. It is unique contemporary New Zealand storytelling, pungently steeped in the history of ​Dunedin​, and follows 18 year old Anya and her four best friends - a group of rebel geeks recently emancipated from the torturous shackles of high school. 

Restless and hopped up on reading Karl Marx they set out on a night of vigilante poetic justice on the streets of their hometown. In an attempt to liberate their conservative rugby-loving Dunedin, - with its toxic masculinity and lack of party invitations for unpopular high school kids - they take to the streets armed with chalk and the poetry of various New Zealand poets. Interspersed throughout this story is a series of tragi-comedic scenarios told in the first person, taking place at the funeral of one of the friends. Directed by Isobel Mackinnon, a member of critically acclaimed contemporary theatre company Binge Culture Collective (Whales, Break Up (We Need to Talk).

At Assembly George Square New Zealand's beloved sissy Chris Parker (as seen in Netflix's The Breaker Upperers) is mincing his way over to Edinburgh with his award-winning Camp Binch. Winner of Best Show at NZ International Comedy Fest 2018, Camp Binch delivers a hilarious and cathartic retelling of growing up gay in conservative New Zealand.

Also at Assembly Super Hugh-Man is Rutene Spooner’s musical about his Hollywood hero. An award-winning solo cabaret following the personal journey of a young Maori boy wanting to fit into a world he has no blueprint for. After discovering his hero Hugh Jackman's secret identity, he comes to realise that it's okay to be a different kind of man – that he can be strong and sensitive, he can haka and high kick, he can be fierce and fabulous. A shamelessly charming and heartfelt story, intricately weaving together comedy, storytelling, dance, song and Maori cultural/performing arts into a stunning cabaret experience.

At the Underbelly Eli Matthewson performs An Inconvenient Poof. It's been 10 years since Eli was made Head Environment Prefect at high school. It's hard to believe he still hasn't saved the world. In fact he's starting to worry he's made it worse. When everything in the world seems terrible, can one Inconvenient Poof make a difference?

Described by one New Zealand paper as “This generations Flight of The Conchords, but with bite” the comedy duo Two Hearts is back with The Comeback Tour at Underbelly. There’s  a brand-new arena pop concert, jam-packed with more world changing sex jams, more distractingly attractive dancers and, frankly, too much confetti. Creators and stars Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore compose and sing original songs covering all the hot button political, gender and social issues - with all the misguided self-belief only pop stars have

A Slightly Isolated Dog, has built a reputation for shaking up well-known stories, and injecting their trademark outrageous physical comedy and twisted pop songs to the telling.They made their Edinburgh debut in 2018 with a riotous retelling of Don Juan, now they return with a mad-cap rendition of  Jekyll and Hyde.  A completely reworked version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Edinburgh-inspired novella, this terrifyingly hilarious theatre-comedy plays at Assembly George Square Gardens.

Working On My Night Moves at Summerhall is the latest live theatre art work by award-winning Edinburgh favourites Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan. Following Power Ballad and If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming this  third and final part of the  trilogy, that began examining the impact of the male gaze, Working On My Night Moves is a wildly theatrical attempt to launch into outer space by creating a gaze that is female, non binary, expansive and hopeful. A feminist futurism that allows our brains to fall in love with the ever shifting cracks between any two ideological positions, between here and then, past and future, audience and performer.

Interactive dance theatre company Java Dance return to Assembly George Square with the sell-out triumph that is Back of the Bus, fresh from sell-out seasons at 21 New Zealand, Australian and international arts festivals. This is a bus journey unlike any other. Come ride on a bus through the streets of Edinburgh as dancers propel themselves along the aisles and hang from the roof. Physical comedy, kinetic energy and outrageous scenarios combine to create a magical mystery tour.

Over at Assembly Bijou, George Street Java Dance is presenting Chocolate, the latest work in their culinary investigation, The Artisan Series. Chocolate offers a new and delicious perspective on the transformation of bitter cacao to creamy chocolate through full bodied, wild sensory dance.  Java’s dancers, musicians and artistic director Sacha Copland have tempered chocolate, poured melted chocolate into bar and wrapped chocolate boxes with chocolatiers as part of their research. Part of Feast Fest. Choreographer Sacha Copeland, who founded Java Dance in 2003, has recently been named the Creative New Zealand 2019-2021 Choreographic Fellow.

Also at Summerhall Trick of the Light (Bookbinder,The Road That Wasn’t There) perform Troll, a lo-fi wi-fi fable combining  storytelling, music and puppetry into an uncanny tale from the twitchy edges of the digital age. It's 1998. Otto is twelve but he says he's thirteen and he's pretty sure he gets away with it. He lives in an old wooden two-story house with his mum, dad, and sister, a chain-smoking Icelandic granny, and an ancient malevolent troll that's living in the wall.Written and performed by Ralph McCubbin Howell, directed by Charlotte Bradley, and designed by Hannah Smith, this darkly comic one-man show brings the innovative staging and intricate narrative that enchanted audiences with The Bookbinder into the digital world. 

To celebrate their third highly anticipated year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Modern Māori Quartet return with two very different offerings: at Assembly George Square  Two Worlds, the smash hit show that was the talk of last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe weaves together four stories that unfold the fabric of Māori musical culture and its genealogy and evolution. Over at Underbelly Garage Party proves that every night is party night when you spend it with the phenomenal vocal harmonies of Modern Māori Quartet. Add to that some very special guests and this multi-talented Māori foursome will be hosting a Fringe party like no other.


Internationally acclaimed New Zealand artist Sriwhana Spong is presenting a new work reflecting Stories for an Uncertain World for Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 Commissions Programme. Her new film castle-crystal centres on the writings of the 16th century mystic St Teresa of Avila (the subject of feminist Julia Kristeva’s novel Teresa: My Love), whose book The Interior Castle imagines a fictional space, a castle-crystal, that Teresa roams as she explores, through writing, her spiritual journey. Spong is interested in how Teresa’s imaginary castle creates a free space for the imagination and discourse and offers an architecture in which women have the authority to speak.

Teresa’s fictional interior castle and the idea of text as an architecture or architecture as a text, is further explored in relation to a 12th Century Javanese poem the Bhomāntaka alongside the personal tale of a family bathroom. The film traces these intimate dwellings to consider fictional spaces as important sites for sparking visions of possible futures and future bodies.

Presented in the Institut français d’Ecosse, Spong’s new work is accompanied by a special display of sculptures in the exquisite 18th century neo-classical temple known as St. Bernard’s Well. Sited on the banks of the Water of Leith, and playing host to a sculpture of the Greek Goddess, Hygeia, Spong is drawn to the intimate architecture of the structure, the symbolism of its decoration and its situation adjacent to the river.


Tayi Tibble(Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou) is the author of Poūkahangatus, her first collection of verse, published by Victoria University Press in July 2018. She was the 2017 recipient of the Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Throwing Voices is a unique collaborative project showing how local language, culture and tradition can resonate across linguistic divides. Using selected objects and words, Ireland-born Scottish Gaelic language poet Rody Gorman and New Zealand (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) writer Tayi Tibble share their experiences in a special event featuring music, verse and discussion. The authors have worked with leading Scottish Indian beatbox artist Bigg Taj to create a boundary-crossing performance exploring the similarities and differences between Gaelic and Maori cultures.

‘It’s official. We’ve fallen (back) in love with poetry’ the Metro declared earlier this year, reporting a 12% increase in poetry book sales in 2018. Underpinning the boom are bold new voices exploring issues from politics to mental health on page, stage and social media. Three of the most exciting new talents – Charly Cox, Theresa Lola and Tayi Tibble – perform from their well-received debut collections in Generation Next: New Poetry Voices.

Whiti Hereaka (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa) is a playwright, novelist, screenwriter, a barrister and solicitor. She has won several awards for her scriptwriting, including Best New Play by a Māori Playwright, Adam Play Awards in 2010 for Te Kaupoi and again in 2011 for Rona and Rabbit on the Moon. Her first novel, The Graphologist’s Apprentice, was shortlisted for Best First Book in the Commonwealth Writers Prize South East Asia and Pacific 2011. Her second novel, Bugs, won the Honour Award, Young Adult Fiction, New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, 2014, and the Storylines Notable Book Award, Senior Fiction, 2014. Tina Makereti’s fourth book The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke (Penguin, 2018) has been longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Literary Award. Her short story, ‘Black Milk’, won the Pacific Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2016). Her first novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Vintage, 2014) was longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and won the 2014 Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Award for Fiction, also won by her short story collection, Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa (Huia, 2011). In 2009 Tina was the recipient of the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing (Non-fiction) and the Pikihuia Award for Best Short Story Written in English. North. She is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Rangatahi, Pākehā and, according to family stories, Moriori descent.  

Racist atrocities in New Zealand are not a new phenomenon: in 1881, Crown troops razed a Maori settlement. As Christchurch mourns, it is timely that indigenous voices from New Zealand (Aotearoa) and the Pacific come together in Black Marks on the White Page. In Celebrating Oceanic Diversity Tina Makereti, co-editor and contributor, is joined by author Whiti Hereaka to discuss culture, colonisation and the richness of Pasifika and Maori writing.

The authors of The Doll Factory and The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke couldn’t hail from further apart: Elizabeth MacNeal is from Scotland, while Tina Makereti is a New Zealander of indigenous heritage. Yet both depict a Victorian London in which a fierce colonial power boldly exhibited its macabre obsessions – revealing dubious attitudes to race and gender. They share perspectives formed worlds apart with Jackie McGlone.

Annaleese Jochems was born in 1994 and grew up in Northland, the Northern most point of New Zealand. She won the  Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction and the 2016 Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters for her first book Baby, a sunburnt psychological thriller of obsession and escape by one of the most exciting new voices in New Zealand fiction. She joins Candice Carty-Williams author of Queenie for Life for the reality TV generation where two authors chronicling the off-kilter experiences of upbeat millennials. Candice Carty-Willims’s Queenie sees a Jamaican British woman search for identity. Their conversation is chaired by Sasha de Buyl-Pisco.


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