Fringey Goodness at The Basement and Beyond!

Jonty caught up with possibly the busiest person in theatre land atm, the wonderful Lydia Zanetti, Director of the Fringe Festival.

What can we expect from the Fringe Festival this year?

What can’t you expect! There’s a massive variety of events in 2017 - from dance shows in cat cafes, to floating theatres, to Pocahontas-inspired supermarket tours. That’s the beauty of Fringe festivals really, the unexpected. I always suggest that people just take a punt - go see someone you’ve never heard of, or something you wouldn’t usually attend. Embrace the unknown.

Are there any particular themes running through the programme?

I’m really stoked about the internationals who have invested in coming all the way to little ol’ NZ. Hopefully we’ll have even more in the future, but already there is folk from as far afield as Shetland as well as a bunch from Australia and more. There’s also heaps more comedy this year, which is exciting. Everyone needs a lol at times like this.

Then there is the feminist kickback. Oh lordy, do we need it!! Shout out to Silo Theatre’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. and works such as Power Ballad and 21 Movements for continuing the good fight.

Finally, over 35% of the events are free or koha - so there’s no excuse not to get out there and experience the best that Auckland has to offer.

Which shows are you particularly looking forward to seeing?

I’m always intrigued by works which are using alternate spaces. How will they use the space? How will they adapt to less controllable environments? Works that fit into that vein include: Enter the New World (supermarket audio tour!), Delivery #17 (be a matchmaker on the streets!) and Lookout (discuss the future with a kid from a rooftop!).

How did the concept of the Salon come about?

The Salon was the brainchild of the Basement team, and an exciting one at that. I love their continual quest to give artists maximum exposure and experience at minimal risk. The Salon will challenge artists to be super flexible, and opens audiences up to a huge range of artists in one v. cheap sitting. Fabulous! Plus you can pop in and out, so it’s such little audience risk (want to go have a ciggi? You can!). It’s great to challenge typical theatre conventions. Always wanted to tweet a choice bit of script or Insta a sweet lighting state? You can! Lordy, how freeing.

What makes Auckland Fringe special?

The concept of the Fringe festival occurred as a kickback from artists who weren’t programmed in a major arts festival. They thought fuck it - we’re going to perform anyway! Thus Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born (and is 70 years old this year!).

This sense of anarchy and gritty bit-between-the-teeth drive is what is at the heart of a Fringe festival. There’s over 200 Fringe festivals worldwide, and they are all special because they celebrate togetherness and otherness. Events that break the rules, that challenge, that are entirely traditional, that are for 10,000 people or one person. It’s all valid in Fringe.

So it’s super special to find Auckland Fringe battling alongside all these other festivals. And celebrating what makes Auckland’s otherness - our relationship to the land, to the people, to our work, to the world.

It's not an easy festival to organise (something of an understatement I suspect), but what have been some of the biggest challenges?

Unfortunately we were substantially less funded in the build up to 2017. This was challenging as it meant I had to take on other work in order to keep my head above water, and I’ve had to be inventive as to how I got the word out there about Fringe. Luckily it feels like I’ve spent my life upskilling in order to run Auckland Fringe (as I’ve worked in so many different facets of the performing arts), but that doesn’t mean there’s any more hours in the day!

Thankfully, with the support of the most amazing group of powerhouse women, I’ve kept paddling and we’ve come out with one of the biggest and most exciting arts festivals Auckland has ever seen. It’s the beginning of an epic Fringy future for Auckland, and I can not WAIT to share it with you all!