Boomer to the rescue

Mark Hadlow in MAMiL at Centrepoint Theatre. Image by David Walker, Stuff.
Portage Ceramics Awards Premier Award winner Mark Mitchell with his work, Slice. Photo by Tatiana Harper.
Maureen Lander honoured at the te Waka Toi Awards. Supplied.
In New York this week, the first American exhibition of Ans Westra’s work is being held at Anastasia Photo. Supplied.
Baycourt Manager James Wilson accepting Best Small Venue Award. Supplied.
Richard Von Sturmer. Supplied.
Warren Feeney in Christchurch. Supplied.
A lycra-clad actor saves the day, a New Zealand film named best-ever by a female director and more in Mark Amery’s latest weekly round-up of unmissable arts news.

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Arts Legend of the Year Award

Usually when an actor breaks the fourth wall, it’s to berate a heckler or phone-call taker - not to save an audience member. And so it is that we present the Lowdown Arts Legend of the Year Award to a man standing up for white, male, lycra-clad boomers: Mark Hadlow. 

Ten minutes into his long-running solo show, Greg Cooper’s MAMiL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra), at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint, Hadlow calmly leapt off stage to rescue a woman he noticed was slumped in her seat (a great local review would confirm it was unlikely she was simply asleep). There was indeed a doctor in the house, and while emergency services tended to the woman Hadlow proceeded to entertain the audience out on the footpath. Once the woman was safely in an ambulance, he finished off the show from where he had stopped. Legend. 

Haere rā, Arthur

A true New Zealand champion has passed to the other side. Arthur Baysting, who Audioculture’s Chris Bourke describes as a “pioneering pop critic, poet, editor, reviewer, stand-up comedian, cabaret MC, script writer for film and TV, documentary maker, songwriter, music campaigner, and activist in issues ranging from copyright to children’s rights” died on Tuesday morning from cancer. “Right to the end,” Audioculture wrote on Facebook, “he was doing what he always did: writing songs with others, making plans, championing New Zealand culture, fostering connections.”

You could easily make a Forrest Gump-style film detailing his various career highlights, which include Listener music critic, Elam hanger-on, editor of The Young New Zealand Poets, co-writer of Sleeping Dogs, member of Rough Justice and The Crocodiles, Nambassa performer, friend to Te Vaka, NZ Writers Guild president, Playschool writer, APRA board member… The list goes on. 

Friends were sensible enough to publish tributes before Arthur’s death. Here’s one set from 15 luminaries published two months ago. And then last week, APRA announced a new award: The Baysting Prize for Children’s Champion. The award will be presented annually at the NZ Children’s Music Awards, to an individual, group, or organisation who has contributed to the development and wellbeing of children through music, television, film, video, live shows, books, education, or advocacy.

There’s been a constant rumble all year from artists dismayed at the number of new public art gallery directors from overseas, whose names they now have to remember. Bucking this trend, and taking the trend of artist-led festivals to the next level, we at last have a major New Zealand arts festival being led by an actual artist. Congratulations to dancer, choreographer and producer Shona McCullagh, current head of the New Zealand Dance Company, who will lead the programming of the Auckland Arts Festivals from 2021 to 2024. Festival chair John Judge notes: “She is an Aucklander and has a strong understanding of the Auckland market.”


Portage Ceramics Awards Premier Award winner Mark Mitchell with his work, Slice. Photo by Tatiana Harper.

Awards Season

Jane Campion’s The Piano has been named the greatest film directed by a woman in a BBC poll of 368 critics from around the world. I appreciated the words of critic Maria Lewis: “Jane Campion has always centred the female narrative. Not the female narrative as Hollywood knows it, but the kind that's familiar to a New Zealand and even an Asia-Pacific audience: women who are unusual, women who are complicated and talented, women who are weird, women who have overcome, women who march to the beat of their own drum – or piano, if you will."


Maureen Lander honoured at the te Waka Toi Awards. 

At the Te Waka Toi Awards at the weekend, the remarkable Ngāpuhi artist Maureen Lander was honoured with a Lifetime Contribution Award alongside Rim D Paul, Sonia Armana Snowden, Allen Wihongi and John Klaricich. Actor, director and producer Nancy Brunning, who passed away late last month, was awarded the Te Tohu Kē a Te Waka Toi award for her significant, positive impact on the development and practice of Ngā Toi Māori. Brunning was aware of the award before her death. The full results are here. Maureen Lander’s much-praised Flatpack Whakapapa project opens at the Whakatāne Museum this weekend.


Baycourt Manager James Wilson accepting Best Small Venue Award. Supplied.

And speaking of awards, hats off to Baycourt in Tauranga (the city in the papers this week for all the wrong reasons) which has won both ‘Best Small Venue’ and ‘Supreme Venue of the Year’ at the 2019 EVANZ (entertainment venues association of NZ) awards in Christchurch. 

Since last week’s call out, we’ve had news in from the organisers of the Auckland Theatre Awards: “As you may have guessed by now, the Auckland Theatre Awards are not going ahead this year in their past form, as a full-noise extravaganza at The Wintergarden. We're still in hibernation mode, which means we'll be holding a very similar announcement of 2019 Auckland Theatre Award winners to the one we held for 2018. This will take place live on Facebook in January.”

Congratulations are due for poet and lyricist Richard Von Strumer who has been announced as The University of Waikato’s Writer in Residence for 2020


Richard Von Sturmer. Supplied.

There is only one major ceramics award ceremony in New Zealand, the Portage, and this year’s Premier Award has gone to Mark Mitchell for ‘Slice’, an Escher puzzle of a bowl made from ceramic and silver leaf. The Merit Awards went to Dunedin-based Blue Black and Kylie Matheson. All 55 finalist works are in exhibition at Te Uru until 23 February.


The first US exhibition of Ans Westra’s work begins this week. Supplied.

In New York this week, the first American exhibition of Ans Westra’s work is being held at Anastasia Photo (which specialises in documentary photography). Urban Drift is on until February 22, with images on display here. Ans, who is now in her 80s, is not well enough to attend, as detailed in this great feature by Sarah Catherall.  

Silo Theatre have announced their 2020 season with the headlines going to Robbie Magasiva’s tribute to his brother Pua who he lost to a suspected suicide earlier this year. In August, he will perform solo under Danielle Cormack’s direction in the much-praised UK play, Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoeis — a play about “depression, loss and focusing on the good things in life”. The play was first produced here to great reviews during the 2017 Auckland Arts Festival.

Great Reading

Concern over Creative New Zealand’s decline of the New Zealand Review of Book’s application for funding continues. Steve Braunias (“really shocked” and “astonished”) weighed in on RNZ and in a column on Newsroom ahead of an online petition heading to CNZ and Government on Tuesday. Co-editor of the New Zealand Review of Books, Harry Ricketts, has written a poem titled CNZ to NZRB in reply, which features the recurring line: “We simply ‘declined your application’; we didn’t cut off your grant”. Read the full poem on this Pundit blog. 

The Listener’s popular 100 Best Books of 2019 list, is out. This year they asked Carl Shuker and Elizabeth Knox, authors of the two best NZ novels according to the selectors, to ask each other about their respective works.

The Whanganui Chronicle meets the latest Tylee Cottage artist in residence Jae Hoon Lee.

Art Murmurs is a great Wellington-based alternative theatre review site. Here is a review by Corey Spense of the brand new Victor Rodger play, Uma Lava. It features a flamboyant right-wing politician with a horrible case of halitosis, a biker-lesbian, wronged academic and a local reverend with a salacious secret. 


Warren Feeney in Christchurch. Supplied.

Warren Feeney has written an excellent history of 20 years of the Scape public art programme in Christchurch. OUT THERE SCAPE Public Art 1998 - 2018 looks at changes in public art, what’s happened to Christchurch during that period and the resilience of individual patrons and managers. It’s a remarkable read. Here’s an interview with Warren by Lynn Freeman on RNZ.

Finally, an update from Courtney Johnston with Kathryn Ryan on Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's missing solid gold toilet. “Theories are abounding” including one that the artist stole his own artwork. 

Written by

Mark Amery

5 Dec 2019

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.

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