Festival of Colour brings it!

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will performs two concerts at the Festival of Colour | Stephen A'Court

On Monday, February 11, the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour revealed a packed six-day programme featuring an exciting mix of theatre, dance, music, visual arts and conversation from New Zealand and around the world.

The Southern Lakes Festival of Colour takes place from April 2 to 7 in Wanaka, Queenstown and Central Otago. Known as ‘the best little arts festival in New Zealand’, the festival also spills over for an extra four days of special events from Saturday, March 30, including an exclusive pre-festival concert by baroque music superstar Jordi Savall on Sunday, March 31.
This year the festival includes three of New Zealand’s major arts companies bringing shows to Wanaka – the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and, for the first time in Wanaka, The New Zealand Dance Company performing Kiss The Sky which includes a newly commissioned work for the Festival of Colour – The Fibonacci.

On Saturday April 6, FOC takes to the streets of Wanaka for a fun-filled free Street Theatre Day for the whole family with acrobats, a site-specific dance work, an intricate celestial labyrinth, storytelling, a People Library*, audio walk and a special photo shoot for redheads.



The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will perform two concerts in the festival – the first featuring Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 ‘Jupiter’, considered to be one of the greatest symphonies ever composed, while the second concert features the NZSO’s chamber orchestra performing Handel’s ‘Water Music’.
Adding to the classical music programme is the pre-festival concert by baroque music superstar Jordi Savall – his only New Zealand concert on his current world tour. Savall’s instruments are so precious they each get their own seat on the plane as they wing their way to New Zealand.


The festival is offering too many acts to profile here but a selection of some them are:

JFDR who is an Icelandic solo artist with a haunting lyricism who draws from classical, folk and electronic inspirations to traverse through rich imagery and subtle emotions of her songs. And Björk is obsessed with her.

Speaking of Björk, tribute band Blackbird Ensemble will be performing, Björk: All is Full of Love. Blackbird Ensemble is New Zealand’s most inventive and theatrical chamber orchestra. They will be presenting an awe-inspiring homage to the loveable quirky Icelandic pop star. Equally as quirky are the ensemble’s costumes which are a feast for the eyes while the ears are being swooned.

For comic relief with serious talent, The Māori Sidesteps are the newest and hottest Māori showband fresh from their web series where they have clocked up over one million views. The band relive the glory days of Howard Morrison, and Prince Tui Teka but with a fresh take on old familiar party tunes. These “hard case Māori Fullas” promise to give you the best night out, eva!

The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra is a band from a sparsely populated area of Canada’s west coast; their usual stomping ground being the community halls, prairie barns, kitchens and clubs--anywhere where they can get out their guitars, violins, accordions and bass. These boys are modern day troubadours with dreadlocks.

Then there is One Piece at a Time with Kiwi, Finn Andrews who was recently commissioned by the Belgian Government to write a piece for the antipodean dead of World War One. Andrews is a talented keyboard player but performs with a band and string players. Another Kiwi on the playbook is Lawrence Arabia whose Singles Club is described as “sunshine pop” delivered in wry vignettes about the absurdities of modern life which will “leave you a weeping husk, surperglued to the couch watching Jeremy Kylie and eating chip sandwiches.”

Rounding out the music options for the festival include Estère whose unique sounds include ‘the crash of a cutlery drawer and the clicking of a possum.’ Local performers include Wanaka’s own Martine Harding, Pheobe James and Connor Moore. For opera lovers there will be baritone Julien van Mellaerts.

The big Saturday night act at the Pacific Crystal Palace will be Lou’ana who will bring a night of free-spirited jass, soul and funk.


The theatre options are quirky, hilarious, contemplative and cheeky.

Bruce is a lo-fi puppetry spectacular which sold out two seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For a lump of orange foam, he has an incredible epic adventure as he is brought to life by jaw-droppingly talented puppeteers. Bruce is a loveable screw-up with one last shot at redemption. On at Hawea Flat Hall.

Still Life with Chickens is the tale of a lonely woman who develops an unlikely relationship with a chicken and promises to be both moving and hilarious.

My Best Dead Friend is set in Dunedin in 1998 and is a true story about heart-breaking grief and enduring friendship; this play will be on for three nights at Rippon Hall.

The Road That Wasn’t There is a surrealistic puppetry show in which a young woman from Central Otago walks the roads which only exist on surveyor maps. As she does, her world turns to paper which seems a land of possibility--at first. The Road That Wasn’t There was the winner of the Best Children’s Event at Fringe World but is a bit dark for little kids however older children are guaranteed to love it.

Wild Dogs Under my Skirt is an exploration and celebration of what it is to be a Samoan woman--a feat which earned Director Polata’ivao Best Director and the 2016 Auckland Theatre Awards, Best Actress in 2018 Wellington Theatre Awards and Best Production of the Year. This play is for 13 years and over.

Permission to Speak is a play featuring Mt Aspiring College which quite literally gives permission to the new generation to speak up on issues facing them, from; body image and gender equality in sport, to what feminism means to teenagers. The dialogue will move to music and song and is a totally home-grown play.


The Royal New Zealand Ballet is coming to Wanaka which is a coup for the festival organisers who also clinched the New Zealand Symphony. These are big ticket items that will sell out fast so get tickets quickly.

The RNZB is performing a triple bill of contemporary dance including two works that were commissioned to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. So To Speak and Stand To Reason both celebrate the women who fought the battle but also illuminate the struggles that took place privately. The third work to be performed will be Gleam which is a lyrical work between three couples in a series of duets. The RNZB will only have two performances at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Thursday April 4.

The New Zealand Dance Company is performing a brand new work by Victoria Columbus who created The Fibonacci especially for the festival. How does mathematical sequencing work in the art of dance? Whether is the arrangement of leaves on a stem or petals on a flower or the spiralling of galaxies, there is a physical language that taps into energy pathways in movement.

In a truly odd, yet alarmingly good performance, is the Tree Dancer who, yes, dances in trees. At night. In the dark. You have to see it to believe it.


Sister event, Aspiring Conversations, is hosting a mini event with five speakers/issues on offer: Mike Joy with Sir Tipene O’Regan and Greg O’Brien on the Water Crisis, a discourse on clean water, high-volume dairy farming, the Pure brand and treaty rights. Dr Salmond will be speaking First Encounters/Te Ha, setting patterns for our nation based on the first few weeks of Cook’s exploration in Gisborne and how those weeks have determined the future course of New Zealand. Professor Skegg is an epidemiologist, a public health physician, former Vice Chancellor of Otago University and an adviser to the World Health Organisation; he will be speaking on the failing public health system in New Zealand. James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, will be speaking on moving to a low-carbon economy. Thomas Nash, a leading strategist in the Nobel prize-winning campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, and leader of a campaign to end cluster bobs, and Major Dave Gawn who served as Head of Mission for the UN Truce Supervision Organisation will both be presenting on peacekeeping and peacemaking.


Tickets go on sale at 8.30am on Friday February 22. Book tickets online at festivalofcolour.co.nz, by phone on 022 4849 669 or in person at the Festival Box Office, Lake Wanaka Centre.


The Festival of Colour Schoolfest programme offers free and low-cost events for primary, intermediate and secondary school students. A variety of performers run workshops and put on special performances for students, and the festival provides tickets for school groups to some of the public performances.

Royal New Zealand Ballet Senior Dance Educator Pagan Dorgan will be in Wanaka for a week running workshops in local schools ahead of the RNZB’s performances on April 6 and 7.

The 3 Speed Crunchbox circus is coming to town. They will run workshops and showcase their spectacular circus tricks and slapstick comedy in local schools.

Musician and sound artist Campbell Burns will be working with high school students. Catch his Water Table sound installation at the Wai / Water / Wanaka exhibition on throughout the festival.

Travelling storyteller Tanya Batt will be telling stories for junior students in our district all week.

The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra is bringing its multicultural community sounds to our schools with two days of in-school performances.

It’s time to give a new generation Permission to Speak. High school students from around the country have spoken their truths on topics such as body image, gender equality in sport, and what feminism means to teenagers today. Their dialogues are supported with movement and song in this powerful local production. Our talented young Wanaka actors are facing these issues head on. Permission to Speak will be on at the Wanaka Yacht Club and feature 20 actors from Mt Aspiring College.


*A people library is literally, a library of people. You can check out an expert on a topic you want to explore, and sit down with them for 20 minutes to chat, then return them. The festival is providing a list of experts and their topics for you to “borrow”. Let the festival office know if you have a friend with specialist knowledge and who can join the library collection!


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