News: Wow factor for public in over 300 shows

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Wow factor for public in over 300 shows For the past week I have been feeling what I imagine a marathon runner must experience just before the big race. http://festival.co.nz/yk-images/0a8a8aa85688e376c36c263171c04b7a/listing/5LissaTwomey.jpg 2012-02-25T00:22:22+00:00 2012-02-25T00:22:57+00:00 > Dom Post

Director's Chair by Lissa Twomey - Dom Post

For the past week I have been feeling what I imagine a marathon runner must experience just before the big race.

However, I know that the next three weeks of the festival will not involve excruciating pain and nor will I be at risk of cardiac arrest.

Hopefully any running will be limited to a brief jog between venues and any exhaustion the result of too many late nights.

Historically, festivals and feasts have been interchangeable and what a feast we have for you in the coming weeks.

Last night over two years of planning came to fruition as Wellington exploded with six events opening around town.

More open tonight, including our very own big-top: the TelstraClear Festival Club. By the time the festival's banquet of events ends on March 18, the city will have delighted in over 300 arts events.

The collective energy emanating from Wellington's main theatres last night spilled out onto the streets with many heading to the waterfront to see Michel Tuffery's transfixing projections on Te Papa's facade with First Contact 2012.

For nine local schoolboys, last night marked their festival debut alongside Remus (our great dane of the four-legged kind) in Pan Pan Theatre company's The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane. No performance of this irreverent rift on Hamlet is the same – the audience literally vote for who should play Hamlet after an audition process that forms the first half of the production.

Hamlet's famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be" features in more than one event this festival. Michael Hurst's hilarious solo tour de force Frequently Asked Questions opens next week, but you can also see Michael along with Stephen Fry, Bret McKenzie, Andy Serkis and others in "Are You Bard Enough", New Zealand's first crowd-created Shakespeare speech – take a look on the festival's YouTube page.

I'm an absolute groupie when it comes to Kneehigh theatre company, having seen just about every one of their shows since they were here with Tristan and Yseult. I love everything they do and urge you not to leave it too late to buy your tickets to their latest show, The Wild Bride.

When word got around about Kneehigh's genius at the 2006 festival you couldn't get a ticket for love nor money. Based on The Handless Maiden fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, The Wild Bride has enchanted brave children of all ages – but their magic will delight only until Monday night and their last festival performance.
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The first of our Town Hall Gigs sees the wildly popular Bon Iver in town for two sell-out concerts. American indie rock star quartet, Death Cab for Cutie will join the Town Hall Gigs lineup on Wednesday night, while sounds of a different kind will emanate from the Town Hall on Thursday night with Britain's glorious early music ensemble, The Sixteen.

One of Britain's most admired Shakespearean troupes, Propeller, arrives in town tomorrow. It has taken me six years to clinch a deal with this all-male company. Propeller tours with a little more in the way of sets than Shakespeare did, but essentially it's a group of blokes with costumes, a good deal of intelligence, humour, pace and precision, putting on an incredible show. I can guarantee you will have never seen a Henry V or The Winter's Tale quite like Propeller's before – they are illuminating for Shakespearean aficionados and entertaining for novices.

If you saw The National Theatre of Scotland's 2008 festival hit Black Watch then I'm preaching to the converted when I talk about their new drama Beautiful Burnout. It opens next weekend, so this is a heads-up – as tickets will go fast. It's another edge-of-your-seat (edge of a boxing ring really) production that mixes dramatic performance with rigorously choreographed movement sequences that, pardon the pun, really packs a punch!

The combination of so many events on offer in a short space of time and how they inter-relate with one another is one of the most delicious things about a festival. There is still plenty more to come, so do join in before it is too late – a celebration like this only happens every two years.

Lissa Twomey is artistic director of the New Zealand International Arts Festival. Her column Director's Chair will appear during the festival.