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Auckland Fringe 2013
presented by Celery Productions & The Basement

at St Kevin's Arcade / Myers Park / The Basement, Auckland
From 22 Feb 2013 to 23 Feb 2013
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 23 Feb 2013

A sizeable crowd of eclectic Fringe-style aficionados convene in St Kevin's Arcade, appropriately about the closest thing to a fairy tale castle (that isn't a church) around uptown Auckland.  At the front-of-house each patron is provided a goody-bag/survival-kit containing a liquorice allsort, a map, a compass and a slice of baguette.

Ten minutes after the 8.30 start-time (apparently a festival tradition), a green-suited chap in a trilby and shades calls the crowd to gather round and hear as he reads us his stirring tale:  Once upon a while ago a cluster of folk not unlike the one gathered here, gathered in a similar sort of place and, following a sound descended into the neighbouring parkland. There they beheld a series of remarkable sights, stories and intriguing characters whose descriptions match many of the better known Western-European folktales of our own childhoods. 

Next thing we know we're being urged down the many flights of stairs through the arcade and into Myers Park.  There, by some magical coincidence, all the aforementioned archetypes reveal themselves in turn, unfolding their familiar anecdotes with a liberally satirical twist. 

Heralded forth by an earnest, chatty German tourist I presume to be Hansel, we encounter, among other familiar oddballs: a surprisingly young, fit and rather camp tiara-clad emperor smugly strutting his latest collection of (non-existent) duds; seven busy singing caretakers in hi-vis waistcoats, one sleepy, one sneezy et al; a particularly Gothic-horror style scene involving a young lass in a red hood and a vicious wolf masquerading as her Nana. 

Celery Productions' intrepid design crew has made excellent use of the available space in Auckland's most central park and recreation area.  Visual highlights include an impressive giant magic-mirror face (with flaming eyes!) projected against a large tree, the coldly lit witches lair/playground area, and a solemn, sultry singing blue mermaid. 

There's plenty more going on besides what I've mentioned here; being drawn along with a crowd of at least a couple of hundred by my estimation, it's hard to know how many classic moments I missed without comparing my journey with others elsewhere in the crowd. 

I did witness one unfortunate technical fiasco when another wolf's leaf blower failed to start during his mission to blow his little piggy pal ‘Ralph' away in his two-man dome tent.

Overall, though, it's a fairly successful result for the sizeable company's somewhat ambitious exposé, stretching the length of the park to conclude at a Prince's ball beneath the overbridge, then on to the after-party in the Bouncy Castle on the Basement forecourt. 

I understand it's Celery's largest scale production to date.  With their evident bounty of talent and drive I fully expect that, with the lessons learned this time round, they should be creating even more truly magnificent works in future, combining their potent ingredients of magical spectacle and streetwise satire. 
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See also reviews by:
 James Wenley (Theatre Scenes - Auckland Theatre Blog);