Attracting more than two million visitors to date, the Auckland Arts Festival is back again for the 12th time from March 11 to 29. The festival encourages both local and international artists and audiences to think boldly and take risks. This year, Jonathan Bielski, Artistic Director for Auckland Arts Festival 2020, shares what he looks forward to the most and more.

What is your role for this year's Auckland Arts Festival?

I’m the Artistic Director for Auckland Arts Festival 2020. This is the third (and last) Auckland Arts Festival I have programmed, and I’ve saved a few treats for my final fling.

What can audiences expect this year?

Auckland Arts Festival has long prided itself on presenting a variety of work and this year is no different with dance, theatre, music, circus, cabaret, visual arts and the most wonderful outdoor spectacle you’ll ever see. We scour the world for the very best which we can bring to New Zealand and balance that with new works created right here in Aotearoa. There are works which provide us with intellectual provocations and new perspectives. And then there is sheer escapism and laughter with acrobats, singers, actors and musicians reminding us that life is joyful and celebrating all that is fun and good in the world.

Snow White Auckland Arts Festival

Snow White is headlining this year's Auckland Arts Festival

Why is the city centre a great setting for the festival?

The city centre is home to our largest venues for presenting our works, but it is also the vibrant beating heart of the city. We hope people will not only come in for a show or two, but will take the opportunity to have a night out and really immerse themselves in all that this great city offers.

What’s new this year? What’s returning?

Much of the programme is new for New Zealand and most of it is exclusive to Auckland, but we are delighted to welcome back some companies who have previously visited our shores. Ballet Preljocaj returns, this time with their darkly delicious version of Snow White, Traverse Theatre Company is back with the 2019 Best of Edinburgh Festival award winner Mouthpiece, our favourite circus-cabaret masters Strut & Fret bring us the new show Limbo Unhinged, while Circolombia returns with their new renegade circus show Acéléré. And don’t miss some gems in the theatre programme – Dimanche is a brand new work out of Belgium which uses puppetry, mime and film to tell the story of a world on the brink; legendary Irish actor Barry McGovern performs Samuel Beckett’s Watt for the first time in NZ, and, almost defying description, Cold Blood uses a cast of performing hands, elaborate scaled film sets and live projection to tell seven stories of death!

Limbo Unhinged

Limbo Unhinged runs throughout the festival at Aotea Square 

What are you personally looking forward to the most?

Well, when it comes to fun shows, I am looking forward to Limbo Unhinged. There’s fire, sword swallowing, acrobatics, and everyone has a great night out. It’s on throughout the whole festival at the glorious Spiegeltent in Aotea Square. 

Last updated: 27 February 2023