I quite often start a blog post with some concept of a title, since that defines what the post is going to be about. This time, though, I was at a kind of a loss to think of three words to describe the World of Wearable Art, held annually here in Wellington. I went last year, and really enjoyed it and was quite determined to go again. Whether it was a better show (I had heard it was) or because I was sitting in the second row, so got a close up view of the costumes, I enjoyed this year more than last year.
Described as “where fashion art and theatre collide”, the World of Wearable Art is a competition, a theatrical show and a chance to let designers let their imagination run wild. WOW is, at its most basic, an international design competition, to produce a piece of wearable art. These works are then presented in a two hour long show of dance, theatre, music and art. Some of the designs clearly take hours upon hours to come together, and all sorts of material is used from polythene to parachute silk.
There are different categories with which the designers work. This year these were the children’s section, the Aotearoa section, the Open Section, the Architecture Section, Man Section: Reinvent the Uniform, Other Worlds (Costume and film and sponsored by Weta Workshop)and the Avant Garde section. There is a prize for each section as well as other prizes such as New Zealand designer, and an overall winner.
The stage before the show – bare branches
As last year, the pre-show music was well worth listening to, so it is worth taking your seats early. This year we were treated to The Jews Brothers Band Music, who were just superb. Check their website (link above).
The show began with our ‘guide’ for the evening, (played by Trygve Wakenshaw) flying onto the stage, and meeting up with his ‘companion’ (Jimmy James Fletcher). This pair introduced each section with short pieces of mime and at times, slapstick. It was an excellent opening, setting the seen for what was to come. The first section was the Children’s Section, with the theme of children’s imaginary friends. Children in school uniforms emerged as if from the ground, pulled up by branches, and then lead their companions round the stage. The winner this year was “For Annie” by Doreen Helms and Susan Thurner from New Zealand, a giant silver rabbit made from polyfoam and curtain rods.
The second second section, Aotearoa (New Zealand), had as a theme the colours red, white and black and the diverse cultures of New Zealand. The winning design was my clear favourite in this category, and designed by Philippa Stichbury of Australia (gasp!).
Amazing work: On Reflection
The Open Section that followed was a mixture of things as you can well imagine, including the outstanding costume by Jeff Thomson of New Zealand.
This section also had some wonderful dancing. You can just see in the back of the picture above the brides and grooms, who used what I can only describe as a giant inflatable red object, to bounce off and sit on. This was followed by a section with architecture as a theme, and was dedicated to Wellington architect Sir Ian Athfield who died earlier this year. During this section, we were also treated to some interesting light effects, including at the end, a lighted tunnel, symbolising the passing of Athfield. There were some really amazing designs in this section, including the overall winner of this year’s competition, pictured below.
Diva’s Dreamscape by Peter Wakeman, New Zealand (www.lucire.com)
The next section, Man: Reinventing the Uniform, was I think my favourite, mainly because of the dancing. The dancers (all men) had as props large boxes, which they moved about, sometimes hiding inside, sometimes piling them up, sometimes forming shapes. How a small city like Wellington managed to find so many good male dancers (students from the dance school, dancers from Footnote and some others) says something about how the status of male dancers has changed as much as anything. Anyway, the winner from this section (and also my favourite in this section) was “The Piper of Lights”.
Next up was the costume and film section, with a backdrop of an imaginary underground world, and live music from The Jews Brothers. Without a doubt the most spectacular costume was “To be or not to be” from Joanna Peacock of the UK.
Yet again, the staging was superb and the singer of the band, in her red dress, blended so well with the scene on stage. The final section began with a trapeze act, that had many heart stopping moments. Without a doubt, my favourite was the red dress below, designed by Xi Zhang from China. The picture doesn’t really do it justice.
Stoke the Fire stuff.co.nz
The show ended with our guide flying off the stage, and a roll call of all the winners.
Star rating: 5/5.
Choreographers: Ross McCormack, Victoria Colombus, Anita Hunziker and Tanemahuta Gray for the Aotearoa section.
Artistic Directors: Marie Adams and Mike Mizrahi
Where to sit: Last year I was at the back, but facing the apron stage. I could see the show, but not the detail. This year I sat at the side but very close and got to see the detail, which really made a difference. Guess the best place is in the middle, near the front of course!
Other advice: buy tickets early and get the best you can; go into the theatre early and listen to the pre show music.
And the title of the blog? Words inspired by Dame Suzie Moncrieff who founded the event, “be prepared to be uplifted, inspired and taken on a magical journey”.
You can’t take pictures during the show, hence my mix of borrowed images from stuff.co.nz and http://www.lucire.com.