Taking street theatre back to the street, the World Buskers Festival is not only one of the best of its kind in the world, but also your best chance to get up close and personal with some of the planet’s fiercest fringe talents.
This year it reaches its quarter-century milestone, and Cityscape celebrates by running the ruler over the 2018 line-up, hand-picking some programme highlights to get excited about, and meeting some of the top talents on offer to bring you the ultimate guide to rocking this year’s festival right.
Celebrating a huge silver anniversary with its 25th edition in 2018, the Festival has grown from the germ of an idea inspired by a rogue busker gatecrashing the Festival of Flowers in 1993 to become perhaps Christchurch’s most beloved event, and an absolute staple/highlight of the city’s summer. Starting with just a handful of local performers and a couple of international acts, the concept has seen us visited by increasing numbers of spectacular and out-there acts and increasingly big names in world entertainment, and has bounced back from the disruption of the quakes bigger and better than ever, with 2017’s edition of the festival finally returning to central city streets after a few years based in Hagley Park.
The big anniversary in 2018 appropriately sees a massive festival in store, with some all-time festival favourites returning as well as many exciting newcomers making their debut, and a re-burgeoning city centre once again acting as an exciting backdrop; old-new central city spaces like The North Quad, The Great Hall and Market Square at the Arts Centre, the Phillip Carter Auditorium and forecourt at the Art Gallery, Cathedral Square and more are all set to host shows.
As with every year of the festival, tickets to popular shows move fast; it pays to do some homework and get in on tickets early, because a casual approach of turning up on the night is bound to end in disappointment!
18 – 28 January
10 Acts To Catch
Behold the Cityscape Festival picks – if we could pick more than 10 we would, ‘cos honestly, this year’s line-up is bursting with talent – but if you can only make it to a few shows this year, we’d recommend these guys.
01 - Ginger Minj: Crossdressing For Christ
After winning hearts on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the once self-described “chubby little lady boy” and now fabulous Ginger Minj has taken her musical comedy Crossdressing For Christ on the road. A musical comedy that tracks her quest for spiritual enlightenment in song and story, it charts her upbringing as a Southern Baptist in Lake County, Florida and own search for alternative answers. Billed as “a wild and wacky journey that promises to have you on your knees before the night is over”, this is one to catch from a true cabaret star. Image by Austin Young. Jan 18 – 27, Buskers Boutique Theatre at Christ’s College
02 - Tape Face
Trained at the now sadly shuttered Christchurch CircoArts School, Tape Face has gone on to become a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, tearing up America’s Got Talent (where he was a finalist) in 2016 and performing in festivals all over the world. His strictly limited show at the 2018 festival will be a world premiere of new ideas and plans; a show formulated just in time for the festival! Here’s your chance to catch new material from one of Canterbury’s most successful entertainers on the world stage before anyone else on the planet. Jan 18 – 27, Buskers Club at Christ’s College
03 Quatuor Stomp: What’s Next?
Creativity and explosive entertainment are the name of the game for Quatuor Stomp, a Canadian four-man act that blends circus and variety styles into colourful performances. In What’s Next?, the crew leave things up to chance, with a dice roll deciding whether they’ll launch into spectacular acrobatics, juggling, jump rope, fire, or some kind of insane all-in-pink performance that only they could dream up. Boundless energy and endearing madness! Jan 19 – 28, North Quad at the Arts Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery Forecourt, Cashel Street – High Street Triangle, Market Square
04 A Night At The Musicals
The city has been hanging out for three years for the return of the fabulous Le Gateau Chocolat to the festival; now he’s back, bringing his friend the equally dynamic Jonny Woo to combine in this ‘Les Misérmassacre’ of the Broadway and West End musicals you know and love. The dynamic duo are set to drag (literally) through the back catalogue for a raucous night of ballsy ballads, delightful duets and slaughtered show tunes, penning a tortured love letter to everything from Grease to The Lion King. Prepare for high glam levels, costumes to die for and some seriously raggedy choreography. Check out Cityscape's exclusive interview. Image by Lee Faircloth. Jan 18 – 27, The Great Hall at the Arts Centre
05 Cal Wilson: Things I’ve Never Said
Cal Wilson started in Christchurch with the Court Jesters and was the joint inaugural winner of the Billy T Award before hitting the world stage, performing extensively as a comedian and improvisor in Australia and popping up on telly in the likes of QI, Rove Live, Thank God You’re Here, Good News Week, Spicks and Specks and 7 Days, and making critically acclaimed appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe and other festivals. In her new solo show she gets all the things she’s never said about feminism, politics, and those brown shoes her husband won’t throw out off her chest for one very funny night only. Cityscape caught up with Cal. Check it out over here. Jan 19, Phillip Carter Auditorium
06 Card Ninja
Another local lad done good (and ex-Court Jester, and Buskers Fest Iron Chicken winner), Javier Jarquin – a.k.a. Card Ninja – has wowed them at the London Wonderground Festival, Southbank Festival, London’s Bloomsbury Theatre and on the web as part of Pepsi Max’s ‘Unbelievable’ series. Combining comedy and an at times unbelievable display of the art of scaling (that’s throwing cards at things, to you) he takes us through his journey from mild mannered card player to silent assassin. Jan 18 – 27, Buskers Boutique Theatre at Christ’s College
07 The Topp Twins
Beloved yodelling, gender-swapping and up-for-it Kiwi icons The Topp Twins have been handed a blank slate by the Festival this year, who approached them and simply asked them to do what they wanted to do, knowing that these sure-fire entertainers are bound to impress. Expect original songs, audience participation, comedy, burlesque innuendo – and, of course, spoons – from one of the few New Zealand acts that can deservedly be dubbed a cultural institution. Jan 18 – 21, Buskers Club at Christ’s College
08 Butt Kapinski
The Festival has been after this show for three years, and now secured it. Described as “a hilarious, genius, genre-defying and totally unique theatrical experience”, the show sees hardboiled private eye Butt Kapinski invite audiences to co-star with him in a film noir murder mystery. Join him in a seedy world of sin, shadows, subterfuge and similes for an interactive theatrical ride that ‘could be a new type of theatre’. Image by Mihaela Bodlovic. Jan 18 – 27, Buskers Boutique Theatre at Christ’s College
09 Monsters Of Schlock
Canadian madmen The Great Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek have claimed the description ‘a two man demolition derby’; their extreme circus-cum-sideshow-cum-comedy-cum-magic spectacular has earned them a reputation as the masters of bodily abuse. It pays to expect extremes from a team that’s broken Guinness World Records 25 times; get ready for amazing feats, mind-blowing stunts and wince-worthy sympathy pangs all rolled into an anything-goes, off the cuff approach that will have you laughing and screaming simultaneously. Jan 19 – 28, North Quad at the Arts Centre, Cashel Street – High Street Triangle, Art Gallery Forecourt, Market Square, Buskers in New Brighton
10 Penny Ashton: Olive Copperbottom
Ex-Christchurchian Penny Ashton has been entertaining audiences all over the world for years with her stand-up and smash-hit one-woman take on Jane Austen Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical by Jane Austen. Now she’s swapping Austen for Dickens to bring us not only orphaned hero Olive, but a squalid gaggle of hilarious and crusty Victorians – some 15 characters in all. Look for a gin-soaked, music-fuelled and hilarious romp through literature and history described as “Oliver! meets Blackadder with a saucy feminine twist” – sounds good to us. Jan 18 – 27, Buskers Boutique Theatre at Christ’s College