WORD Christchurch: The Neu! Otāutahi incident

WORD: The Neu! Otāutahi incident

After leaving The Neu! Otāutahi Incident at the Arts Centre Gym and walking in towards the centre of town, with the performances of the evening echoing through my mind there was a fleeting sense of a city that has begun to live and breathe again. After 10pm, people were gathered together, walking, eating out and enjoying life together in a CBD that was shaken to pieces by earthquakes and strangled by the government’s response. Otāutahi has started to feel a little bit grown up again, and it felt right to have such a confident, assured and exciting poetry and performance show on a Saturday night in our city.

The Gym at the Arts Centre is a beautiful venue, and it was a sold out crowd who enjoyed a range of work, from bawdy tales of masturbation (Michael Pedersen) and handjobs gone wrong (Hollie McNish) Leonardo DaVinci fanfic (Hera Lindsay Bird) and the story of a kid whose dad really did beat up the teacher who hit him in class (Dominic Hoey) to an arresting performance from FAFSWAG with an interpretive movement in response to spoken word. There was a rich and deep range of voices on stage, with a sense of commonality and purpose despite their different approaches.

Michael Pedersen was an able, energetic MC, and the pace of the show and flow between performers was lively while still allowing space for each piece to develop and shine. I may have ended up coming back to discussing the earthquakes in this review, but only for the fact that they and their ramifications, 8 years on from the first event, finally feel like they can occasionally (if you turn a blind eye to a few Fahey Fences and empty lots) be forgotten for a while. The communities who oppose the staid conservatism of this city have always been interesting and vital, and the compromises of the last 9 years are finally (occasionally) the least of our worries.  The Neu! Otāutahi incident felt like an opportunity to celebrate this, with an unapologetically talented lineup of performers from around the world.

Reviewed by Brett Johansen

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