Auckland Theatre Company prepares to celebrate 30-year milestone

Jonathan Bielski. Image credit: Jinki Cambronero
Jonathan Bielski. Image credit: Jinki Cambronero
After a couple of years disrupted by COVID-19, Auckland Theatre Company is presenting an exciting programme of theatre in 2023.

For the Auckland Theatre Company, 2023 marks a significant milestone: it will be 30 years since the company was founded. “Not many arts organisations make it this far and it’s been a heroic journey by so many people,” says artistic director and CEO Jonathan Bielski.

In commemorating the momentous occasion, Bielski wants the 2023 season to honour the contribution made by so many over such a long period, while also presenting a vision for the company’s present and future with positive new work. “The thing that was front of mind as we were putting together [the season] this year was that simultaneous thing of wanting to look backwards and celebrate what it is that we’ve achieved together as a company and as an audience and as a community, but also looking forward,” he says.

To achieve this, Bielski ensured the 2023 programme didn’t lean on nostalgia. “It’s not like we are bringing forward the greatest hits,” he says. “But I think throughout the programme, there are acknowledgements to the history of the company and the people who’ve created it, as well as some very exciting new directions.”

At the same time, the company is having to balance the reality of a public that may still be hesitant to sit in a crowded theatre. “It’s a really difficult environment at the moment for the performing arts,” Bielski says. “We’re not fully recovered from the COVID-19 context yet, so we’re still very much in a rebuilding phase. We’ve got a really very hopeful and excited artistic community, and then we have an engaged and energised audience, but we’re still building back to where we were before 2020. So what I hope 2023 does is [act as] a celebration of our 30 years, but also is another step along the road of everyone being energised about being out in the theatre again regularly.”

Even without the tribulations that COVID-19 presented, Bielski acknowledges that creating theatre always has its challenges, which makes the 30-year milestone all the more impressive. “I think we are all just super proud and satisfied that the company will have reached its 30th anniversary and we’re still going,” he says. “It’s never easy producing theatre, but we have had 30 wonderful years of support from audiences and we’ve had decade after decade of incredible artists. That’s an amazing history – an extraordinary history. So I hope that next year will feel like a really significant celebration of all that’s been achieved and a really great year of theatre-going as we all rebuild the routines and habits of our lives.”


The Heartbreak Choir by Aidan Fennessy

This laugh-out-loud Aussie comedy follows a group of misfits as they start their own choir. “I wanted to start the year with something that was genuinely funny, felt really warm and filled with characters that we would all recognise and understand,” says Bielski.

Witi’s Wāhine by Nancy Brunning

After a COVID-related postponement last year, this work bringing Witi Ihimaera’s female characters to life on stage will be presented in 2023. “It’s a thrilling prospect for us to be able to present this with four beautiful actors,” says Bielski.

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Michael Hurst directs and stars in this epic production of the Shakespeare masterpiece. “There was no one else we could ask to do it other than Michael Hurst,” Bielski explains. “He’s been preparing for this all his life and he’s ready to do his King Lear.”

Basmati Bitch by Ankita Singh

ATC collaborated with SquareSums&Co to commission and produce this comedy-crime caper set in an alternate reality where ethnic dietary staples like rice are banned. “It’s an action romp and I think people will absolutely be thrilled by it,” Bielski says.

Things that Matter by Gary Henderson

Cancelled due to COVID in 2021, this play based on Dr David Galler’s memoir about working on the frontlines at Middlemore Hospital will finally have its world premiere. “Gary had written the play, the actors had rehearsed it, we’d built the set and we’d made the costumes. We were ready to go,” says Bielski.

Switzerland by Joanna Murray-Smith

“I have wanted to work with Sarah Peirse for a very long time. She’s an extraordinary artist,” says Bielski of the star of this psychological thriller. Peirse portrays author Patricia Highsmith in a play inspired by the work of the master crime novelist.



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