New Zealand


Les Grooms in New Zealand

17th to 26th March 2017


In April 2016 Bill Gee, a festival programmer and friend from Britain, told us that a festival organiser in New Zealand he knew would very probably be interested in our work. We got in touch at once with the person in question, Drew James, and started negotiations for a tour in spring 2017, that is to say, a whole year in advance. We exchanged hundreds of mails and Drew James even managed to come and see us perform in Germany in August 2016. After discussions, he agreed to pay our wages plus accommodation and food, but couldn't pay travel costs. That would be for us to find.

So we set about filling out dossiers for two official bodies which might finance our travel (10 musicians): SPEDIDAM and the French Institute. It was quite a stressful process, since we were only due to get a definitive answer in February or March but were scheduled to leave on 14th March. So we had to pay for the tickets ourselves without being sure that they would be reimbursed. And the total cost was more than 10 000 euros.

We were delighted when we learned that both of these organisations were willing to support us.

The choice of musicians was also very difficult since it was too expensive for the whole company to make the trip. After complex negotiations we managed to come to an amicable arrangement.

The plan was for us to play in 3 different festivals:

- Auckland Arts Festival :

- Capital National Arts Festival :

- CubaDupa Street Festival :


Auckland Arts Festival : 17th to 19th March 2017

The trip was exhausting – 25 hours of flying. And we had to perform less than 24 hours after our arrival. Luckily our accommodation was excellent and our hosts extremely welcoming.

The performance space was in a small garden in the centre of Auckland where a stage had been put up. Unfortunately the audience was small, but extremely enthusiastic – nobody had ever seen a music group like ours in New Zealand!!

Auckland is a very mixed town with about 30% of the population Chinese. The Asian children love to dance and this led to some fantastic improvised scenes with them.

We worked with a local singer called Emma Sloman. She was very competent, dynamic and ready to try anything, even agreeing to dress up as a jogger for the sake of the show. We had some great times with her.

We were all suffering from jet lag, and would spend the time between sets sleeping on any available sofas...

A reception was organised in our honour one evening with the whole festival team there. They were all extremely friendly and welcoming; Auckland is a city which hasn't been affected by the financial downturn, and economic growth is visible everywhere. The festival, which previously took place every two years, has just become an annual event.

On the last evening, we performed in the port and had a lot of fun involving the audience in the show. They all seemed to be delighted by our presence.


Capital E National Arts Festival : 21st to 24th March

Our next stop after Auckland was Wellington.

Here we weren't performing in the street, but on the stage of Wellington Opera House in a children's festival.

We presented our show "King Arthur", an adaptation of the opera by Henry Purcell (1691).

In order to avoid transportation costs, we had arranged for some of our decor to be re-constructed on site. It was done magnificently.

By coincidence, the technical director turned out to be French. He is a former punk who emigrated to New Zealand 18 years ago.

While we were checking the last technical details in the theatre on the evening before the premier, the whole festival team came along to see what the "Frenchies" were going to come up with. Certain technical elements had proved difficult to negotiate prior to our arrival. We weren't allowed to perform the scene where one actor strips down to his underwear (no nudity in New Zealand), or the scene where several actors drink beer (no alcohol on stage in New Zealand), or the scene where we set off firecrackers (no fireworks in New Zealand).

A director had been employed to help adapt our show for the local audience, though we hadn't asked for this. Luckily she was great and initially only asked us to make one or two small changes.

However, she came along to all the shows and would then come back-stage with her notes, asking each time for various other minor changes. At the beginning this was fine by us, then it started to grate.

The festival informed us that they weren't being subsidised and that it was important to sell lots of tickets. They explained that we had to be as funny as possible and they wanted to cut any scenes that they thought were too slow.

We weren't happy with this directive, and told them so. After having accepted a number of modifications, we refused to change anything else. The show was as it was, and we wouldn't change another thing.

Fortunately, the festival director understood our position, and it all ended amicably.

The children were incredibly attentive and seemed to us a lot better behaved than their French counterparts.


Cuba Dupa Street Festival : 25th and 26th March

We were tired by now; we'd performed every day for almost ten days and our bodies were feeling the strain.

We had a session with a local choir. They were delightful and ready to have fun with us. We learned one of their numbers, and in exchange we taught them one of ours.

This festival was scheduled to take place in a very famous street in Wellington (Cuba Dupa Street), full of bars and restaurants. It was a bit like being in New York in the 70's, surrounded by hippies and other people living life in an unhurried way.

280 theatre shows and concerts were programmed over just two days!!!!

The problem was, it was almost impossible for us to hear each other as the ambient noise was so loud. And we weren't amplified...

The opening ceremony was a grandiose affair: we were put together with a Maori band, and they performed a welcome ceremony for us complete with Haka and wild dancing.

When the time came for us to pay our first set we found it very difficult to perform, as the surrounding racket was relentless. By some miracle, we found a courtyard that was protected from the cacophony, and this is where we ended up playing the majority of our performances.

Once again, the audience was extremely enthusiastic, and astonished at our style of performance, which doesn't exist in New Zealand. They are extremely receptive and love street theatre.

We all felt that street theatre has a very bright future in this part of the world.

Our last set was very special for us and we felt really touched and sad to be leaving this wonderful country. We bought a round of drinks for everyone who'd played a part in this adventure: the musicians, the choir, and the festival team.

We'd like to warmly thank the SPEDIDAM, the French Institute and Val de Loire regional council without whom this tour would never have been possible. Our time there was magical, and we hope to be able to return to Oceania in the very near future (Australia). Initial contacts have already been made, and we're going to do our best to make this new project a reality.


Christophe RAPPOPORT, trumpet player of Les Grooms

Translated by Alan Fairbairn ( Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. )


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