Free Theatre Christchurch (est. 1979) is New Zealand's longest running producer of experimental theatre. The company serves as a laboratory for established and emerging artists to work together to create innovative, high quality performance work.

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Following on from the success of LUXCITY in 2012, this year’s main event for FESTA 2013 is the carnivalesque Canterbury Tales, conceived and led by Free Theatre Christchurch. This extravaganza of light, sound and interactivity will delight, stimulate and offer reflection as we explore the past, present and future of Christchurch.

At 8.30pm the procession of large puppets and masked performers will assemble near the Bridge of Remembrance and follow a specific path through the central city at night: along the river to Worcester Bridge before ending at the heart of the city in Cathedral Square.

Spectators can join the procession at any point as it moves through different sites that come alive with diverse performances, soundscapes, lights, hospitality, interactive architecture and installations.

This unique experience is the major event for this year’s festival, creating a city-within-a-city based around different Canterbury tales - expect to see the city like you’ve never seen it before!

Dress up, wear a mask and come join the carnival of Canterbury Tales.
Images: Rehearsing 'The Friar' and 'The Merchant' (by Stuart Lloyd Harris)

A Collaborative Exploration of the City

Free Theatre’s procession begins in the Pacific: an interactive environment where local performance group Pacific Underground and ‘Highlight’ (Architecture Department, Unitec) engage with the Samoan holiday Lotu Tamaiti or White Sunday, a community celebration of childhood. After passing by a river installation designed by Lincoln Landscape Architecture students, the procession moves to an urban scenography on the Worcester Bridge where local experimental artists coordinated by Bruce Russell and Zita Joyce perform within an interactive environment built and inhabited by Interior and Spatial Design students from the University of Technology Sydney. From there the path leads us through the installations ‘Anamorphic Shadows’ and ‘Illuminate’ (developed by Unitec students) up to the Cathedral, where a play between karanga and fanfare performed by Ngai Tahu artists and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra calls the procession into the square. Along the journey expect to find beverages and tasty fare from some of Christchurch’s favourite watering holes: The Darkroom, Cassels and Sons, The Twisted Hop, Black Betty and Smash Palace. The Lost and Found night market, developed alongside the work of students from CPIT, will entertain audiences long into the night. Watch out for mobile shelters, from Unitec's Department of Design and Visual Arts, unfolding from clothes, suitcases or backpacks. You can also anticipate encounters with the following Canterbury Tales collaborators: A Different Light; Society of Creative Anachronism; Living Loops; Elder Flame; Mr Heaphy; local talented buskers, and more...

In the spirit of the transitional city, Canterbury Tales has only been made possible because of the enthusiasm and support of a wide range of local, national and international volunteers, sponsors and funders. These include PlaceMakers Riccarton, CreativeNZ, Philips, Skope, McConnell Dowell, Duncan Cotterill, Fletcher Construction, HireAccess, Arup, Athfield Architects, Hirepool, Kiwibank and the Mainland Foundation. (The core funders for FESTA 2013 are the Todd Foundation, the Christchurch City Council and The Canterbury Community Trust).

In addition to the carnival, there are other Canterbury Tales events on during FESTA 2013:
  • Attend the Canterbury Tales Symposium where a panel discusses this performative exploration of the city (27 October 3-5pm, Black Betty).
  • Listen to On-Site Talks with Canterbury Tales collaborators, where participants talk about their work and the formation of local identity in post-quake Christchurch.
    (27 October 12-2pm, Starts at corner of Oxford Tce & Cashel St; moves to Worcester St Bridge).
  • A chance to Meet the Puppets and have a go at operating one (28 October 11-12.30pm, Cathedral Square).
Other Free Theatre News...

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Free Theatre's I Sing the Body Electric was rated the Best Theatre production of 2012 by the Christchurch Press: "this was a production to plunge into rather than politely nibble and analyse... theatre for all the senses. Outstanding".
Image: Rehearsing 'I Sing the Body Electric' 2012 (by Stuart Lloyd Harris)
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