Category Archives: art + design

interviewed | multi-talented Director Leo Gene Peters

Santa Claus is coming to town, literally. Santa Claus is the Basement Theatre’s ninth annual Christmas show, and it’s coming to Auckland from Thursday 30th November to Wednesday 20th December. The show is directed by Leo Gene Peters, director of the award winning independent theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. Over the last few years, A Slightly Isolated Dog has been exploring how to make a theatre experience truly alive, by removing all barriers between the audience and performers, and this will be evident in Santa Claus.

The annual Christmas show will include the usual host of secret celebrity guests. Team this with Leo Gene Peters’ raucous, sexy, signature style, and this is a show not to be missed.

I chat to Leo, who has worked as a professional director, designer, technician, actor, tutor, facilitator and mentor, to find out more about the show, his career and how he likes to celebrate.

Q: From your point of view, what is the Christmas show Santa Claus about?

A: The show is a celebration of our ridiculous lives, especially the way we build up expectations around Christmas (and our lives in general) and how the real events rarely ever live up to our expectations… it’s a party that celebrates the childhood magic and the adult disappointment of Christmas… it’s a chaotic romp through the Christmas fantasy into the Christmas nightmare.

Q: Should the audience be worried if they haven’t been good this year?

A: No… well, I mean judgement is coming, Santa sees all. He knows when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake and he’s definitely coming… but I wouldn’t worry about it…

Q: Tell us a little more about the cast of the show…

A: They’re a great group of performers, really charming and very sexy and very funny… and very French.

Q: How have you explored removing barriers between the audience and performers for this Christmas show?

A: We tell the story with you, so the audience is always a part of what we do… we like there to be no barriers. Even with that, some people just watch the shows, some people play with us a bit… we do our best to make sure everyone has the best possible time. We want you to do what you want and have a great time out.

Q: Can you tell us more about using transformational venue experiences, integration of popular culture and interactivity? Are you doing this again for Santa Claus?

A: We love to play make-believe, then create something together and all buy into a story and tell it together in an exciting and entertaining way. This is something that is inherently in us as human beings, it’s why all the storytelling forms exist, we need to dream and exercise our imaginations. We like to play the way we did when we were kids, to make magic happen by turning one place or object into another. There are very few places for us to do this together and we believe the theatre is a crucial place for this to happen.

Q: What has been a key highlight (so far) in creating and directing the show?

A: We spend a lot of time making each other laugh at ridiculous offers for the show… but I’m enjoying most all the stories of our family Christmases that we’ve been telling/hearing in the making process. It’s such a lovely process to reflect in this way and see other people’s experiences of Christmas, whether they’re good or bad, whether they like it or hate… we celebrate them all.

Q: What do you want the audience to feel/experience/get from the show?

A: A great night out that is different from any other great night out… we want people to come and feel sexy and laugh and have a party that celebrates our ridiculous lives.

Q: What would be your best piece of advice to give to the audience before they attend the show?

A: Meet up with friends, have a meal and some drinks, chat about your Christmas plans with them, tell stories to each other… and come to the theatre expecting to have a great time. We will do everything in our power to make you look as good as possible and to have a great time.

Q: How will you celebrate once the show has finished?

A: Probably Christmas with close friends (surrogate family). A lot of food and a lot of drinks. Once the show opens we may have a few drinks as well…

Q: How does Santa Claus compare to previous shows you have done with your theatre company?

A: It’s delightful to be partnering with Basement to create it – we love working in Auckland and especially with Basement. They’ve created a great energy and community in the venue. The show itself is similar in a lot of ways, but very much its own beast… it’s been different to plays with such well known mythology and cultural events that so many people have a strong relationship to.

Q: What do you have planned for A Slightly Isolated Dog, after the huge Santa Clause show? Will you have a break or are you straight back into planning for another project?

A: We’re always planning for upcoming projects… but we’ll have a bit of a break for the holidays for sure. We’ve got a project coming up for CubaDupa in Wellington that we’re really excited about, as well as a national tour of Jekyll & Hyde. And there are a number of other projects in development.

Q: You have worked in many areas – directing, designing, acting, tutoring, mentoring and much more. How do you manage your time? Does the workload ever get too stressful? How do you like to unwind?

A: I try to make sure there is enough time to work through all the projects that I’ve got going at once, but sometimes I just work a lot of hours to get everything done… other times it feels like I do very little… The workload can be stressful, I try to keep up good practices in my life… I try to meditate, I run quite a bit and I’ve been doing Wing Tsun Kung Fu for a number of years as well. And I also enjoy drinking, which is useful…

Q: If you had to choose just one of the above professions to do full time for the rest of your life (you couldn’t do anything else), which would it be and why?

A: I’d direct/create new theatre… It’s a place for us to come together and share our loneliness. To celebrate all the ridiculous and beautiful things about life – to build community through reflection and imagination. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. It’s amazing to be with a thriving audience in that way.

Q: Random question – what is your favourite food if you had to choose one item or dish?

A: Tricky… Cochinita Pibil.

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for the aspiring directors out there?

A: Question the purpose of what you want to make. I think it should be for a bigger reason then wanting people to tell us that we’re good. What are you trying to create in the community? Why should we come together for some event that you want to make? These questions seem crucial, but I don’t think they’re often really examined.

The Basement Christmas Show has evolved from a low-key fundraiser, to one of Auckland’s must-do Christmas offerings. The show sells out every year, so don’t miss it. You can get tickets from $32 to $50 on iTicket.

AWA17: 5 mins with Jack Trolove

Visual artist, Jack Trolove holds a CV worthy of boasting.  He holds a Masters in Fine Arts (with Distinction) from Massey University in Wellington and he has been the Scottish Arts Council International Artist in Residence on the Isle of Bute.

Jack’s work explores relationships between embodiment and liminal spaces; the poetics of gender transition, intergenerational memory, and other states of in-between-ness.

Jack has exhibited his work all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia, France, Scotland, and Spain.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words 

Paint as skin.

What inspired it? 

Thinking about skin as a seal around our stories.

What’s your creative process?

It’s about finding where the energy is. Lots of mess and chaos and frustration until something feels exciting, then the process feels collaborative – I do half the painting and the painting does the other half itself. We meet somewhere we can agree on. The challenge is trying to be simultaneously attentive and bossy.

What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland?  New Zealand?

There are phenomenal artists all over Aotearoa, working in lots of forms – contemporary dance, kapa haka, writing, theatre, music, visual arts – I feel lucky to have access to so much strong and challenging work. I get squeemy about ‘scenes’ sometimes but find lots of work that feels exciting. 

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

Everything the FAFSWAG Collective turn their hands to is magic – I love what they’re doing – politically and poetically they’re a beautiful, powerful force. Sian Torrington’s work is also rocking my world just now. As always, it’s equal parts brutal and delicious. The Exquisite Wound by Rebecca Swan, is nothing short of breath taking. I’ve just got my hands on Michalia Arathimos’s first novel too – it’s called Aukati, which I know will be brilliant. I’m running a hot bath as we speak and will no doubt be reading this page-turner until it’s cold and I’m pickled. She’s that kind of writer.

What is your social media of choice?

I’m a bit crap at social media tbh, but Instagram is probably my fave, because pictures.

Who do you follow and where?

I’ve got RSI in my arms right now so am hardly online – it’s  meant I’ve taken to following storms, sunrises, and the smell of cooking instead for a while. As a result, I’ve become plumper and happier.

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?

Higher Love by James Vincent McMorrowZero by Liniker e os Caramelows, and Ladi6’s Like Water.

Word Association:

Auckland – Sea swims

Art – Mess

Festival – season

Creative – Destruction

Collaboration – Dancers

Politics – Pain/Hope

Summer – Solstice

Jack Trolove at Whitespace Contemporary Art, 12 Crummer Rd as part of Artweek Auckland

7- 15 October, find out more.

AWA17: 5 mins with Erin Forsyth

Artist and illustrator, Erin Forsyth draws inspiration from the nature that surrounds us in her latest work.  Carefully researched over 18 months; Erin illustrates key characteristics of threatened species of land and forest, the ecological relationships sustaining them and which, in turn, they sustain.  Check it out this Artweek Auckland.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words

Flora, fauna, taonga

What inspired it?

Rediscovering the link between cultural and biological diversity, or people and the natural environment. Each work illustrates key characteristics of rare and beautiful endemic species, the key ecological relationships that sustain them and which, in turn, they sustain.

What’s your creative process?

This particular series is research based. So before I begin a piece I will spend some time accessing and compiling information about a species or genus, and looking for strong reference images to work from. Often species are so rare that there are limited images available so I will use any number of photographs and information from my readings to work out the anatomical structure. I am learning as I paint and draw, not just about the species but about human impact, responsibility and relationships to them. The natural environment of Aotearoa, New Zealand holds so many remarkable creatures found nowhere else on earth and although I have heard that all my life I am just now beginning to understand how special it is and how important it is for all of us to treasure it. It truly is taonga and it seems urgent that the principles of kaitiakitanga, developed over centuries are understood and applied for prosperity.  It’s true I am no expert, but I am making new discoveries every day and I truly feel that it is my responsibility to acknowledge my privilege as an artist to continue learning and to share my discoveries as I make them.

What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland?  New Zealand?

The art scene in Auckland just keeps getting stronger. I have been making work professionally for almost 20 years now and am really excited to see it in it’s current phase of development. There are so many cultures and sub-cultures at home here. For a long time people have talked about Auckland being diverse but it feels like it’s taken until now to hear a diversity of voices come through. It seems partially by the deliberate effort of art institutions but also because people are quite rightly refusing to be ignored. In many ways the advent of social media seems to have activated a lot of necessary conversations about and provided a space for, unpacking cultural dissonance and celebrating difference. It’s been really important and I think that it’s having a huge impact not only on what we see in galleries but who. To me this difference is our strength and it’s great to see a programme such as Artweek Auckland in place to promote this diversity in visibility, and provide a common ground or network, which is just so essential in this phase of development.

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

I am still plotting out my calendar for this year but I have to say I’m really looking forward to my partner Joshua Solomon’s performance as part of Late Night Art this year. Last year he tattooed Dominic ‘Tourettes’ Hoey as Dom did a poetry reading. It really pushed the possibilities of what could happen and this year looks to push it even further. I can’t say much more, but check it out, it will be worth it.

What is your social media of choice?

Hm I wish I could opt out… Can I say emails? Bullet pointed emails. Haha, seriously though I’m on Instagram and Facebook. 

My Instagram gets most of my attention and you can see some of my works in progress and some of my research up on there.  But I kind of feel like I’m not that good at it and I definitely despise the fact that a work I may have spent a month making is subject to the same critique as someone’s…body parts! It’s a very reductive algorithm in that way…

Who do you follow and where?

On instagram with relevance to this, naturally @artweekauckland @whitespacegallery @j.j.e.s   …… I’m also feeling @art.herbarium and of course @docgovtnz and @doctsambassador I’m quietly obsessed with @belizeraptorcenter too. Mainly though I just open an app and then get overwhelmed and close it…I have a theory about the projected self and it doesn’t correlate with my intentional self…

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?

Waiting room – Fugazi

Creature comfort – Arcade Fire

Living the classics – Aldous Harding

Word Association:

Auckland – home

Art – communication

Festival – sensory

Creative – subversive

Collaboration – connection

Politics – consumerism

Summer – shade


Punk rock environmentalism by Erin Forsyth at Whitespace Contemporary Art, 12 Crummer Rd as part as ARTWEEK AUCKLAND.

7-15 October, find out more.

AWA17: 5 mins with Chris Hutchinson

Chris ‘Chippy’ Hutchinson is an illustrator, graphic artist and printmaker based in Auckland. He works on freelance projects and manages a small illustration and Risograph printing studio called Inky Palms.

This Artweek Auckland, the crew from Inky Palms will venture down from K’Road to the Central City Library and try their hands at taking their typically zine-bound Risograph printed concoctions from the page to the wall in a playful paste-up paper street mural celebrating reading, writing, drawing and the form of the book in all its guises, drawing inspiration from the City Library’s Heritage collection.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words

Risograph Paper Paradise.

What inspired it?

The Central City Library Heritage collection.

What’s your creative process?

Drawing heaps of little creatures.

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

I know the Paper Assassins art collective have an exhibition on during Artweek.

What is your social media of choice?


Who do you follow and where?

@murdythedawg is all the inspo I need.

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?

I don’t use Spotify but atm I’m listening to Fazerdaze, King Krule and Toro y Moi heaps..

Word Association:

Auckland – Blue

Art – Smiley Face

Festival – Cooked

Creative – Thumbs up

Collaboration – Good

Politics – Green

Summer – Beer


Inky Paste-up Paper Paradise at Central City Library, 44/46 Lorne St funded by Heart of the City and delivered in partnership with Artweek Auckland.

7-15 October, find out more.

AWA17: 5 mis with Richard Orjis

Since completing his Masters at the Elam School of Fine Arts, artist Richard Orjis has exhibited his work both locally and internationally.   In 2016, he was the Tylee Cottage Artist in Residence at the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui and earlier this year, he was the Asisa New Zealand Foundation artist in residence at Rimbun Dahan in Malaysia.   His work is held in private and public collections including: The University of Auckland, the Jenny Gibbs Collection (Auckland), the University of Auckland (Auckland), Auckland Council (Auckland), The Film Archive (Wellington), The Wallace Trust collection (Auckland) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport Collection (Madrid, Spain).

His new work will explore the fundamental concept of connection and how everything can be perceived as intrinsically linked.  Check it out as part of Artweek Auckland.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words





What inspired it?

Connections with people through conversations, history and art


What’s your creative process?

It can be varied, but basically, it’s a process of absorbing the world around me and creating works of art as a result of that collecting.


What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland?  New Zealand?

I think it’s vibrant, active and keyed into a global discourse. It is also aware of its unique position in the Southern hemisphere.


Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

Flora at the Franklin Arts Centre

Shifting Ground at Silo 6


What is your social media of choice?



Who do you follow and where?

Best_of_grindr / Instagram

Palaceofwisdom / Instagram

Tom Sainsbury / Facebook


What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?

It’s too embarrassing, I only listen to doof doof music at the gym and it’s just too embarrassing to mention.


Word Association:

Auckland – water

Art – Oh fuck

Festival – too many

Creative – everyone is

Collaboration – complicated

Politics – depressing

Summer – gardens


Richard Orjis’ exhibition Salt Felix at Melanie Roger Gallery, 444 K’Road as part of Artweek Auckland.

7 – 15 October, find out more.

AWA17: 5 mins with Zee Shake Lee

Working with installation, social and interactive media, Changing Lanes will transform Auckland’s urban space this Artwork Auckland.  Zee Shake Lee’s ‘I lost myself when I found you’ will take over Exchange Lane from 7 October – 15 October.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words
intriguing, slow, puzzling

What inspired it?
I used to grow up with my grandparents and I remember there was a concrete well at the courtyard of their old house. One day, out of curiosity, I stood on my tiptoes to find out what was inside. Out of my expectation, I surprisingly saw myself in the sky. As a kid, I always wanted to touch the sky. Without hesitation I instantaneously picked up some stones and threw them one by one into the well: to make ripples, to disrupt the sky and watch it forming back all over again. In that way, I felt like I could touch the sky. One night, my grandfather told me he kept the moon in the well. I doubted. So I ran to check if it was true. The moon was indeed kept inside. It was the first time I saw myself being so close to the moon. ‘How did you do that? Tell me!’ I asked excitedly. I Lost Myself When I Found You adapts the idea of looking down in order see what is above and beyond; and it’s about the emotional distance between the unreachable.

What’s your creative process?
Messy, heaps of zoning out while staring at things, lots of questionings and conversations, and work in different mediums.

What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland? New Zealand?
There are certainly some good vibes, inspiring efforts and momentum, but simultaneously there are many constraints and holdbacks. Personally I think we don’t do enough.

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?
Umbra by Anne Noble / OO_ by Elliot Morgan and Michael McCabe / Colin McCahon: On The Road.

What is your social media of choice

Who do you follow and where?
Bertil Nilson and aDeY on instagram

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?
Windows by Angel Olsen, Medicine by Daughter, Undying Need to Scream by Dillon

Word Association:
Auckland – Volcanoes
Art – ?
Festival – Hued
Creative – Dare
Collaboration – Collision
Politics – Deceptive
Summer – Beach

Changing Lanes, “I lost myself when I found you” by Zee Shake Lee at Exchange Lane funded by Heart of the City and delivered in partnership with Artweek Auckland.

7-15 October, find out more.

AWA17: 5 mins with Ernest Auora

The ongoing presence of orange road cones littered around Auckland were the obvious choice of material for artist, Ernest Auora’s latest work.

KINAlights is an expression of Auckland’s marine life and its volcanic typography.  Combined with rhythmic LED lighting, its impression portrays the appearance of a living organism. 

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words…
Exploding lava splash.

What inspired it?
Auckland’s topography – surrounding volcanoes, the kina urchin which represents the marine life around the harbour, and the ongoing presence of orange road cones that impacts Aucklanders’ in one way or another on a daily basis.

What’s your creative process?
Understanding the ‘story’ and its context. Picking out its key characteristics and re-interpreting its language in a new light. Then taking those ideas through my development process which includes research, lots of hand drawings and model making mock-ups to finish up with a final product that hopefully reflects the original concept.

What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland? New Zealand?
I think events like Artweek Auckland are great injectors in promoting the art scene here. It’s a great platform to promote artists current and new to the scene which it’s healthy for Auckland and NZ in general. Art has a way to define our identity in a diverse way, which reflects the diversity of our cultures. In that regard I think our art scene just gets better each year.

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?
Aside from many exhibits that’s showcasing I’m interested in viewing Changing Lanes, Poi Magic and Glow collaborations.

What is your social media of choice?
Snapchat, Facebook, and a lot of Pinterest.

Who do you follow and where?
Not anyone in particular but am interested in contemporary & cultural design, abstract and comic art so basically anyone showcasing those areas I enjoy.

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?
I like my old school jams from 90s RnB, reggae and mowtown beats.

Word Association:
Auckland – Dynamic
Art – Diverse
Festival – Cultural
Creative – Interactive
Collaboration – Playful
Summer – Fun

KINAlights at Freyberg Square, High St funded by Heart of the City and delivered in partnership with Artweek Auckland.

7-15 October, find out more.