People ask me why I started The Residents blog all the time. There are a few different types of answers I give them, depending on the situation.
One of the answers is that I was desperately in need of a new perspective on Wellington. Has anyone else ever felt like that? Maybe it's the size, maybe its the fact that Wellington is a big, little city, but somehow there is always someone you know around the corner.
I knew I would not be (and still will not be) travelling for some time to come. So The Residents was my chance to take a second look at my city. A new lens. Suddenly, I started to find a new perspective on everything. And I have found it is possible - from attending more events around town, to appreciating the little moments every day, you can re-familiarise and de-familarise your city.
Here are my recent top 5 tips to get a new perspective on Wellington.
1. Go and experience 'The Woman who forgot at NZ Festival', New Zealand's first immersive theatre experience!
The New Zealand Festival kindly signed me up to go and experience the immersive theatre play 'The Woman Who Forgot'. I turned up at the Wellington Railway (our designated starting spot) with no idea of what to expect. I only knew that I needed a cell phone and headphones.
We arrived looking very confused and, unsurprisingly, with technology problems. Luckily Joe - from the company that produced the App at the centre of the show, Storybox - was on hand to lend some much needed tech support. Storybox is a top notch digital storytelling studio, working to bring stories to Wellington. Indeed, there were a few tech support moments throughout the night, but I was super impressed by the team. Everyone was incredibly helpful and professional and did their best to get the show back on the road ASAP. Storybox are well versed in such things. The App is very sophisticated and made for a fun and curious experience.
From the moment mum and I started 'The Woman Who Forgot', we knew we were on a great adventure. You are Elizabeth Snow (and get the sticker to prove it) who has arrived seemingly from no-where on a bus, travelling down Lambton Quay, with no idea of who she is or what she is doing. We start out getting on a bus near the station (just a regular bus - we have to pay for like any other). She cannot remember her life at all but she does recognise simple things, like ANZ and Subway as the bus moves along.
Jess Feast, the mastermind behind the show explains to me when we talk about it later over the phone that the condition that Elizabeth has is based on a real medical condition where memories come back in fractured moments.
As the story unravels, we are confronted - as Elizabeth - with the brutal realities of the life she has led. In fact, the first encounter with actors took me by surprise so much, I found myself wincing as the words came through the headphones from the App no wanting to know more - but were performed incredibly, silently, by the actor before me who wouldn't relent. I wondered what I had got myself into.
"'The Woman Who Forgot' will take you on a memorable journey not only through the heart of Wellington, into the veins and arteries of the city, but also into the psyche of the modern lives we lead."
You cannot but be overwhelmed by the incredible care, love and thought out into this never-before-experienced in New Zealand immersive theatre story. I don't want to ruin too many of the twists and turns of the story (the mystery is all part of the surprise and joy), but 'The Woman Who Forgot' will take you on a memorable journey not only through the heart of Wellington, into the veins and arteries of the city, but also into the psyche of the modern lives we lead.
We only see a snippet of the story of Elizabeth Snow, but we feel genuine empathy, grief and wonder about the person we are, the person we are portrayed to be, and the person we will become. Everyone will take away something different, but my mum was left in tears, deeply moved by the story. You will be also.
Jess Feast has deliberately set up the story so that each moment comes with its own arch, setting the rhythm of the journey. Each actor plays his or her part perfectly, with real commitment to their role. You can easily get immersed in the life of Elizabeth Snow and find yourself wondering whether your own life has become somewhat lost, like Snow's.
'The Woman Who Forgot' is a masterstroke of the New Zealand Festival 2016 and Jess Feast and Storybox. It is an exciting step into the overlap between digital and theatre which is only sure to grow. I left my trip as Elizabeth Snow with a new perspective on not only theatre, but Wellington itself. By setting the city as her stage, Jess Feast has created an intimate portrait, not only of a woman, but of a place we all know so well, yet must force ourselves to defamiliarise and reconsider as a woman that has forgotten what it means to be human.
Go and see 'The Woman Who Forgot' this New Zealand Festival. It is worth it in every way.
You will see Wellington - and theatre - from a totally different perspective.
2. Wake up early
Have you ever woken up early and wondered why you don't do it more? Sometimes, when Wellington is just waking up, it has a whole new look. It is fresh and clean and is ripe for the taking. I love that feeling and more than anything I love the way the sky looks at dawn, rolling over Mount Victoria.
Waking up early always makes me look at Wellington in a new light. I feel like when there are fewer people around, there is more space to think about it all - why we are here, and why Wellington is just so damn lovely.
Early in the day you see things you wouldn't normally notice. For example, a van with its headlights on still.
Or maybe clever methods of letting air into a hot, stuffy Villa on an overheated Wellington night.
Here is a use for a book I hadn't yet thought of!
Over time, you will see the sky changing. It goes from pink to golden, breaking the day like an egg over the city, whipped into a runny omelette all over the sky. Dip down to Oriental Parade and you will see perfection, here on earth, right in the city centre of a small city at the end of the world.
Now the day can begin.
3. Look at the view the wrong way around
Another thing I like to do is to look at the city the wrong way around - preferably from the top of the Hannah's Factory Building off Leeds Street, Te Aro.
We are all so used to seeing the glowing wonderful waterfront. However, it can be refreshing to see the other way, over to the hills of the city. It makes me remember to always look at things from multiple points of view. One way - the usual view - is not the only way to see a city.
Carparks, rooftops and urban sprawl can all have their own charm. It makes me look at all the people in the city and remember I am only just one of them all (so am less important than maybe I thought).
I also love Wellington on a day like this - cloudy and full of menace and ready to pour rain to cool us all from the heat.
"One way - the usual view - is not the only way to see a city."
4. Take the train back in - or out
For some people, taking the train is an everyday affair. However, for me it has always been rather exciting. It reminds me we can all run away (should we chose). Well, at least as far as Masterton. Taking the train is a great way for me to remember that people arrive in Wellington from all over the greater Wellington Region. For many, this is the way the day begins.
This is the train station in Greytown - on a crisp, clear morning. Waiting for the train to pull in - there is nothing like the anticipation. You are heading back to Wellington but it feels like someplace new.
This is the time when people get their mind focused for the day ahead. All aboard to Wellington! The landscape of the Wairarapa rushing past, I always feel like there is an exciting day ahead (even if I am sleepy).
5. Have a drink somewhere up high
The latest craze in Wellington is rooftop bars. While there has been talk about setting them up by different parties over the last few years, a few have finally arrived. One is 'Dirty Little Secret' on the corner of Dixon Street and Taranaki Street. Oooh la la. You can now look down across the whole city while you sip a little half pint or glass of wine.
The bar has cleverly used shipping containers as the main bar space. On one of these beautiful balmy Wellington nights, it is hard not to want to be up in the air. 'Dirty Little Secret' could do a bit more with the space, but let's give them time to grow. It is a remarkable location for a bar and no doubt has been kept full of punters on these Wellington evenings.
Another great rooftop bar you might consider is 'Basque'. 'The Hop Garden' is also opening one soon. When I am at a rooftop bar I don't feel like I am in Wellington an more (especially if the weather is still). I feel alive, like I am a tourist in my own city. And that is a magical feeling indeed.
Just don't forget - a new perspective should never mean leaving behind old friends. Cheers!