Category Archives: Theater and Arts

Wellington Lord of the Rings Film Locations

While intentionally visiting film locations is the realm of uber-geekdom that I typically try to avoid to some degree, it has led us to some beautiful locations throughout New Zealand that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Go figure: big name movies choose scenic areas as backdrops for expensive movies! In my previous post I covered our adventures at the Weta workshop.

Andrew and the Trolls
Andrew and the Trolls

We also went for a drive down to Cape Palliser and, along the way, stopped at most of the film spots that were used in the films. Some were less than impressive. Some were on private land without any parts used in filming visible from public property. Some were really fun and interesting to visit!

Putaringi Pinnacles Film Location

Andrew on the Dimholt Road
Andrew on the Dimholt Road

Created by a badlands style erosion of volcanic rock to create a different form of hoodos, the Putaringi Pinnacles forms the backdrop for the Dimholt road in “The Return of the King”. It is in the shadows of these rocky pillars that Legolas recounts the story of the dead king’s treachery.

The Pinnacles Film Location
The Pinnacles Film Location

Andrew and I did a hike through the area and it certainly had a bit of a spooky, otherworldly feel. Mazes of rock pillars surround a stream bed, creating an interesting picnic spot. There is also a campsite nearby that was a very scenic spot to enjoy a night.

Kaitoke Regional Park Film Location

Andrew and I in Rivendell
Andrew and I in Rivendell

Situated just east of Wellington in the Upper Hutt, the kaitoke regional park is home to Rivendell. The park is massive and makes a great overnight stop for those wanting to explore the area more. Andrew and I enjoyed a scenic walk through Rivendell, which is one of very few film locations that is actually well sign-posted.

Andrew standing where Legolas posed for filming
Andrew standing where Legolas posed for filming

Although the sets that were constructed here have been disassembled, there are signs with pictures showing where they stood within the natural backdrops. It is the area where the hobbits are first introduced to the other members of the fellowship and where Frodo recovers from his knife wound.

Welcome to Rivendell
Welcome to Rivendell

The park itself is a classic example of a sub-tropical rainforest, with many huge and interesting trees. Grassy fields are great for a game of football or rugby, and the camping area is extensive and beautiful.

About as tall as a dwarf!
About as tall as a dwarf!

Embassy Theatre

Entrance to the Embassy
Entrance to the Embassy

Across the street from the theatre is a large film camera tripod steampunk sculpture that was created by Weta workshops and is worth a visit.

Inside the Entryway
Inside the Entryway

The Embassy theatre was at one point a theatre for stage productions that has since been converted for the movie industry. Digital 7.1 surround sound, huge screens, and modern technology are contrasted by art deco pillars, crystal chandeliers, and fancy decorations.

Inside the Theater
Inside the Theater

It is a truly unique experience. The standard seats are also exceptionally comfortable. Of course, paying for the upgrade to take advantage of the super squishy leather recliners will make any movie experience extravagant.

Mount Victoria Film Location

Mount Victoria Summit, Wellington Harbour
Maori Totem on Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria is a huge green space in Wellington  that offers excellent views of the Cooke strait and the Wellington city centre. it is a great place to see the city and harbour. On windy days, the wind here is extreme!

Following the walking paths from the bottom leads to many of the film locations used in the first Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring while the hobbits are leaving the Shire and being chased by the Nazgul. “A shortcut to mushrooms”, “Get off the Road”, and the “Rohirrim arrive” were all filmed on Mount Victoria.

Harcourt Park Film Location

Maple Trees in the Park
Maple Trees in the Park

Harcourt Park was used as the filming location of Isengard gardens. It is where Gandalf and Saruman first meet after Gandalf discovers the ring in the Shire. The lawn of the gardens was partially removed for filming, replaced with a gravel road and fence that we see Gandalf riding up. Upon completion of filming, the road was removed and the lawn replanted. There is now no evidence of a movie ever having been created in the area.

It is also the location where the orcs are seen cutting down trees for Saruman’s lair. Two great trees were cut down in a different area and transported, roots and all, to Harcourt Park. They were then re-assembled with a hinge at the bottom so that they could be repeatedly cut down and stood up for filming. Since the trees lost many of their leaves in the process, the film crew spent nearly 2 weeks re-attaching plastic leaves by hand.

The Entrance to Isengard
The Entrance to Isengard

The gardens as they stand today are beautiful to walk through. Home to a large and exceptionally fun playground that also includes a zipline and spray park, the gardens are great for families. Andrew and I were surprised to see maple trees, particularly noticeable for their red colour in the autumn. We also enjoyed checking out the disc golf course that runs through the park and is available to everyone.

Hutt River Film Location

The Hutt river serves as both the River Anduin and Rohan River in the films. When we visited there were quite a few people there fishing. Walking along the river’s edge was absolutely beautiful, especially with the trees turning colour for autumn.

Hutt River where the Elvish boats launched
Hutt River where the Elvish boats launched

The portion of the river that was used for the filming of the Elven boats leaving Galadriel’s kingdom is particularly spectacular and is easily reached from the parking lot.

Where Aragorn washed up on shore
Where Aragorn washed up on shore

The part of the river where they filmed Aragorn washing up on shore after the Warg attack is a little bit more difficult to reach. It involves walking along a mountain bike track between a bunch of houses and the river.

Nice Ponies
Nice Ponies

The difficult part is making it past the attack alpacas! Seriously, there was one alpaca that took great exception to us walking along the path, hissing, growling, and jumping against the fence at us. The ponies in the next paddock were much cuter and friendlier.

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village is a living Maori Village in Rotorua. There are several Maori cultural experiences in the Rotorua area, which has been held sacred in Maori tradition for generations due to the geothermal activity and sacred waters of the area.

The full village name
The full village name

Today nearly 35% of the population of the area is Maori. We chose Whakarewarewa as opposed to the other villages since it is the tangata whenua (locals) of the Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao tribe that still live in the village as their ancestors did and it is these people who conduct the tours. Whakarewarewa is the only Maori village to still be built entirely upon the hot pools.

Warning Signs
Warning Signs

TeWhakarewarewatangaoteopetauawahiao, the full name of the village, translates to The Gathering Place of the Army of Wahiao. It is named thus to honour a warrior chief named Wahaio, who gathered an army to avenge the killing of his father. To enter the village, we passed below a memorial archway to commemorate the fallen soldiers and tribal members who served in the first world war.

Cultural Performance
Cultural Performance

Crossing the bridge into the village, we had the opportunity to throw coins to local children, or penny divers, a tradition that started before the first bridge was erected in 1885. Prior to the existence of the bridge, visitors were carried across the river on the backs of the local villagers and they would give coins in gratitude and throw coins to the children who would frequently be swimming in the river.

Walking further into the village, we could see that all of the houses are built upon thermal events to take advantage of the heating and cooking abilities offered by the geothermal energy.

Posing with the performers
Posing with the performers

The village offers two cultural performances each day, one at 11:15 and one at 2pm, which includes the Haka (war dance), the Waiata a Ringa (love song), poi dancing, long stick games, and short stick games. It also included some audience participation, where we were taught some Maori words and invited to sing and dance along.

Cultural performers
Cultural performers

The haka is meant to intimidate the opposing tribe and, I have to say if it was me, it would have worked! I also learned that the haka is specific to each tribe, with each tribe having its own words and actions. They also explained that the enlarged eyes and the sticking out tongue were meant as intimidation and that the moving hands brought life to the words that were being sung since movement is life in the Maori culture. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. At the end, we were invited to pose with the performers. Andrew and Jen were both fantastic at doing the correct facial impressions. I, on the other hand, was fantastic at not laughing. That’s about as close as I could get though. An actor I am definitely not!

Hot Pools
Hot Pools

Following the performance we opted for the guided tour. It’s possible to do a self-guided tour as well, but we had the time to enjoy the guided tour and we wanted to learn more about what it was like to live in the village, as opposed to just the written facts about the village.

Maori Maurae
Maori Maurae

The only way to live in the village is to be born there or to marry into it. Maori tradition also states that the inheritance goes to the children. So if the mother passes away and the father is still living, the house would belong to the children, who would then choose whether to allow the father to still reside in the house.

Cooking Pool
Cooking Pool

We were shown the Hangi cookers and enjoyed a nice hangi lunch while in the village. We were also shown ‘The Pool of Murderous Ripples’, or Parekohuru, which has an estimated temperature of around 95C. Every forty five minutes or so fresh hot water pulsates up from below the earth, raising the temperature above boiling and making the pool bubble. The pool is made for cooking leaf and root vegetables, including the delicious corn that we got to snack on.

Checking out the communal baths
Checking out the communal baths

We were then led past Waipuru, which was used to sterilize linens and nappies, and then on to the hot baths. The town bathes communally twice daily, with the mineral deposits leaving the skin soft and the heat helping with arthritis and rheumatism. The water and the ground around it was so warm! We got to enjoy similar hot pools in the campground, which was absolute heaven.

The tour then led us to the butterfly pool, Purerehua, whose water level changes based upon the atmospheric pressure. When the water level drops, the temperature is going to change!

Geothermal Pools
Geothermal Pools

Korotiotio was slightly ominous to look at. It is the only place where the water is actually exploding out of the ground in a constant bubbling mass. The water has a temperature that averages 120C. While geothermal activity is useful, I’m not sure I would want to build a village around such a volatile vent. I suppose though, that as long as it is bubbling away, it is relieving the pressure beneath the earth, making an actual eruption less likely.

Pohuta Geyser
Pohuta Geyser

The tour then led us to the Whare Tipuna, the ancestral meeting house. Our guide told us the story of how Christians came to the village after the Tarewera eruption of 1886 and introduced Christianity to the Maori people of the village. The chief had to make a decision for the good of the tribe so he gathered all of the people together, divided them in half, and decreed that the one half would be Anglican and the other half would be Catholic. Later, people were encouraged to follow the Maori traditions as well. Our guide also showed us the local preschool, where only the Maori language is spoken. This ensures that all children speak Maori fluently before they enter school so that the native language can never be lost.

Steaming Village
Steaming Village

We then walked past the Earth sciences facility, where the geothermal environment around the village is studied extensively. To end the tour, we walked to the geyser viewing platform, where we could see two of New Zealand’s most active geysers, Prince of Wales and Pohutu. Prince of Wales is the most active geyser and was spurting water when we arrived. Pohutu is larger though and sprays water between 10 and 40 meters into the air. We waited for awhile and were rewarded with a nice show! It was a little bit hard to see the geyser through the steam, but was still fascinating to watch.

 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater: Pop-Up Edition

Andrew and I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Pop Up Globe in Auckland, NZ.

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, resulting in a number of Shakespearean celebrations worldwide. In New Zealand, one of the key celebrations is the Pop Up Globe, located in Auckland, NZ from February to the end of April.

Shakespeare’s plays, first off, were meant to be performed. It is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine that most schools insist on taking his plays and tearing them apart through reading them as books. I have a hard time imagining that Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings would have had the same effect if, instead of books or movies, people were forced to read the scripts.

The Stage of the Pop Up Globe
The Stage of the Pop Up Globe

In addition to being performed, Shakespeare’s plays were written for a different type of stage than what we generally see in modern times. The Globe theater is a 16 sided structure that seats approximately 900 guests, all within 15 meters of the stage. Some of the audience even sits behind the stage, requiring actors to turn and face the audience. Seeing one of his plays performed in the theater it was originally written for was an incredible experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The stage even features a ‘groundlings’ area, that in Shakespeare’s time would have been for the peasants and was basically a big party area. In the re-creation, the actors got up close and personal with the groundlings, making the performance come alive in a way that is not normally possible. With the close proximity to the stage, there is also no amplification used or necessary, creating a very intimate experience.

Andrew and I in the Theater

Andrew and I chose seats that were in the bottom tier in the front row, but to the side of the stage, which gave us a very different view from a normal production. I quite enjoyed it!

The Cast of Tempest
The Cast of Tempest

We went to see Tempest, a lesser known Shakespeare play written sometime around 1610. It is believed to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone and was quite interesting and entertaining. It features the sorcerer Prospero, the Duke of Milan, who seeks to restore his daughter to here rightful place by conjuring a tempest to lure his brother Antonio and the usurping King Alonso to the island where he has been banished. It is part comedy, part tragedy, and has some wonderful lines, including:

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

Watch out, he’s winding the watch of his wit, by and by it will strike.

I have always loved Shakespeare’s language and use of words. He is the master of language and crafts words in a manner that are both beautiful and leave a reader thinking. Not to mention that he is the king of insults.

The play was thoroughly enjoyable and made for a fantastic birthday present from my amazing husband! I would recommend anyone who has a chance to see Shakespeare performed either in the Pop Up Globe or in the Globe Theater in London to do so.