2017 Melbourne Festival comes to an end

Melb Fest Taylor Mac A 24-Decade History of Popular Music Chapter One - photo by Sarah WalkerLast night, the 2017 Melbourne Festival – the second from Artistic Director, Jonathan Holloway – came to a close after more than 65 events over 19 days. Fittingly, it ended with Taylor Mac’s The Wrap, from an artist who showed us what incredible things we are capable of.

In a city that embraces bold art and big ideas, this year’s Festival stood tall, presenting courageous, visionary and ambitious artists: artists who weren’t scared to tackle colossal and vital themes. The 2017 program saw 11 world premieres and 24 Australian premieres and exclusive works.

The Festival’s impact was felt strongly among local performers and industry as we employed more professional artists from Melbourne than ever before. Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia, All The Sex I’ve Ever Had and Please, Continue (Hamlet) engaged many local participants: the Cambodian community, six Melburnian seniors with no performance experience, and nearly 30 members of the Victorian Bar Association.

Artist in residence Taylor Mac and Company provided a lasting legacy, engaging with 150 local artists and numerous production staff. From burlesque dancers, to a Temperance Choir, from Circus Oz strong women to musicians and knitters, artists of all ages were treated to the up and close and personal experience of working with the Pulitzer Prize winner and the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.

Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has been hailed as one of the most spectacular events Melbourne has ever witnessed. Tears were shed, ping pong balls were thrown, giant phalluses flew around the room, and white people were displaced in this “radical faery realness ritual sacrifice”.

“When we were programming and planning this year’s Festival a year ago, we were driven by a desire to take a wider view of the world, to step back and gain perspective, to remind ourselves of what is possible when brilliant people do extraordinary things,” said Artistic Director, Jonathan Holloway.

“Over the past 19 days it has become clear just how much people needed this. It has been almost overwhelming to see massive ideas transformed into deeply personal experiences. Across dozens of experiences led by artists, we have seen the blossoming of communities and countless moments of individuals gaining some small respite from the world today.

“If the job of a festival is to help people feel better, it’s pretty clear that this year’s was heart surgery, and at exactly the time it was needed. This year’s Festival was made possible because over a 1000 skilled people from Melbourne and the rest of the world said ‘Yes’.”

Tickets to a many of this year’s world-class events were hard to come by with sold out seasons and performances enjoyed by a mixture of Australian and international works including: Please, Continue (Hamlet) – which sold out its entire run before opening; and local dance shows Ever from BalletLab and In Plan from Michelle Heaven and Ben Cobham.

Local theatre in All Of My Friends Were There from the Guerrilla Museum, The Season, Caravan and Two Jews Walked Into A Theatre; Arab-Israeli dance show, We Love Arabs; and music events Path of Miracles, The Voyage of Time, Double Manual, Alexis Taylor, A Galaxy of the Suns and Black Rider.

Tens of thousands of Melburnians and visitors to the city have lost themselves in the labyrinth that is the House of Mirrors on the forecourt of Arts Centre Melbourne –  including some very excited four legged friends on Bring Your Dog day. So popular has been this creation of Melbourne artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, the work will now remain on site until 19 November.

An explosion of contemporary ballet, visual art and electronic music from world-leading artists Wayne McGregor, Olafur Eliasson and Jamie xx, Tree of Codes played over four days at the State Theatre to rapturous response. Contemporary dance of a very different kind, Under Siege from China’s Yang Liping attracted equally euphoric audience and critical response. Also much loved but difficult to describe was the French theatre piece, Germinal that conjured everything that ever existed.

Many shows in this year’s program elicited a strong emotional response from audiences, with Tanderrum, Our Place, Our Home, Bangsokol: A Requiem For Cambodia, All The Sex I’ve Ever Had, In Between Two and all three Taylor Mac events – The Inauguration, A 24 Decade History of Popular Music and The Wrap – bearing witness to tears of joy and sadness.

While final figures are yet to be collated, Holloway’s second Festival looks set to surpass $3M in box office for only the second time in the Festival’s 32 years – with the Tree of Codes achieving the biggest single production box office in the Festival’s history.

The 2018 Melbourne Festival runs from 4 – 21 October 2018. for more information, visit: www.festival.melbourne for details.

Image: Taylor Mac in A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Chapter One) – photo by Sarah Walker