Celebrating 30 years of the Melbourne Festival

LIMBO_Tony_VirgoIn October 2015, the Melbourne Festival celebrates 30 years of presenting the world’s best arts experiences to local audiences. Josephine Ridge’s third and final program reveals a strong focus on writing, literary adaptations, collaborations, opportunities for debate and discussion, and a feast of world class performances from local and international artists.

“It is a special honour to be the Artistic Director of Melbourne Festival in its 30th year,” said Josephine Ridge. “Milestones such as this present the opportunity to reflect on the traditions that make this Festival great. They also give us pause to think about the present and our role as a contributor to contemporary Melbourne life.”

Over 18 days in October, the Festival will present 74 events by artists and companies from countries including Iceland, Faroe Islands, Israel, UK, Mali, USA, China, Sweden, France, Canada and Germany. With eight world premieres, 17 Australian premieres, 15 events exclusive to Melbourne Festival, plus five specially commissioned works, and the largest program yet of free ancillary events to encourage debate in the Festival’s history – 2015 is also a truly international program.

“One of our most sustained traditions, the Quartets at Sunset at the Collins Street Baptist Church, returns for the conclusion of the three year project, Haydn for Everyone. And one of our newest but vitally important traditions, Tanderrum will open this 30th program,” said Ridge.

Highlights include West-End smash hit adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984; Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison gives further voice to Shakespeare’s most fiery angel with Desdemona; the festival celebrates the 40th anniversary of Patti Smith’s seminal Horses album with the help of musical genius Courtney Barnett and friends; and the spotlight is shone on New York’s and Melbourne’s trailblazing creative independent theatre artists.

Over 250,000 people have already seen Headlong’s radically staged production of 1984. This West-End smash hit adaptation will have an exclusive Australian season as part of the 2015 Melbourne Festival, alongside a series of special events responding to this production including Language, Performance and Power: Reflecting on 1984 in 2015, Aural Contract: The Voice Before the Law with artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, curated by Liquid Architecture, George Orwell’s 1984: A Live Reading at the Legislative Assembly Chamber in Victoria’s Parliament House, read by notable politicians, actors, media commentators; and Eyes Without a Face: Surveillance in Cinema program at ACMI.

Dance highlights include Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company presenting two exhilarating works by Ohad Naharin with the ever-evolving showcase Decadence and the Australian premiere of Last Work; and cinematic set design and jaw-dropping physicality combine to create an unforgettable piece of dance theatre from Belgium’s 32 Rue Vandenbranden in Peeping Tom.

New York Narratives is a multi-faceted exchange program that explores the history of two cultural capitals – Melbourne and New York – and the influence of each city’s independent theatre practitioners (PS122 in New York and Arts House in Melbourne) including the staging of works from two of PS122 distinguished alumni Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic and Andrew Schneider’s Youarenowhere.

Children and adults alike can enjoy this year’s program of family friendly entertainment featuring The Rabbits – based on John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s haunting picture book, and featuring the musical talents of Kate Miller-Heidke; stunning design, riddles, puzzles and magic combine in Masquerade; and Monkey…Journey to the West combines comedy, music and spectacular martial arts to produce entertainment for the whole family.

2015 also sees some fascinating world premiere productions and events from local Melbourne dance, theatre and visual arts companies and artists including Fraught Outfit’s The Bacchae; Antony Hamilton’s NYX; Speak Percussion’s A Wave and Waves; and Outer Urban Projects’ Grand DiVisions.

Music lovers are spoiled for choice with an exclusive concert from electronic music duo Flight Facilities combining their pulsating dance tunes with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a special one night only in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl; award winning UK folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling will perform in the acoustic sublime of Hamer Hall for one night only; and best known for his expansive scores layering dozens of movies including all of Darren Aronofsky’s projects, from Pi and Requiem for a Dream to Black Swan and Noah, Clint Mansell performs exclusively for Melbourne Festival over two nights.

The conclusion of the three year Haydn for Everyone program is more than simply a retrospective of the works of Haydn—it’s a comprehensive exploration and celebration of the enduring influence of the string quartet throughout history. Spanning gala concerts, exclusive events and pop–up public performances, the works visited in this program encompass not only Haydn’s own prodigal output, but also classic and contemporary works by many of those he influenced.

A rivertop lounge; an al fresco café; a beer and cider bar; and a live music venue  – the Foxtel Festival Hub will light up the banks of the Yarra with a jam-packed music program includes Icelandic minimal techno duo Kiasmos; French 10-piece Babylon Circus; Germany’s Brandt Brauer Frick; Ireland’s Colm Mac Con Iomaire; seminal English post-punk band The Fall; LA R&B duo Rhye; The Basics; Katie Noonan; George Maple; Bombay Royale; Cut Copy DJs and more.

The record-breaking, award-winning Spiegeltent sensation LIMBO finally makes its Melbourne debut. This intoxicating mix of cabaret, circus and acrobatics has reveled in sell-out international seasons and takes sexy bravado to dizzying new heights. LIMBO seduces audiences with a show so hot that Madonna came twice.

The 2015 Melbourne Festival runs 8 – 25 October. Ticket packages are now on sale, with the full program available from Friday 7 August. For more information, visit: www.melbournefestival.com.au for details.

Image: LIMBO – photo by Tony Virgo