Billed as a “Carnival of Radical Delight” it will transform the Eternity Playhouse into a vibrant cultural hub offering live music, indoor and outdoor dining, and, for the first time since March this year, performances inside the main auditorium.
Presented in partnership with Great Southern Nights, The People of Cabaret and the Sedition Arts Festival, Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s BLOOM Festival is the brainchild of Co-Artistic Director Amylia Harris.
“This festival has been designed to be scalable and responsive,” says Harris. “It is a rolling program that can adapt to the changing tide of government restrictions. It is a coming together of artist and audience to discover the potential of what art and performance can be in this moment.”
CEO and Co-Artistic Director Glenn Terry says. “We’re reactivating the entire theatre, inside and out. There’ll be something for everyone.” BLOOM is all about pushing the boundaries. “We’re doing that figuratively, when it comes to programming,” Terry says, “and literally, with respect to how we utilise our beautiful building and its environs. I’m really excited to finally be offering an alfresco dining experience on Burton and Palmer Streets. We’ve wanted to do it for years and at last we can.”
Harris and Terry have been working furiously to revitalise the theatre space and find new ways of engaging with audiences, since government restrictions on public gatherings forced the postponement of A Chorus Line earlier this year. In June, they presented a sell-out season of Red Carpet Cabaret, which had to be extended by popular demand. Daniel Belle, Andrew Bukenya, Robert McDougall and Elenoa Rokobaro, were part of the original lineup and they are returning for Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s BLOOM Festival.
Joining them will be Odette and the Hot Potato Band in a series of concerts presented as part of Great Southern Nights – a NSW Government initiative to kick-start the recovery of the live music industry and delivered through Destination NSW and ARIA. Bukenya will also emcee Thirsty Thursdays. Musical theatre fans will love sipping cocktails in the festival’s bespoke piano bar during these open mic nights, while weekly special guests will bring extra razzle dazzle to the proceedings.
“We are unfurling slowly but surely,” says Amylia Harris. “The world has changed and, as an arts organisation, we must listen and respond. We can’t simply pick up where we left off. It’s time to explore the new normal. We are remounting A Chorus Line in August next year, but that’s ten months away.”
Harris is adamant. “We have to embrace the opportunities we have right now. We want our audiences, our artists and the whole community to come on this journey with us and explore what it means to congregate and how we want to tell our stories moving forward,” she said.
To achieve this, Darlinghurst Theatre Company has invited The People of Cabaret for a 10-day artist residency and a curated a selection of shows that will provide a platform to a plethora of talented artists across multiple disciplines within cabaret.
Through the shows, Miss Cairo wants to dispute claims that there aren’t enough artists of colour out there. “We are here,” says the burlesque and cabaret superstar. “Our vision is of a performing arts sector where people of colour are valued, recognised, uplifted, and celebrated as brilliant, vital, and important contributors to culture.”
“We envisage a performing arts landscape where people of colour are given agency, empowerment and respect, and are not presented as fetishised, tokenised, exoticised or objectified stereotypes. We envisage a performing arts ecology where people of colour are not subject to racism or colourism – either on or offstage. We’re proud to showcase a lineup of amazing, beautiful and talented artists!” says Miss Cairo.
Beginning with Pop/R&B/Neo-Soul singer/songwriter Marissa Saroca, the series of cabaret shows, cross-disciplinary performances and panel discussions will be held throughout the entire festival. Stars from some of the biggest shows in recent years will join musical director Zara Stanton for a Thirsty Thursday takeover. WHERE’S THE T? will combine performance and in-depth conversation with a panel of some of Australia’s finest transgender trailblazers, including Mama Alto and Miss Kaly.
Following her success as musical director of last year’s smash hit musical ONCE, Victoria Falconer makes a welcome return to Darlinghurst Theatre Company to facilitate CREATIVE WOMXN, a special event bringing together groundbreaking WOMXN of COLOUR, who defy categorisation and create new ways to share their stories.
Friday the 13th will burst into a cavalcade of world-class drag, circus, performance art and burlesque with the inaugural Spook Show. Part-art party, part-fright night, it will feature Euthan Asian, Demon Derriere, Victoria Falconer, Felicia Foxx, Stelly G and Dale Woodbridge-Brown. Lovers of comedy can also look forward to KINGS, QUEENS AND JOKERS featuring stand-up comedians Frida Deguise and Suren Jayemanne.
The cabaret lineup is equally impressive. Following performances in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Opera Australia’s West Side Story on Sydney Harbour, Angelina Thomson presents her brand-new show Hinano, offering a glimpse into her life and upbringing as a proud biracial woman. Olivia Vasquez will look back on career highlights including The Bodyguard, In the Heights, West Side Story and Good Omens, while Jarrod Draper takes audiences on a road trip through re-imagined covers of pop and rock songs through the decades.
Joining Amylia Harris to curate the audience experience throughout the festival is Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s newly appointed Events Producer Mason Browne. A consummate creative director and producer, DJ and award-winning production designer (Gaytimes, Closet Party Melbourne, American Psycho), Browne will give BLOOM his signature touch, by programming delightful surprises to enhance the festival’s hospitality offering.
A highlight of the opening weekend will be the Resurrection Ball: Darlo back from the Dead on 31 October. Brown describes it as “a celebration of the queer origins of Halloween, from New York’s Village to our own East Village in Darlo.” He adds, “We’re to ensure this All Hallow’s Eve is for all identities, and a lineup of sideshow burlesque, live music, DJs and drag awaits you.”
Another important partner is the SEDITION Festival of art, music and pictures. Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Bloom Festival kicks off on 29 October with a panel discussion titled Painting the Brave New World. Moderated by Toby Creswell, the speakers include Marina DeBris, Susan O’Doherty and Jason Wing. The panel will be followed that evening by a performance featuring Dog Trumpet, Mark Callahan and Mark Mordue.
SEDITION 2020 takes art out of the galleries and into the streets, where it can stimulate debate in the community. The works are not only beautiful, but also related to issues in the public discourse. This year, more than ever, the art trail will play a vital role in bringing hope, beauty and defiance to Sydney as it fills public spaces hollowed out by COVID-19.
Some of Australia’s best and most provocative artists are taking part, including renowned Australian sculptor and transdisciplinary artist Laurens Tan. Tan examines shifts in cultural identity, language, and custom, as well as looking at how design and culture connect. His work Beng Beng 2009 will be on display at the theatre throughout the festival.
“We’ve promised a Carnival of Radical Delight,” says Harris. “We’ll coax you back out of the house with experiences made especially for this moment. We want you to experience BLOOM your way.”
“If it’s light-hearted frivolity you need right now, we’ve got you. If you’d like to join the conversation and hold space for others, we’ve got that too. There is no right or wrong way to come out of a pandemic. We want everyone to feel welcome at BLOOM. We hope it heals what ails you,”says Harris.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s BLOOM Festival will be held from 29 October until 29 November with an impressive program of events from Wednesday to Sunday each week. For more information, full program and bookings, visit: www.darlinghursttheatre.com for details.
Image: Hot Potato Band (supplied)