Melbourne Festival announces 2016 program

Melbourne Festival Ex Machina Robert Lepage 887From contemporary dance on ice, to fireworks, percussion and CBD street takeovers, to one of the world’s foremost flamenco dance superstars, Artistic Director, Jonathan Holloway’s first Melbourne Festival program presents an irresistible assortment of familiar and unknown, local and far-flung, large-scale and intimate productions embodying the spirit of Australia’s most surprising city.

“For tens of thousands of years people have met on this land to share songs and stories and to dance together. This is where they gathered to explore their dreams and realities,” says Jonathan Holloway. “This year’s Festival is full of events that freely and inquisitively traverse borders in all their forms.”

“We shine a spotlight on the ever shifting borders between childhood and adulthood, between life and death, between dreams and reality. We puncture the creative borders between artforms, and between the arts and civic society. We have sought every opportunity to blur the borders between artists and audiences.”

Over 18 days this October, the Festival will present 62 events by artists and companies from countries including Spain, Canada, Germany, UK, China, USA, France, Ireland, Japan and Australia. With six world premieres, and 18 Australian premieres and events exclusive to Melbourne, the 2016 highlights are drawn from a spectacular lineup of dance, theatre, circus, contemporary and classical music, visual arts and free events.

The Festival opens with a major, free outdoor spectacle from one of the world’s most renowned street theatre companies, Catalan’s Deabru Beltzak. Exclusive to Melbourne, they will take to the CBD for three nights across the opening weekend to cause a disruption like no other with Les Tambours De Feu. An extravaganza of live music, pyrotechnics and extraordinary special effects, this huge free event will attract thousands to embark on a dizzy parade that has been setting the world ablaze.

Highlights of the dance program include Canada’s Le Patin Libre – the revolutionary Montreal-based troupe will demonstrate a new kind of ice dancing like no other in their internationally acclaimed Vertical Influences; and straddling the gap between circus and dance to take audiences where neither can alone, Les 7 Doigts reimagine the collision of these forms in Triptyque.

Celebrated for her extraordinary footwork and captivating stage presence worldwide, Spain’s reigning flamenco queen Sara Baras will grace Melbourne’s Hamer Hall for the very first time with her exhilarating work Voces; and one of the world’s most sought after talents, New York’s Faye Driscoll presents the first part of her remarkable trilogy, Thank You For Coming: Attendance.

In local work, Lucy Guerin unleashes a world premiere that will enfold Festival goers in the embrace of darkness with The Dark Chorus; and Dancehouse’s biennial Dance Territories program returns to question the boundaries between body and place in Border Lines.

In theatre, the world-renowned National Theatre of Scotland mark their first visit to Melbourne with their gleefully uplifting tribute to youth on the cusp, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour; and from Canada, legendary theatre director, Robert Lepage transports us into the echoing chambers of his own recollected past with his most personal story yet in 887.

From one of the most exciting and urgent companies in the world today comes a brand new production from Australia’s very own Back to Back Theatre who present their largest scale work to date, Lady Eats Apple; and Barcelona’s Teatro de los Sentidos present their astonishing production for just one person at a time, The Echo of the Shadow.

Touretteshero make their highly anticipated Australian debut with Backstage in Biscuit Land. A comedic tour-de-force that mines actor Jess Thoms own neurology, delving deep inside a much-misunderstood condition, Tourettes; and notorious theatre renegades, Gob Squad take on one of literature’s most famously unread novels with the Australian premiere of War and Peace.

National Theatre of China return with their number one theatre production, Two Dogs – a tale of two country canines hitting the road for the big smoke; and from one of the world’s leading companies in extraordinary live experiences, the UK’s Kaleider present The Money – an immersive and renowned work that sets the stage for one of the most memorable conversations you’ll ever have; and shrouded in mystery, The Guerilla Museum’s genre-levelling tribute to our final performance has been a sell out wherever it has appeared, they will bring Funeral to Arts Centre Melbourne for the first time this October.

In contemporary music, Australia’s finest including iOTA, Tim Rogers, Steve Kilbey, Deborah Conway & Adalita pay tribute to the Starman in David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed – performing his music in their own styles backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; and iconic Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly and Irish-French Chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan celebrate the words of W.B Yeats and other great Irish poets of the past century with Ancient Rain.

In a potent and moving song cycle and a tribute to an enduring musical tradition, Clinton Walker’s ground-breaking book, film and album is immortalised live on stage by an extensive cast of star singers and songwriters across the generations in Buried Country.

Jazz luminaries, saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau reunite for the first time on Australian soil in five years to perform tracks from their new album, Nearness; and for 35 years, the unmistakable siren songs of Lisa Gerrard have enthralled listeners around the globe. Melbourne will get a rare chance to see her perform live this October, off the back of her latest album, Blank Page.

In classical music, one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century, Philip Glass presents a live interpretation of Jean Cocteau’s masterpiece, La Belle et la Bete, as The Philip Glass Ensemble play his original score live in synchronisation with the film; and from film to a television phenomenon, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra celebrate the musical achievements of one of pop culture’s most recognisable series with Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage – 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.

Singapore-born pianist Melvyn Tan brings to life the history of his instrument, the piano in scintillating performances that have been heard in the world’s leading concert halls; and Le Terrible Orchestre De Belleville perform the Oscar-nominated film score by Benoit Charest from the award-winning French feature The Triplets of Belleville.

One of Melbourne’s premier live music venues The Toff in Town will be the late night home of the this year’s Melbourne Festival with performances throughout including the mischievous pop-rock of Welsh, now LA based singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon; and with a position firmly secured among the American music greats, Grant-Lee Phillips performs two shows exclusive to Melbourne.

In visual arts, internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota’s bewitching and infinitely intricate large-scale installation, The Home Within will embark on a journey across various locations in Melbourne throughout the Festival; and ACMI presents Collisions – a deeply poetic and thought-provoking virtual reality film experience by acclaimed Australian filmmaker and artist, Lynette Wallworth.

The Queen Victoria Market has been explored anew through the lens of 14 leading Australian artists as part of the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab with the results to be revealed as part of this year’s Festival; and Under the Wire dives beneath the surface of hidden space and darkness in a pulsating program of moving images and live music at Monash University’s Caulfield Campus, curated by ACMI’s James Hewison.

The rapid and inevitable rise of Irish artist Gerard Byrne’s work and his influence on other artists is displayed across two exhibitions at iconic Melbourne institutions this October – Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) presents Life Inside an Image, and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) presents A Late Evening in the Future; and the work of documentary photographer Walker Evans will be at the centre of an exhibition charting his enduring effects on Australian art today at the Centre for Contemporary Photography.

For children and families, Terrapin Puppet Company bring the story from Finegan Kruckemeyer, one of Australia’s finest children’s playwrights to life with an extraordinary stage show like no other in You and Me and the Space Between; and if you’ve ever looked at modern art and thought ‘my kid could do that’, take a seat in the barber’s chair and let a ten-year-old give you a cut and colour with Haircuts by Children from Canada’s Mammalian Diving Reflex.

The 2016 Melbourne Festival takes place from 6 – 23 October. For more information and complete program, visit: for details.

Image: Robert Lepage features in Ex Machina’s production of 887 – photo by Erick Labbé