Melbourne Festival reveals 2018 Program

MF 100 Keyboards - photo by ASUNAWith a spectacular line-up of dance, theatre, visual arts, architecture, contemporary and classical music, and free events taking place across the city this October, Artistic Director, Jonathan Holloway has announced his third Melbourne International Arts Festival program.

“This year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival is a unique opportunity to open a series of doors into parallel worlds, to step through and discover a universe of real and imagined journeys; to become immersed in stories, adventures and experiences far beyond our everyday,” said Holloway.

From soaring cathedrals of sound to the sweat of the circus and boxing rings, this year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival will be an extraordinary adventure through global and local arts, filled with inspiring experiences for people of all ages. From show-stopping world premieres to family friendly events, the 2018 program will see the Festival take over some of the city’s most iconic spaces.

The Royal Botanic Gardens will become home to the UK’s leading contemporary circus company NoFit State with the only Australian performance of Lexicon – an extraordinary production celebrating the rich 250-year history of the circus ring. Visitors will be invited to enter the Royal Botanic Gardens after dark to experience Fire Gardens – a fire-burning spectacular which will see the Gardens illuminated over four special nights.

Following on from the popular House of Mirrors in last year’s Festival, Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney will return to the Arts Centre forecourt with 1000 Doors – a physically absorbing work providing audiences with an opportunity to choose their own adventure as they go through door after door.

The Festival’s contemporary music program will quench the city’s thirst for ground-breaking live performance. Pioneering Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and experimental electronic artist Alva Noto will blend minimal piano with glitchy beats as they bring their ongoing collaborative performance to Melbourne.

Classical will meet contemporary when Berlin composer and pianist Nils Frahm returns to Hamer Hall for his first Australian performance since his sold-out debut at Melbourne Festival in 2014. Post-punk royalty, Matt Johnson and his band The The will perform in Melbourne for the first time in almost thirty years, playing reactionary repertoire from their groundbreaking albums such as Soul Mining (1989) and Infected (1986).

Closer to home, original members of The Go-Betweens will join musical forces with special guests Paul and Dan Kelly, Romy Vager (RVG), Laura Jean, Jen Cloher and more for a 30th anniversary reimagining of one of Australia’s most iconic albums 16 Lovers Lane in a special one-night-only performance.

One of the world’s leading figures of contemporary dance, choreographer William Forsythe, will push the language of ballet to its outer limits in A Quiet Evening of Dance featuring a suite of new and existing work in an Australian premiere. Director and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and composer Max de Wardener have together, fashioned a transformative immersion in music and dance with One Infinity featuring dancers from Beijing Dance Theater and Dancenorth Australia.

The dance-opera Layla and Majnun will be the largest-scale production of the Middle Eastern classic ever seen in the West. An unmissable Festival co-commission, it has been reimagined by three of the world’s greatest artists – US choreographer Mark Morris, the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble and the late Howard Hodgkin.

With themes of self-discovery, adventure and place, this year’s Festival delivers an immersive theatrical program offering ways of experiencing art through unexpected methods. The program features Scottish theatre company Vox Motus’ Flight based on the novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers, Prize Fighter set in a boxing ring at Northcote Town Hall and Frogman which will involve the audience through a special use of virtual reality.

Direct from Ireland comes Samuel Beckett’s Watt with Barry McGovern, Barking Gecko’s A Ghost in My Suitcase and Trustees from the Belarus Free Theatre Company (both co-commissioned by Melbourne International Arts Festival), and Jimi Bani’s personal story in My Name is Jimi.

New work by Australian artist Polly Borland and the idiosyncratic sculpture of New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout will be on display as part of this year’s visual arts programme, which also includes the first Australian exhibition of Irish artist Eva Rothschild ahead of her appearance at next year’s Venice Biennale and a new exhibition of British artist John Stezaker’s celebrated photo-collages.

Additional highlights will include music by Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura, Tan Dun conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Buddha Passion, Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Lagrime di San Pietro and Van Diemen’s Band in Cello Napoletano. As well as the first major solo exhibition of Taungurung visual artist Steven Rhall, and 100 Keyboards – a landmark aural installation by Japanese sound artist ASUNA.

Festival-goers are encouraged to board the Melbourne Art Trams, which tips its hat to its origins this year, recreating the raucous, bold and mischievous work produced by the late David Larwill for the Transporting Art Project in 1986. The tram was painted as part of the commemoration of the United Nations International Year of Peace but has been in storage for more than 20 years. The design has been photographed and designed to be wrapped on a modern tram.

The MPavilion, to be realised by award-winning Spanish architect Carme Pinós, will be home to a jam-packed program of talks, workshops and performances as well as a special Festival closing event, Our Place, Our Home – which will celebrate the many cultures that make up Melbourne.

The Melbourne International Arts Festival opens on Wednesday 3 October with Tanderrum – part opening ceremony and part Welcome to Country – as we celebrate the ground we stand on and the people whose ancestors walked it before our time.

“During this year’s Festival, we will enter the Royal Botanic Gardens and see it awash with flame. We will walk into a circus tent and discover a world of music and performance,” said Holloway. “We follow explorers as they travel the Silk Road, or journey back to where they came from, or push on to safety, or fall into star crossed love. The Melbourne Festival is about encouraging your curiosity. Cross the threshold with us.”

The 2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival takes place: 3 – 21 October. Tickets on sale from midday Monday 30 July. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: 100 Keyboards – photo by ASUNA