Melbourne International Arts Festival reveals 2019 program

teamLab, Enso - Cold Light, 2018A giant adventure through the arts awaits when pop culture icons, political prose, immersive magical meals and musical heroes are celebrated in the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival this October.

With six world premieres, 12 Australian premieres, three Australian exclusives and countless unforgettable experiences, the 2019 Festival program covers theatre, dance, contemporary and classical music, and visual arts filled with international superstars, once-in-a-lifetime events and slick surprises.

Melbourne Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway commented that this year’s festival is all about connection. “This Festival has been designed to be designed to create energy and urgency, engagement and exploration with our artists as the navigators and the audience the explorers,” he said.

This is about Melbourne’s connection to the rest of the world, connecting a complex past with an emerging future, connecting the passion of artists with the prose of society and our ability to connect with each other in new spaces and contexts. This is one giant magical adventure – be prepared for the ride!” said Jonathan.

In an event that has floored jaws around the world, Scott Silven returns to Melbourne for the Australian premiere of his latest work, At The Illusionist’s Table – a dinner and show experience like no other. UK screen and stage star Maxine Peake will play pop culture icon Nico in The Nico Project covering the story of the vocalist’s bleak and beautiful 1968 album The Marble Index.

The long-awaited follow-up to one of Australian theatre’s most acclaimed collaborations, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class makes its world premiere in Anthem – written by Australia’s greatest contemporary playwrights, Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves and Christos Tsiolkas, with music by Irine Vela, who have reunited to take the pulse of our nation today.

The theatre program also includes Palestinian playwright Amir Zuabi’s critically-acclaimed intimate play Grey Rock, Back to Back Theatre’s brand new work The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, and the Australian premiere of 1927’s latest production Roots featuring ogres, magical bird and very fat cats brought to life with the company’s signature style.

Nakkiah Lui’s new show Black is the New White makes its way to the Melbourne stage, Canadian writer and director Ravi Jain shares the stage with his mother in A Brimful of Asha, and Édouard Louis’ coming of age autobiography, which has reached close to half a million readers since it was published in 2014, will be brought to the stage in the Australian premiere of The End of Eddy.

Expected large-scale performances and staging in the Festival’s dance program. The renowned Yang Liping Contemporary Dance Company returns to Melbourne from China in the Australian premiere of the visually spectacular Rite of Spring, and with a performance that’s epic in scale and ambitious in conceit, Chunky Move’s world premiere of Token Armies is an evolutionary leap into an unknown tomorrow.

Israeli-born, UK-based internationally celebrated choreographer Hofesh Shechter, one of contemporary dance’s most electrifying luminaries, returns to our shores with his company’s grandest work yet, Grand Finale.

The Festival celebrates Australian choreographers with Branch Nebula’s High Performance Packing Tape, Jo Lloyd’s OVERTURE, Lucy Guerin Inc’s latest show SPLIT and Stephanie Lake’s COLOSSUS which promises to be epic with 50 dancers on stage.

Kamasi Washington polished his craft playing session musician for artists ranging from Herbie Hancock and Snoop Dogg, to Kendrick Lamar now it’s Melbourne’s turn to hear the music legend perform works from Heaven and Earth and beyond.

It’s been 20 years since The Flaming Lips released the one-of-a-kind aural hallucination that is The Soft Bulletin. The band will perform the album in its entirety at the Festival. Also celebrating 20 years is Nitin Sawhney’s seminal album Beyond Skin and on the anniversary of its release, the jazz and electronica musician will deliver this album from start to finish in a one night only Melbourne event.

To launch her new three-disc extravaganza Joanthology, Joan as Police Woman will play an intimate solo concert that strips away the trimmings to reveal the essence of her incredible songwriting. British/Australian singer Susheela Raman has embraced the diverse from Byzantine chant, post-punk art pop and ecstatic Pakistani Qawwali to the South Indian music her parents gifted her and in Ghost Gamelan, Raman celebrates the age old instrument.

Fresh off the back of a collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Japanese trio Kukangendai will leave heads spinning in their Australian debut at The Substation. One of the world’s most recognisable musical groups, Kronos Quartet, will perform in two mesmerising programs, and Australian flutist Lina Andonvska will perform a suite of contemporary Australian works.

Melbourne-based percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott collaborates with designer Keith Tucker of Megafun in the world premiere of contemporary music-art piece Everywhen. Also joining the music line-up is Musica Viva’s Nevermind, pianist Sonya Lifschitz in Stalin’s Piano and Chamber Made collaborates with Robin Fox in Diaspora.

The Famous Spiegeltent is back on the Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt serving as the late night club as well as the home to two excellent performances. Real life teenage indie pop star Cora Bissett performs in the Australian premiere of her coming of age gig-theatre memoir What Girls are Made of.

After wowing his audiences in At The Illusionist’s Table, fans of Scott Silven can soak up the mentalist’s mastermind in Wonders – where he takes his audience on an intimate walk through the corridors of the mind. Cabaret icons Mama Alto and Maude Davey and joined by an ensemble of transgender legends on the Spiegeltent stage in Gender Euphoria – following a sold out Midsumma performance.

The Melbourne Art Trams kick start the visual arts program with inspiration taken from Lesley Dumbrell’s 1986 tram. Works by internationally acclaimed London-based artist Haroon Mirza will be displayed for the first time in Australia at ACCA. German/Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball’s works touch on anthropology, archaeology and paleontology in the world premiere of her exhibition Replaying Life’s Tapes at MUMA.

Gertrude Contemporary will host a provoking exhibition of curated works In Hope Dies Last – covering the themes of mortality, extinction, suffering and failure. Never the Same River is an exhibition of works acknowledging the ways in which artist engage ideas and produce work at Anna Schwartz Gallery and teamLAB’s Reversable Rotation at Tolarno Galleries will leave visitors speechless with their ultra-tech futuristic collection.

The Melbourne International Arts Festival opens on Wednesday 2 October with Tanderrum – a ceremony that reaches across Aboriginal time as we celebrate the ground we stand on and the people whose ancestors walked it before us – and continues to Sunday 20 October 2019. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: teamLab, Enso – Cold Light, 2018. Digital Work, Single channel, Continuous Loop. 193 x 110 cm.