The annual cultural celebration, Sydney Festival returns to transform the city from 6-28 January 2018, delivering the highest quality art and big ideas. Festival Director Wesley Enoch follows his inaugural year with a continued strong commitment to Australian and Indigenous work in a program spanning theatre, dance, circus, visual art and music, reaching from Sydney’s CBD to Parramatta.
The 2018 program comprises 136 events, 47 of which are free. 702 performances take place across 51 venues, featuring over 700 artists from 22 countries. With 12 world premieres, eight Australian premieres, 14 Australian exclusives and nine new Australian works, summer in Sydney is not to be missed.
The festival programming focuses on three key themes this year: finding the intersection of science and art, with particular attention placed on the relationship between how the physical body interacts with the mind in the digital realm; a larger look at human consumption and the effects that can have on local communities and the planet; and how the feminist movement has evolved and its current state across the world.
The theatre and dance program has a healthy mix of blockbuster international theatre shows and Australian works that showcase homegrown talent. Amongst Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles from the National Theatre, Manchester International Festival’s Tree of Codes performed by Company Wayne McGregor, and Queensland Theatre’s The Wider Earth for all ages, one finds smaller gems.
Ronnie Burkett’s totally improvised puppet show The Daisy Theatre for which he animates up to 40 puppets with political insight and impeccable comedic timing, or the one-on-one interactive crime noir experience Monroe & Associates starring one audience member as Frankie Monroe, a private detective with amnesia.
Both Maria Alyokhina’s theatre piece Pussy Riot Theatre: Riot Days and Wooster Group’s Town Hall Affair deliver a masterclass in activism, and Wild Bore, featuring Zoë Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott take a more comedic approach, baring all in a stinging rebuke to their detractors.
The brainchild of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag is a one-woman play that spawned the hit BBC series of the same name, the story of a hypersexual female dissatisfied with her life. Germaine Greer also addresses the state of feminism in the 21st Century in An Evening with Germaine Greer following Town Hall Affair’s opening night, in which she sees herself portrayed on stage for the first time.
The Indigenous program is well represented in the Festival’s theatre offering, as Belvoir hosts a world premiere of Ghenoa Gela’s My Urrwai – alongside a play showcasing four generations of one family from fellow Torres Strait Islander Jimi Bani in My Name Is Jimi.
In addition, Tribunal asks the audience to play judge on Australia’s colonial past and Broken Glass combines a powerful installation and performance as it illuminates the rituals of death and mourning of First Peoples’ communities at St Bartholomew’s Church and Cemetery in Blacktown.
In Parramatta, Alice in Wonderland offers an all-new Australian adaptation of the children’s classic from the award-winning playwright Mary Anne Butler and stars the world’s first Aboriginal Alice, Dubs Yunupingu.
Following overwhelming interest in 2017, Bayala – which translates to ‘speak’ in local language has doubled its program with an extended range of classes and talks to learn the Aboriginal language of Sydney. These are coupled with an opportunity to sing at a WugulOra ceremony on 26 January with Darug musician and teacher Aunty Jacinta Tobin.
Circus City returns to Parramatta, creating a central hub for Sydney Festival’s circus activity. The Circus Oz show, Model Citizens is front and centre – a hair-raising performance examining the Australian suburban dream, through live music, daredevil acrobatics and mind-bending physical feats.
The specially commissioned Backbone from Gravity & Other Myths offers the audience a raw and exhilarating ride to the edges of human strength. Legs on the Wall also bounces into Prince Alfred Square with Highly Sprung – a colourful, acrobatic, multi-level trampoline display which appears alongside workshops in aerial skills, juggling and flying trapeze for the whole family.
The music program plucks acts from 13 countries and almost every continent of the world. In addition to Denmark’s Aquasonic – the world’s first underwater band, and New Zealand’s rising star Aldous Harding, Gotye presents a tribute to his ‘spiritual grandfather’ – the synthesiser pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey as he takes to the instrument’s forerunner, the now near-extinct Ondioline.
Thirty years on from their most successful album 16 Lovers Lane – members the Australian rock band, The Go-Betweens revisit the album with special vocalists including Steve Kilbey (The Church) and Izzi Manfredi (The Preatures).
In their Australian debut and an exclusive to Sydney Festival, the Guangdong National Orchestra of China offers the opportunity for festival-goers to hear one of the country’s most influential orchestras fuse a contemporary symphonic cycle with Chinese instruments in newly composed pieces that explore the silk road’s impact on the city of Guangzhou.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra returns for its annual free concert entertaining Sydneysiders under the night sky with Symphony Under The Stars in Parramatta Park, before taking to the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House with international siren and comedienne Meow Meow in Meow Meow’s Pandemonium.
Art-lovers have the chance to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age at the Art Gallery of NSW with Rembrandt Live – as members of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra provide a live soundtrack for a baroque theatrical performance directed by John Bell.
In a more contemporary twist, the bomb crosses film with live scoring by electro-rock trio, The Acid in an immersive experience looking at one of humanity’s deadliest inventions. Plus the New York-based band Morricone Youth rewrite the soundtrack for cult classic films Mad Max and Night of the Living Dead performing them live in their Australian debut at Carriageworks.
In a sample of the analogue colliding with the digital world at Sydney Festival, a year-long commission 52 Artists 52 Actions tackles urgent issues in communities worldwide as chosen artists take an ‘action’ on a local concern and document it on Instagram. WHIST also crosses theatre, art and technology in a Freud-inspired 360-degree digital VR world, where one is taken on a journey into a fictional family’s fears and dreams.
The Meriton Festival Village returns to Hyde Park offering a Spiegeltent bursting with activity from the risqué boys of Briefs to the smash-hit Irish cabaret RIOT starring Panti Bliss; comedy from political satirist Randy Rainbow, silent sketch comedy from Trygve Wakenshaw; and cabaret queen Lady Rizo.
Sydney Festival’s freaky fun park, the Village Sideshow features a specially commissioned Ghost Train takes the brave through the inner workings of their mind in a Virtual Reality (VR) world, whilst physically chugging down a real fairground ghost train track. while the world’s first Karaoke Carousel also arrives at Sydney Festival this year, spicing up a double-decker carousel with the vocal talents of Sydney’s party public.
10 Minute Dance Parties By JOF replicate the best 10 minutes of a dancefloor at its peak, and the Glitterbox by zin continues the dancing revelry and swimming pools in shipping containers provide a much needed cooling off before exploring the further fun on offer.
The 2018 Sydney Festival runs 6 – 28 January. Tickets on sale Monday 30 October 2017. For more information and full program, visit: www.sydneyfestival.org.au for details.
Image: Meow Meow in Meow Meow’s Pandemonium – photo by Magnus Hastings