With a bold ambition to reimagine how we experience and interact with the city itself, Sydney Festival’s 2022 line-up – the first helmed by artistic director Oliva Ansell – is set to explode onto (and into) the city’s parks, pools, streets, stages and screens this summer.
Across its most revered venues and storied public spaces, amongst its iconic beaches and hidden boat sheds, Sydney will come alive with an array of free and family focussed events, illuminating public art installations, intimate provocations and large-scale performances that will mark, interrogate and celebrate the rituals of summer in the city.
From mainstage gigs for 12,000 to intricate musical moments ensconced in the city’s waterways; from Broadway smash hits to a ballet of BMX bikes; from a symphony under the stars to a cacophonous contemporary corroboree; from intimate moments for one to a rave on Mount Olympus; Sydney Festival is the answer to the question: what are we doing this January?
Spanning 133 events – including 33 world premieres and 52 new commissions – over 25 days, Sydney will burst to life with activity from 6–30 January.
Upon unveiling her first program, artistic director Olivia Ansell said: “We are thrilled to reunite artists with audiences this summer, unleashing a compelling and diverse line-up of world class performing and visual arts experiences to be enjoyed outdoors, indoors and online,” she said.
“Sydneysiders and visitors alike can rediscover their city differently, through a contemporary, immersive, irreverent and imaginative lens.”
“With 24 shows in Western Sydney and programming from Cronulla to Campbelltown, we are truly taking over the city like never before and my hope is that our 2022 program will play a crucial role in restoring culture safely to our city”
With 22 nights of live music, DJs, a dash of comedy and a splash of street art, all roads lead to Speakers Corner – a bespoke, 1000 seat, pop-up space in the heart of central Sydney.
The line-up includes Amyl and The Sniffers; Gordi; King Stingray; Jaguar Jonze; B Wise and Friends; Emma Pask; Cash Savage & The Last Drinks; Tropical Fuck Storm; WASHINGTON; The Beths; Hope D; Future Classic Warm Up; Barkaa; Sydney Yungins; Good Morning; James Morrison & William Barton; Jade Macrae; Radiohead for Solo Piano by Josh Cohen; and many more.
Paying homage to the original Speaker’s Corner – a bastion of freewheeling debate and free speech – each Sunday of the festival features a curated line-up of Sydney’s most superlative spruikers, who will concurrently take to three soapbox stages to stimulate, contemplate, and possibly irritate at Soapbox at Speakers Corner.
An embrace of epic scale and iconic location, THAW will stop audiences in their tracks. This visually arresting work marks a dramatic return to the festival for the renowned, Legs On The Wall. Featuring a 2.7 tonne, intricately sculpted block of ice hoisted 20 metres above the harbour from the foot of Sydney Opera House and a daring, solitary performer, THAW addresses humankind’s impact on the planet in a durational performance that’s part art installation, part slow-drip suspense thriller.
In a coup for Sydney Festival, punters can head to Parramatta Park with 12,000 of their closest friends for one last hurrah with the almighty Cat Empire. The band’s final Sydney performance with their original line-up, this is a not-to-be-missed moment with the legendary Australian group who re-wrote the rule book for live performance.
Stories from the past make their mark on the present in an epic-scale contemporary corroboree by Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company. 17 dancers, four musicians and five actors fill the stage with dance, poetry and song, as Wudjang: Not the Past reveals the power of messages that speak to us through the generations.
World-renowned Gravity & Other Myths, who brought Backbone to the festival in 2018, return with a work of mighty ambition. Pulse is a euphoric symphony of strength, sinew and haunting song, which sends humans into the air and hearts into mouths. Experience 24 acrobats and 26 voices from the Sydney Philharmonia Choir in this a vast and intricate epic folding and unfolding before you.
This festival, the iconic Hordern Pavilion will bare witness to the fall of a qweendom. In a hedonistic world of love, fetish and all-original house music, an ageing drag matriarch is abdicating their throne.
Part rave, part theatrical extravaganza, Qween Lear propels you through the raucous history of Sydney’s queer nightlife, immersing audiences in the excess and ecstasy of an era gone, but not forgotten. Elsewhere at the Hordern Pavilion the venerated New Zealand seven-piece Fat Freddy’s Drop will bring their globe-trotting party-jams to its celebrated stage for one night only.
Audiences can submerge themselves in one of Sydney’s most stunning outdoor pools, the Andrew (Boy) Charlton, and discover the sound of critically acclaimed UK producer Leon Vynehall at Floors of Heaven: Submersive Study. Though certified master of the dance floor, Vynehall’s creativity is truly let loose when he eschews beats for peaceful sonic tapestries to craft this watery audio adventure.
In a passionate and timely call-to-arms, the festival’s artist in resident Jake Nash will unveil Future Dreaming – a large-scale artwork located on Star Gazers Lawn at Barangaroo. Providing a focal point to reflect on our past, while demanding the future, Nash’s work sings out for social, political, and cultural change and a future dreamed by First Australians.
The cherished Sydney Symphony Under the Stars returns to Parramatta Park. Once again, conductor Benjamin Northey takes up the baton for a program ranging from the classics of the 18th and 19th centuries, alongside leading Australian Elena Kats-Cherin’s astonishing composition. And nothing – not even a global pandemic – will muzzle the famous cannons of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Discover the music of Sydney’s hidden harbour on a ferry ride to places shaped by time and tides at Acoustic Life of Boatsheds. The waterways west of the Bridge provide the backdrop for this unique maritime experience developed by celebrated company Big hART. During a series of original performances inspired by the boatsheds, workshops and waterways in which you experience them, you’ll sink into the varying soundscapes of places shaped by time, tide and trade.
When two skeletons emerge from the dried-up creek bed of a remote Queensland farm, the fates of three women thousands of kilometers apart become deeply intertwined. Part concert, part story, part ceremony, (stay) is an evocative new collaboration between the writer of award-winning Counting and Cracking, S. Shakthidharan and Singapore musical ensemble, SAtheCollective.
It’s been a long time coming. Postponed twice due to COVID-19, Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s dynamic new production of a legendary dance musical A Chorus Line arrives to a fever pitch of anticipation. Dive hat first into a world of sweat and sacrifice, featuring sensational new choreography by rising Australian dance superstar Amy Campbell, in this gritty reimagining of a classic.
An ingenious theatrical gem, small metal objects unfolds amidst the pedestrian traffic against the backdrop of Circular Quay, its moments of intensity – unnoticed by passers-by – are whispered right into your ears via a personal set of headphones. Created by Victoria’s celebrated Back to Back Theatre, this award-winning production was a highlight of Sydney Festival’s 2008 program, going on to entrance audiences from New York to Tokyo, and Vienna to Hong Kong.
A leafy park near Darlinghurst’s fabled Wall echoes with the ghosts of its past as two men tackle an unpredictable Grindr date at Green Park. Audiences eavesdrop on an intense private encounter in a very public place in this site-specific slice of park noir by Elias Jamieson Brown. Steve Le Marquand and Joseph Althouse reprise their roles in this critically acclaimed production directed by Declan Greene, Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre Company.
Lonely hearts and nightlife fiends. Insomniacs and shift workers. Guardians over restless babies and wide-eyed truckies barrelling down the highway. These are just some of the voices of The Nightline. Collected anonymously on a special hotline and arranged by pioneering audio theatremaker Roslyn Oades and sound artist Bob Scott, The Nightline is a sonic collage of Australia’s nocturnal soul.
Radiant and mystifying, Airship Orchestra is an interactive and multi-sensory installation by Melbourne-based multimedia design studio ENESS – maestros of immersive light and sound environments for public spaces. Encompassing a luminous otherworldly chorus of 16 inflatable sculptures rising to six metres high, pulsating with glowing light and supernatural song, Airship Orchestra will transport visitors of all ages into a realm of choral sounds and rhythmic light.
In his new exhibition, Iridescent, queer photographic artist and costume maker Gerwyn Davies responds to and reimagines the museums, archives, historic houses and gardens under the care of Sydney Living Museums and NSW State Archives. In a series of 12 large-scale photographic works, Davies dramatically transforms each property into a stage on which an extravagant performance is played out for the camera.
We’ve weathered fire, flood, scandal, political failures and a pandemic in a few short and shocking years. We should probably unpack that. A gutsy four-part talk series curated by the UNSW Centre for Ideas, The Reckoning, combines big conversations with a splash of comic relief to tackle the issues shaping our future and features Julia Banks, Virginia Gay, Stan Grant, Richard Holden, Mark Humphries, Dan Ilic, Emma Johnston, Benjamin Law, George Megalogenis, Louise Milligan and Laura Tingle.
Now in its fourth incarnation at Sydney Festival, Vigil: Songs for Tomorrow will be an intimate night of contemporary ceremony, song and fire led by the new generation of First Nations artists – an evening gathering of music, ceremony and fire to continue the conversation around identity, the future and January 26.
Sydney Festival 2022 runs 6 – 30 January. Tickets are now on sale. For more information and full program, visit: www.sydneyfestival.org.au for details.
Images: stay (supplied) | WASHINGTON – photo by She Is Aphrodite | Qween Lear (supplied) | A Chorus Line – photo by Daniel Shipp | Airship Orchestra photo by Ben Weinstein