Top Picks at the Perth International Arts Festival

PIAF Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam A O Lang PhoThe longest running annual multi-arts celebration in the Southern Hemisphere, and the jewel in the crown of Western Australia’s cultural life, the Perth International Arts Festival presents a world-class program of art without borders, inviting us to travel to extraordinary places with the most brilliant artists as our guides.

Featuring more than 700 of the planet’s most visionary artists, the festival will transform the city with more than 180 events and create new pathways for us to see, understand and re-imagine our world, sharing in 11 Australian exclusives, five world premieres and a superb array of unforgettable artistic experiences. Arts Review takes a look at ten events worth seeing:

An Evening with an Immigrant
Studio Underground – State Theatre Centre of WA: 24 & 25 February
Stateless, unpapered, in limbo. Born in Nigeria to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Inua Ellams fled with his family to England at age 12. An Evening with an Immigrant is his potent personal account of life as an immigrant told through poetry and music. A charismatic and engaging performer, Ellams tells his ridiculous, fantastic, poignant story – escaping fundamentalist Islam, experiencing prejudice and friendship in Dublin, performing solo at the National Theatre and drinking wine with the Queen of England – all the while without a country to belong to or place to call home.

A O Lang Pho
Regal Theatre, Perth: 16 – 25 February
Circus turns tradition on its head. The Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam make their Australian debut with a production set to amaze and delight the whole family. Accompanied by live music, a cast of 15 acrobats and five musicians whisk us away to a village in Vietnam with a dazzling array of juggling, balancing, contortion and daring feats. The serenity of rural life is dashed by progress and a once quiet hamlet becomes a bustling city where traditional Vietnamese music gives way to hip hop. Bamboo baskets are ingeniously repurposed to create peculiar creatures and spectacular stunts.

Heath Ledger Theatre – State Theatre Centre of WA: 23 – 26 February
Raw and riveting dance drama. Two of Canada’s most adventurous artists, award-winning choreographer Crystal Pite and playwright/performer Jonathon Young, join forces in this dance work of raw human emotion and heroic theatrical brilliance. Betroffenheit is the state of shock and bewilderment that encompasses you in the wake of a disaster. Featuring six virtuosic performers, Betroffenheit combines comedy and drama, poetry and movement for a production that’s as thrilling and entertaining as it is profoundly moving.

Boorna Waanginy
Kings Park and Botanic Garden: continues to 12 February
Celebrate this land we share. Over the opening weekend of the festival, Kings Park is magically transformed into a cathedral of light, sound and imagery in which the trees come to life. State of the art technology and the natural world come together for this spectacular walk through experience – where great flocks of birds fly overhead and animals dance and play. The event culminates with a light installation dedicated to the protection of the beautiful part of the world we live in – made in collaboration with thousands of young people across WA. Directed by Nigel Jamieson, and created in association with the Noongar community, scientists and botanists, Boorna Waanginy explores the interconnectedness of all life, the fragile beauty of South West Australia’s landscape and the threats it now faces.

Lady Eats Apple
Heath Ledger Theatre – State Theatre Centre of WA: 2 – 5 March
We are finite in an infinite world – the punchline of existence is how little of it we’re given. One of the world’s most important contemporary theatre companies working today, Back to Back Theatre charts new trails deeper into the landscape of the unconscious with their most epic work to date. Set inside a vast, awe-inspiring inflatable, Lady Eats Apple is a story about the inevitability of death, our fragility and the myths and illusions we create to fortify ourselves. Join us on a journey of mythical proportions with Back to Back Theatre’s new major work, Lady Eats Apple.

Magic Mirror
Alex Hotel, Perth: 3 – 5 March
In a topsy-turvy photographic experience of Perth, one of Australia’s most acclaimed photographers brings the outside in. Robyn Stacey has been creating spectacular and sumptuous images since the mid-1980s and for PIAF she transforms an entire hotel room into a walk-in camera obscura. Translated as ‘dark room’, the camera obscura is an optical device that captures the external world and projects it within the room. As if by magic, the view outside spreads over the room’s interior – but upside down and in reverse. The camera obscura is dependent on the weather and the position of the sun, which makes every viewing of Magic Mirror a unique experience.

Perth Writer’s Festival
Various locations: 23 – 26 February
Over four days, the 2017 Perth Writers Festival brings a feast of international and Australian writers, artists and activists to Perth, with an empathic eye to the experiences of the contemporary world. Guests include: Ben Rawlence (City of Thorns), Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni (The Battle for Home), Canadian Booker Prize-nominated short-story writer and novelist Madeleine Thien (Do We Say We Have Nothing; Dogs at the Perimeter); Pulitzer Prizewinning American novelist Jane Smiley (The Golden Age); Nigerian-American writer Chinelo Okparanta (Under the Udala Trees); and Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra (My Documents; Ways of Going Home). Words and ideas will fly off the page and onto the stage in the exciting new Festival event Courtyard Sessions – with two nights of slam poetry, music, hip hop and comedy, hosted by ABC TV’s Black Comedy writer and star Nakkiah Lui.

Small Voices Louder
Upstairs – State Theatre Centre of WA: continues to 5 March
A show in two parts where youngsters get to explore a fun and interactive installation of cupboards and cubby holes that encourage them to have their say on some of life’s big questions. What does the world look like today? What makes you angry? What does the future look like? Part two sees their playful, insightful and refreshingly honest responses broadcast across the airwaves and in unexpected spaces around the Festival – for everyone to hear. Sometimes children’s voices are exactly what the world needs to hear. Small Voices Louder is a kids-only event. Parents can enjoy a moment of quiet in the adjacent foyer while their children explore, discover and enjoy the performance in a safe, supervised environment.

Quarry Amphitheatre: continues to 25 February
Bring your friends and a picnic for an evening of ballet under the summer stars. West Australian Ballet’s summer staple Ballet at the Quarry is back with a program of Australian and world premieres from three distinctive choreographers. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s In Transit is an intriguing piece of people watching. Canadian born Eric Gauthier brings his short, sharp solo Ballet 101 alongside Takuto, which fuses dance and traditional Japanese drumming. The Clearest Light from WAB’s very own Christopher Hill features musical compositions by the choreographer himself.

The Encounter
His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth: 16 – 25 February
Journey deep into the Amazon. Created by one of theatre’s great storytellers, Simon McBurney, and performed by Richard Katz, this critically acclaimed theatre production has taken Broadway and the world by storm. In 1969, National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre became hopelessly lost in the remote Amazon rainforest while searching for Brazil’s Mayoruna people. His encounter was to test his perception of the world, bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus. This theatrical game-changer draws you further in with its astounding use of 3D sound that transports you to the humid depths of the rainforest.

The 2017 Perth International Arts Festival continues to 5 March. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam’s A O Lang Pho – photo by Nguyen The Duong