Top Picks for the 2019 Perth Festival

PF19 Sunset - photo by Simon PyntCelebrating 66 years as Australia’s longest-running arts festival, dive into the Perth Festival this summer to celebrate the unique brilliance and beauty of Perth whilst sharing extraordinary experiences with the world’s most exciting artists and performers.

World premieres proudly stamped Made in WA will surprise and delight alongside many of the greatest names in international theatre, circus, music, dance, film, literature and the visual arts. Australian Arts Review takes a look at ten shows worth checking out:

A Family Outing – 20 Years On
Studio Underground: continues to 12 February
In 1998 Ursula Martinez took to the stage with her parents for the sublime A Family Outing. Now, 20 years later, she attempts to recreate the show without her dad and with a mother who can no longer remember her lines. Absorbed in wryly honest and frank conversation, a mother and daughter expose the banalities, hilarity, foibles and frustrations of their relationship. Contrasting past and present, they bicker, cajole and encourage each other through this endearingly ad hoc, entertaining and ultimately uplifting performance.

Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak
Kings Park: continues to 11 February
The extraordinary 2017 hit Boorna Waanginy returns to transform Kings Park into a nocturnal wonderland over four spectacular nights. In this epic work Noongar culture, science, cutting-edge technology and breathtaking artistry come together to celebrate the unique and threatened beauty of South Western Australia’s landscape. Huge projectors transform the avenues of Kings Park into an ever-moving canvas, where trees and flowers bloom, flocks of birds descend, wetlands fill, bush fires rage and the stories of the formation of the land unfurl all around you. Bring the family along for an unmissable experience that is truly awe inspiring.

Five Short Blasts
Fremantle Port – Zephyr Cafe: 20 February – 3 March
As morning and evening breaks over the Port of Fremantle you’re invited to hop on a boat to encounter the sights and sounds of the area from the people who live and work there. Inspired by the maritime signal of five short blasts to indicate uncertainty, this journey takes audiences out on small quiet boats to listen, to navigate the unknown and to discover new ways of seeing.

Lé Nør
PICA Performance Space: 13 – 24 February
Somewhere in the northern seas lies the small island nation of Sólset. Once a thriving metropolis, a decades-long drought has plagued the community and now only a hopeful few remain. From the multi-award-winning team behind It’s Dark OutsideThe IrresistibleNew Owner and Alvin Sputnik comes a deeply romantic visual extravaganza that will reignite your love of humanity. Perth theatre-makers The Last Great Hunt combine cinematic mastery and theatrical magic to tell interwoven stories of love in a world that’s falling apart as they perform a faux foreign film live. Lé Nør [the rain] invites you to witness both the onscreen story and the behind-the-scenes action in a nostalgic celebration of everything worth fighting for.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute
His Majesty’s Theatre: 20 – 23 February
Mozart’s master comedy opera is richly reimagined in a boundary-busting production created by internationally-renowned opera director Barrie Kosky and British theatre group 1927. Blending animated film and live action in a gloriously ingenious kaleidoscope of 1920s silent movies, Weimar cabaret, dark humour and German expressionism, this visual fantasia is made for film buffs and art lovers, as well as fans of fine opera. Kosky’s Komische Oper Berlin comes to Australia for the first time, accompanied here by West Australian Symphony Orchestra and 1927’s magical projected animations. Immense three-storey spiders, flappers and demons, butterflies and wolves – this wildly inventive The Magic Flute is like no other.

Our Town
State Theatre Centre of WA: continues to 23 February
What if the role of a teacher in a play was actually played by a teacher? An undertaker by an undertaker? A policeman by a member of the WA Police Force? The State Theatre Centre Courtyard becomes the meeting place for the characters of our city in Our Town. US playwright Thornton Wilder’s classic Pulitzer prize-winning drama brings a fictional town to life in a production directed by Clare Watson with a cast of professional actors and everyday Perth citizens. Get to know the town’s inhabitants in a classic play that’s about everything and nothing, a shattering, yet a piercingly beautiful examination of the everyday rhythms and pulses of ordinary life.

Re-Member Me
Studio Underground: 27 February – 3 March
When award-winning lip synch maestro Dickie Beau realised he might never play The Dane, he decided to turn himself into a human Hamlet mix-tape. Channelling audio recordings of great historical performances of theatre’s most famous role, he created a humorous and haunting solo show to ‘re-member’ the ghosts of Hamlet’s past. Along the way, he stumbled upon the story of one especially masterful Hamlet; one that left an indelible mark on all who saw it but one can never be ‘re-membered’ – because no recording exists, except in the memories of those who were there. Featuring original interviews with theatre legends such as Sir Ian McKellen and Sir John Gielgud, as well as exclusive finds from behind the scenes, Re-Member Me is part documentary theatre, part 21st century séance and the unforgettable story behind the greatest Hamlet almost never seen.

Sunset Heritage Precinct: 26 February – 3 March
Imagine a world where you have no voice. That is the world for many in contemporary Australia who are silenced legally, politically or culturally.  Speechless – a powerful new opera by award-winning composer Cat Hope – is a personal response to the 2014 Human Rights Commission report The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Through a vocal language beyond words, Speechless is a channel for Hope to come to terms with the terrible things she sees perpetrated in her name by those in positions of power.

Sunset Heritage Precinct: continues to 17 February
Leave your comfort zone and enter a mysterious world where you wander with the spirits of Perth’s colourful past. Discover forgotten secrets in the dusty shadows of one of our city’s most intriguing and significant heritage sites – Sunset down by the iconic Swan River. From the renowned UK director-choreographer Maxine Doyle (co-director of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned ManSleep No More) comes a visceral dance-theatre performance that is epic in reach but intimate in experience. Inspired by the riverside precinct’s rich and unique history and the bushland that surrounds it, a stunning cast of Australian performers transforms the former Sunset Old Men’s Home into a waiting room between worlds, where classical myth collides with West Australian stories and local heroes can waltz with gods.

The Nature of Why
Heath Ledger Theatre: 21 – 23 February
Feel the transformative power of music and dance in an epic performance bursting with passion and joyous intensity. Led by renowned conductor Charles Hazelwood, members of the world’s only large-scale ensemble for professional disabled musicians, the British Paraorchestra, are joined by string players from Perth Symphony Orchestra to perform a cinematic live-score by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory. The stage becomes a site of discovery as four dancers move to the music with choreography by Australian artist and disability advocate Caroline Bowditch. Merging contemporary dance and live orchestral music The Nature of Why erases the divide between musicians, dancers, and audience, immersing you in an uplifting up-close-and-personal theatrical experience.

The 2019 Perth Festival continues to 3 March. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Sunset – photo by Simon Pynt