Top Picks for the 2019 Sydney Festival

SF19 One InfinityTransforming the city with a bold cultural celebration based on critical ideas and cutting-edge art and performance, the 2019 Sydney Festival returns to many favourite destinations across Sydney, Parramatta and beyond this Summer.

Bringing together a vibrant collection of dance, theatre, music and visual arts over 19 days, Festival Director, Wesley Enoch’s third year features 18 world premieres, five Australian premieres and eight Australian exclusives alongside a variety of new Australian co-commissions. With so much on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at ten events worth checking out!

Apollo 11 at Barangaroo
Barangaroo: 9 – 27 January
The collective adventure that is space travel has many more heroes than the two men who walked on the moon in 1969. Apollo 11 at Barangaroo pays tribute to the diverse and under-appreciated heroes of space travel, from astronauts to mathematicians and beyond. Sydney Festival has commissioned artworks and participatory experiences, free for the public to explore around Barangaroo, as part of a city-wide commemoration of Apollo 11 – the 1969 space flight that first landed people on the moon. Cycle down to Barangaroo (and add your kilometres to the Fly Me To The Moon at World Square project) to see larger than life astronauts celebrating the work of diverse heroes of space exploration.

Beware of Pity
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 23 – 27 January
This bold, technically adventurous and sexually charged staging of Austrian Stefan Zweig’s 1939 novel is a masterful and newly prescient portrait of a Europe stumbling toward chaos. Written over a period of years and completed when Zweig was exiled in London, Beware of Pity follows the misadventures of Anton Hofmiller, a young cavalry officer who falls in love with Edith, the partially paralysed daughter of a local landowner, then breaks her heart. Overwhelmed by guilt when the girl takes her own life, Anton enacts a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to put things right.

Brett and Wendy… A Love Story Bound by Art
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 18 – 27 January
Take a deep dive into the extraordinary, turbulent artistic partnership of Brett and Wendy Whiteley. They blazed a trail from Sydney in the late 1950s, to London in the swinging 60s, to New York City in the tumultuous Vietnam War years. Eventually, they settled at Lavender Bay, where Brett captured Sydney Harbour in his signature ultramarine blue. But there were dark times ahead – restless years of separation and addiction that ended with Wendy alone, building and tending her magnificent Secret Garden. Kim Carpenter directs and designs, and Lucas Jervies choreographs a visually ravishing production that conjures the joys, passions and struggles of Brett and Wendy’s relationship.

Counting and Cracking
Sydney Town Hall: 11 January – 2 February
On the banks of the Georges River, Radha and her son Siddhartha release the ashes of Radha’s mother – their final connection to the past, to Sri Lanka and its struggles. Now they are free to embrace their lives in Australia. Then a phone call from Colombo brings the past spinning back to life, and we are plunged into an epic story of love and political strife, of home and exile, of parents and children. Written by S. Shakthidharan and presented by Belvoir, sixteen actors play four generations of a family, in a story about Australia as a land of refuge; Sri Lanka’s efforts to remain united; and reconciliation within families, across countries, across generations.

Roslyn Packer Theatre: 9 – 18 January
On an empty stage, a house rises before your eyes. People move in, move out. They eat, sleep, love, argue, throw a party – as though everyone who had ever lived in the house were there together, fighting for the fridge. Haunting one habitat, their domestic dance is an overlapping map of successive generations. As the rituals, relationships and drama of everyday lives play out in a two-storey home, audience members join the party, building their own memories inside this transitory stage dwelling. A house party where the whole audience is invited – award-winning absurdist Geoff Sobelle’s visual spectacle is a magical meditation on the meaning of home.

Man With The Iron Neck
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 23 – 26 January
A powerful new work about a small town Australian family, finding hope and embracing life after trauma. When Ash loses his best friend Bear to suicide, he starts to idolise 20th century stuntman The Great Peters, who jumped from bridges with a rope around his neck and lived. But the fabled stuntman’s death-defying legend is an impossible dream to follow. Written by Ursula Yovich, with spectacular aerial performance and video design, this bold and tender story is based on an original work by Josh Bond, who created this piece with co-director Gavin Robins.

One Infinity
Carriageworks: 23 – 27 January
A hypnotic, cross-cultural music and dance collaboration, where the audience are also performers. Genevieve Lacey is one of the world’s best and boldest recorder virtuosi. Wang Peng continues a Chinese tradition of instrument building and playing that dates back at least 3000 years. Together with Australian director-choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and British composer Max de Wardener, they have created One Infinity – bringing together traditional Chinese music and contemporary movement, with the help of the audience itself, in an intricate, echoing dance. Simultaneously meditative and electrifying, One Infinity is an act of deep listening and profound engagement.

Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 8 – 27 January
A once glamorous but now fading Parisian neighbourhood is transformed into a joyous carousel of music, muscles, abandon and redemption in this fusion of burlesque, circus and discotheque with a soundtrack of 70s classics. The international cast of performers is led by the iconic Marcia Hines, with cabaret legend iOTA, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Waangenga Blanco, British burlesque star Kitty Bang Bang and more. Pigalle is a glittering, raucous night on the town. Follow the noise!

Shànghai MiMi
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 10 – 20 January
Inspired by 1930s Shanghai, a city famous for its flamboyant clubs and heady nights, Shànghai MiMi parts the curtains on an enchanted world. Directed by internationally acclaimed performer and director Moira Finucane, whose groundbreaking cabarets enrapture audiences from Beijing to Berlin, this world premiere season stars Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe from beyond the Gobi desert and a hotshot live band playing long-lost vintage Chinese jazz and blues unearthed in a condemned Mumbai warehouse. Meanwhile, dancers, acrobats, aerialists and singers from China, Cameroon, Australia and France give thrilling performances: flying overhead, dazzling your eyes and winning your hearts.

The Vigil
Barangaroo Reserve: Friday 25 January
Gather at dusk at Barangaroo Reserve on 25 January for the lighting of the fire. A vigil will be held overnight to reflect on the impact of colonisation in Australia, the significance of the day before the First Fleet arrived, and what happened after. Hear musical performances and stories of Country from current and future community Elders. Join in the musical performance by participating in Baraya: Sing Up Country

The 2019 Sydney Festival runs 9 – 27 January. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: One Infinity (supplied)