Top Picks of the 2017 Sydney Festival

Sydney Festival Retro FuturismusAn annual cultural celebration that transforms the Harbour City every January, Wesley Enoch’s inaugural program for the 2017 Sydney Festival features a renewed focus on theatre and dance, with a strong commitment to support new Australian work. Australian Arts Review takes a look at ten events worth considering:

Ladies in Black
Sydney Lyric Theatre: 3 – 22 January
The swankiest new home-grown musical since Priscilla was queen, Ladies in Black is a whirling, toe-tapping trip back in time. Amid the splendour of a Sydney department store in the late 1950s, a trio of sales assistants is gearing up for the summer rush. But Lisa, the fresh-faced new recruit, is secretly dreaming of a life of passion and poetry, far beyond the walls of F.G. Goodes. Directed by Simon Phillips, and based on the novel, The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, this uniquely Australian fashion-forward fairy tale features a book by Carolyn Burns with music & lyrics by Tim Finn.

Briefs: The Second Coming
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 6 – 22 January
An Aussie Cirque du Soleil meets RuPaul’s Drag Race. Fresh from sell-out seasons in Berlin, Edinburgh and Melbourne, Australia’s home-grown all-male boylesque troupe has wowed and wooed audiences from Brisbane to Berlin and beyond. Get ready for a riotous evening of gob-smacking comedy and ridiculous showmanship. Expect a jaw-dropping, eye-popping evening of highly skilled acrobats, extreme costume changes, extravagant birdbath boylesque, too close for comfort yo-yo tricks and more than one highly inappropriate banana.

Prize Fighter
Belvoir St. Theatre: 6 – 22 January
Get ringside for a rare theatrical combo: engrossing storytelling paired with the visceral thrill of live boxing. Fleeing the Congo as a child, playwright Future D. Fidel lived in a Tanzanian refugee camp for eight years before being granted refugee status in Australia. Prize Fighter is inspired by his own story and those of the people he has known.

Sky Terrace, The Star Sydney: 7 – 28 January
A party experience unlike any other… where imagination, trust, adrenalin and fun collide. This new interactive installation by Sydney-based performance art powerhouse zin is a colourful glowing cube on the Sky Terrace that you can dance in. Dance the dance montage of your life to the song of your choice in a kaleidoscopic vortex of mesmeric joy. Bring your friends or meet a stranger and transform you and your moves into a sensory-overloaded glitter trip of colour and light – your own mini private dance party, in public.

Measure For Measure
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 7 – 11 January
A powerful collaboration between acclaimed international theatre company Cheek By Jowl and Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre, Measure For Measure delves into the depths of an unpredictable city to dissect the nature of government, love and justice. Shakespeare’s brew of laughter and high seriousness asks questions about the relationship between ordinary citizens and those in power. Director Declan Donnellan draws out their topicality with his taut modern-dress update, matching Russian theatrical traditions with swiftly changing scenes, played out in vivid abstract settings.

El-Phoenician, Parramatta: 11 – 22 January
Inspired by the ancient Arabic traditions of story-telling and breaking bread, Hakawati celebrates food, music and the telling of tales during a series of balmy summer nights in this National Theatre of Parramatta production. Directed by Wayne Harrison, feast on tales of heroism, tragedy and comedy, derived from myth and told with a distinctly modern Western Sydney flavour.

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 12 – 22 January
A high-energy fusion of circus, acrobatics and urban dance from Cirque Éloize, iD is a production for the young at heart featuring an inspiring soundtrack and innovative video projections. 15 acrobats, aerialists, and hip hop and break dancers come together to create a microcosmic society where two groups celebrate everyone’s distinct identity. Directed by Jeannot Painchaud, iD is a show about life in an imaginary city, an adventure that has received rave reviews over the years.

Seymour Centre: 17 – 21 January
This is a work about three girls, Billy, Bobby and Sam. There’s not a single moment when they transcend their ugliness. There’s no indication of a better life – or, in fact, any inner life. They don’t believe in anything. They’re mean, foul-mouthed, downtrodden, hard-bitten, utterly damaged women. Written by Patricia Cornelius and directed by Susie Dee, SHIT is a compelling, raw and powerful play which examines the intersections of class and misogyny – it is provocative and tragic, heartbreaking, bracing and bitterly funny.

Blood on the Dance Floor
Carriageworks: 21 – 25 January
A raw physical monologue about our need to love and be loved. Jacob Boehme is a choreographer, dancer and writer from the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia. When he was diagnosed with HIV in 1998 he reached out to his ancestors in search of answers. Blood on the Dance Floor explores the legacies and memories embedded in our bloodlines and each person’s need for community and connection. Examining the way in which blood defines a person, Boehme questions how our most precious life source can both unite and divide us.

Retro Futurismus
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 24 – 29 January
Drawing from the superior DNA of the likes of Circus Oz, Retro Futurismus is an old-school variety night with a sci-fi flavour, equipped with hi-tech burlesque, space-age circus artistry and post-apocalyptic performance. A stellar cast – Anni and Maude Davey, Gabi Barton, Anna Lumb and Teresa Blake – tip their space helmets to the visionary likes of Björk, Bowie and Barbarella and uncover how the past saw the future. In an atmosphere inspired by the work of Fritz Lang, Margaret Atwood and Stanley Kubrick, a dystopia has never been so delightful.

The 2017 Sydney Festival runs 7 – 29 January. For more information and complete program, visit: for details.

Image: Retro Futurismus (supplied)