Top Picks of the 2022 Perth Festival

AAR-Perth-Festival-Noongar-Wonderland-photo-by-Jon-GreenBe swept along by currents of inspiration and waves of delight when Perth Festival 2022 celebrates the theme of Wardan (Ocean) this summer.

From dockside escapades in Fremantle and dancing on the sand at City Beach, to oceanic orchestral concerts and surfing the swell of contemporary music, to heart-pumping theatre and a magical lighthouse set to captivate the young-at-heart, there is an open invitation to dive into the extensive 2022 Festival program.

From the beginning to the end of the three-week Festival, artists will summon up new worlds and new moods across music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film and writing events. Australian Arts Review takes a look at 10 events worth checking out:

Platinum: Ballet at the Quarry
Quarry Amphitheatre: continues to 5 March
As the sun sets on hot summer nights, join us under the stars and surrounded by rugged natural beauty at the Quarry Amphitheatre as West Australian Ballet treats you to a contemporary showcase of four unique works. In its Australian premiere, Robert Bondara’s Take Me With You finds a soulmate in Radiohead’s restless beat, with searingly honest body language, uninhibited pointe work and rhythmic body percussion. Known for giving great importance to musicality and collaborating closely with dancers in her creative process, critically acclaimed Brazilian-British choreographer Daniela Cardim creates a new work for the Company. In Truth beautiful fluid movements intertwine with the haunting music of Ludovico Einaudi as this neo-classical work by Matthew Lehmann dares to ask where the truth, that seems to hide from us all, may be hidden. Concerto Impertinente! is another world premiere, this time created by the West Australian Ballet dancers and performed to the beautiful music of Mendelssohn.

Panawathi Girl
His Majesty’s Theatre: continues to 13 February
Saddle up for the next big Black musical. Set in a small town in the northwest of Western Australia in the 1960s, Panawathi Girl overflows with wild joy as hippies and cowboys, politicians and protesters fuel an all-singing, all-dancing night of entertainment. Written by David Milroy, the much loved playwright behind Waltzing the Wilarra, and featuring an all-star cast of WA talent, this music-filled journey is brimming with heart and humour. Follow our heroine Molly Chubb from the big smoke back to the small country town of her birth as she searches for her place in the world. Set amidst a time of great political change, this bold new production from Yirra Yaakin will have you questioning if much has changed at all, even as it has you tapping your toes and yearning for more.

Patch’s Lighthouse
Octagon Theatre: 15 – 20 February
Explore the endless wonders of light at Patch’s Lighthouse and take an immersive journey throughout The University of Western Australia’s theatres. Designed for all ages, this house of marvels is full of intimate vignettes and grand lighting marvels. A series of interconnected rooms awaits, each full of hands-on experiences that explore a different property of that elusive yet fundamental force of nature – light. Patch’s Lighthouse?is a conversation with the universe. It exists at the intersection of science and art, sparking curiosity at the world around us. Through its innovative use of light, sound, perspective and reflection, this performance encourages you to engage, experiment and explore. Part installation, part scientific quest, part rave Patch’s Lighthouse offers the kind of magic that only interactive theatre can.

Studio Underground: 16 – 20 February
Jali: noun: a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician. Oliver Twist: a charismatic comedian and performer refusing to be defined by his turbulent past. In this one-person show that is as delicately told as it is captivating, Oliver uses his exceptional storytelling abilities to reflect on his time as a refugee and to unpack what his life looks like now. After fleeing the Rwandan civil war at the age of four, Oliver spent his childhood in Malawi, first in a refugee camp, and later in the city where his mother and father started a small convenience store. After acceptance into the Australian government’s refugee intake, the family arrived in Ipswich in 2014 to begin a new life. Using personal anecdotes, drama and humour as a powerful antidote to trauma JALI?is a vibrant and emotional journey that patiently proves there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Katie Noonan with strings
Art Gallery of Western Australia: 18 – 19 February
The contemporary and the classical come together for an evening of song with five-time ARIA Award-winning artist Katie Noonan. Throughout her eclectic career Katie has produced 21 studio albums and engaged in cross-genre collaborations with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Dance Company, Queensland Ballet, guitarist Karin Schaupp, The Brodsky Quartet, Gurrumul, Flight Facilities, Michael Leunig and many more. For this intimate Festival chamber music event, Katie is joined by the Sartory Quartet to serenade us with a beautiful selection of contemporary songs from her albums with george and Elixir, along with favourites from her solo albums and some recently commissioned Australian classical works.

The Smallest Stage
Studio Underground: 23 – 27 February
This heart-warming true story explores the love and connection between parent and child with delightful, innovative storytelling. The Smallest Stage transports you back to Manjimup writer Kim Crotty’s experiences in prison and his endeavours to stay connected to his two boys by creating unique short stories and illustrations. Along the way, monsters, superheroes and loveable characters come to life, as Kim’s short stories are lovingly re-told through a mixture of live drawing, puppetry, animation and even a plate of mushy peas and refried beans. Introspective, funny, and heart-felt, The Smallest Stage will leave you feeling closer to your child and loved ones.

Studio Underground: 2 – 6 March
Daddy is the latest work from one of the most electric new figures in Australian dance. Here he probes one of the paradoxes of our age: when so much is on offer, why are we left so hungry? From the sugar-coated idyll of childhood reminiscence to the glazed excesses of queer adulthood, Joel’s story proves that a sweet tooth is a dangerous thing. Short-lived highs give way to the inevitable comedowns before the cycle begins all over again. And like a kid in a candy store, an imperial hunger for Aboriginal Australia consumes all it encounters – land, women and children – like fistfuls of sugar. Hilarious, provocative and heartfelt, Daddy tickles the nerve endings of desire while prodding the cavities left by colonisation. Featuring Joel’s trademark confection of conversation, dance and all-you-can-eat audience participation, this is one sweet feast with a deadly aftertaste.

Noongar Wonderland
Perry Lakes: 3 – 5 March
Lights. Country. Action! This land still vibrates with story and song. For centuries, Perry Lakes was a million-star hotel for locals and travellers to gather, share and celebrate. It is ready to host us again – for a special Festival closing weekend created by a team of Noongar artists and designed for everyone to join in. Noongar Wonderland is a multisensory experience guided by stories of Country. Weave your way through an immersive light and sound installation between the two lakes. Sit with artists and handcraft something both age-old and new. Feel the pulse of song and movement as the energy of the sea and groundwater overflow into a technicolour dance party. This is Noongar-futurism for the old, the young, for everyone!

Emma Matthews: Sea Pictures
Hackett Hall – WA Museum Boola Bardip: 4 – 5 March
Following the success of One & Many in 2021, we invite you to join us under the whale at Hackett Hall once again, for a stunning chamber music experience featuring the shimmering vocal beauty of soprano Emma Matthews. Emma shares the stage with acclaimed WA pianist Anna Sleptsova and three of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s finest musicians, Andrew Nicholson (flute), Daniel Schmitt (viola) and Eve Silver (cello). Together they perform works that reflect our fascination with the sea, including selections from Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Britten’s Peter Grimes and George Crumb’s evocative Vox Balaenae (Song of the Whale).

Become Ocean
Perth Concert Hall: 5 March
Take a plunge into the deepest blue to discover churning waves, eerie calm and some of the greatest wonders of music inspired by the sea. West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Western Australian Youth Orchestra are back on stage together bringing waves of sound to Become Ocean. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, John Luther Adams’ expansive orchestral work Become Ocean is an intimate sonic journey, a musical meditation on the mysterious tides of existence. Hear it performed live in Australia for the first time as part of a program that also features Benjamin Britten’s evocative Four Sea Interludes and a world premiere from Western Australian composer Olivia Davies, In Waves.

The 2022 Perth Festival continues to 6 March. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Noongar Wonderland – photo by Jon Green