Celebrating 30 years of presenting the world’s best arts experiences to local audiences, the 2015 Melbourne Festival kicked off last night with a feast of world class performances from local and international artists.
Over the next 18 days, the Festival will present 74 events by artists and companies from around the globe. Arts Review takes a look at 10 shows worth checking out.
32 rue Vandenbranden
Southbank Theatre: until 11 October
Belgian physical theatre provocateurs Peeping Tom (Le Salon, Melbourne Festival 2009) return to Australia with a hyper–real collision of jaw–dropping physicality, cinematic realisation, macabre slapstick and an unsettling soundtrack from Bellini, Stravinsky and Pink Floyd. 32 rue Vandenbranden is an intoxicating, genre–defying volley from the subconscious: poetic, mesmerising and utterly unique.
North Melbourne Town Hall: until 12 October
Channelling the epistolary storytelling tradition of gothic novels, critically acclaimed artist Okwui Okpokwasili delivers a remarkable solo debut. Two 11–year–old girls pass clandestine notes in a sex–saturated, mid–80s, sixth grade classroom. Raw, honest and precocious, they trade barbed insults, nasty gossip and a heated intimacy entangling their bodies and their minds. In an intensely physical reflection on adolescence, Okpokwasili summons the spirits of her youth and transforms them into a hypnotic and joyfully irreverent blend of song, sinuous dance and eye–opening confession, played out with caustic wit and raw emotion.
Arts Centre Melbourne: 9 – 13 October
Indie–pop artist Kate Miller-Heidke brings to life John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s compelling picture–book, The Rabbits in this new work of operatic theatre for adults and children alike. The Rabbits tells a story we all know: a story of colonisation, civilisation and progress—a story about displacement, destruction and culture clash. And in that landscape, it tells a story of hope taking root.
Arts Centre Melbourne: 15 October
Israel’s internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company Batsheva returns to Melbourne Festival with revered choreographer Ohad Naharin’s ever–evolving showcase Decadance. First created in 1990, this kaleidoscopic survey of Naharin’s repertoire offers audiences a multi–faceted selection of memorable moments from the company’s 50 year history. With a soundtrack that veers from Vivaldi to Dean Martin, this dynamic showcase of dance features heartbreakingly intimate moments and exhilarating full company pieces.
Arts Centre Melbourne: 15 – 17 October
Outer Urban Projects vocalists, dancers and string orchestra, cohealth Arts Generator, Neil Ieremia—Black Grace and guest artists combine forces to create Grand DiVisions—an urban cantata with tales of wealth, poverty, privilege, neglect and unexpected journeys of falling in and out of love with Australia.
Theatre Works: until 24 October
A god arrives in the guise of a mortal. A monster defies the audience. Boundaries collapse; old, young, boy, girl, human, beast, mortal, divine, good, bad, light and dark. Co-created by Aaron Orzech and critically-acclaimed director Adena Jacobs, with a collaborating ensemble of young female actors and musicians, The Bacchae is an epic, and hallucinatory theatrical experience, offering an unsettling vision of sacrifice and spiritual desolation.
Arts Centre Melbourne: 16 – 25 October
Seen by more than a quarter of a million people, the international smash hit production of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece—from UK theatre renegades Headlong—arrives in Australia for an exclusive season at Melbourne Festival. April, 1984. 13:00. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. But Big Brother is always watching, and the door to Room 101 can swing open in the blink of an eye. The definitive book of the 20th century is re-examined in this radical, award-winning adaptation exploring surveillance, identity and why Orwell’s vision of the future is as relevant now as ever.
Fly Away Peter
Arts Centre Melbourne: 21 – 24 October
Based on David Malouf’s classic novel Fly Away Peter, this new contemporary opera tells the story of Jim Saddler, a visionary young birdwatcher from Queensland thrust into the nightmare of the Western Front during WWI. Through Jim’s voice of delicate insight, this one act chamber opera travels from a land of life to a panorama of horror. In honour of the Gallipoli centenary, this profound new contribution to Australian opera tells a story of the Australian spirit that begins at peace, builds to tragedy, and ends in transcendence.
Southbank Theatre: 22 – 25 October
This delightful family show from Sydney’s award–winning Griffin Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia is based on Australian playwright Kate Mulvany’s childhood experience of overcoming cancer—when she found solace and inspiration in Williams’ work and became captivated by its magical adventures. Bringing to life Kit Williams’ iconic picture book, Masquerade features the multi–talented Helen Dallimore, a talking fish and a gassy pig, with songs and music performed live on stage by Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen.
Spiegeltent: until 1 November
The record-breaking, award-winning show finally makes its Melbourne debut. This intoxicating mix of cabaret, circus and acrobatics has seduced audiences worldwide with its celebration of other worldly proportions, LIMBO whisks audiences into a sinister netherworld of gut-churning contortion, breath-taking acrobatics and jaw-dropping stunts.
The 2015 Melbourne Festival continues until 25 October. For more information, visit: www.festival.melbourne for details.
Image: Peeping Tom’s 32 Rue Vandenbranden – photo by Herman Sorgeloos