SYDNEY FESTIVAL 2018 Director Wesley Enoch is infectious. Infected by the love of ideas, performance and ‘better angels’. Enoch says of next year’s festival, “Artists are here creating more and more ways of celebrating our better angels and questioning the things that are holding us back.”
January is such a lovely time in Sydney, traffic is less, parking is easier and there is always something to do courtesy of the SYDNEY FESTIVAL. If you are a planner you can book ahead for your choice of 702 performances which will take place across 51 venues and will feature over 700 artists from 22 countries. If you, like me, are not a planner there is always something to do at late notice including the 47 of the 136 events which are free.
The three themes of next year’s Festival are finding the intersection of science and art; a larger look at human consumption; and how the feminist movement has evolved and its current state across the world and I am infected by Enoch’s enthusiasm. I want to see almost everything. But topping my wish list for each theme are …
Science and Art: THE WIDER EARTH presented by Queensland Theatre and Dead Puppet Society. Drawn from historical documents about Charles Darwin’s voyages on The Beagle, this production has 30 puppets interacting with the human cast to explore the story of a doubting young man asking questions of Mother Nature. One of the puppets made an appearance at the festival launch. Huge, heavy and bespoke with each piece individually laser cut and assembled over months of tireless invention… and infectiously lovable. https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2018/wider-earth
Human Consumption: JURASSIC PLASTIC presented by ArtsPeople and Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji. This is a contemporary and immersive art experience which Enoch explained is drawn from Fiji’s musings on the throwaway toys of Japan’s young children. A global perspective invites audiences to collaborate with the artist to recycle and reinvent discarded objects as they experience this huge installation of dinosaurs and extensive landscapes, all made from thrown away toys. https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2018/jurassic-plastic
Current State of Feminism: Russian protest art collective PUSSY RIOT THEATRE: RIOT DAYS is coming. Using theatre, film and raucous music the production has Feminism, LGBT rights and opposition to Vladimir Putin as its expressed agenda. At the Festival Launch Enoch explained the collective nature of the group which is spearheaded by Maria Alyokhina, one of the artists arrested and sentenced in 2012.
Add to this swimming pools in a containers (Yes… filtered Enoch tells us) and a Ghost Train. There is more ballet, circus, music, visual arts, installations large and small and theatre than you can poke a parking ticket at. You can plan your own wish list for the SYDNEY FESTIVAL, 6-28 January, at
The Sydney Festival promises quality collaboration and a celebration of cutting-edge creativity. Nicole Lizée’s innovative program of manipulated image and music fulfils this promise several times over.
The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) , which started under the leadership of Paul Grabowsky, is seen here obviously thrilled to work on stage with the award winning composer. In the two works it plays in, the orchestra boldy realises Lizee’s reworkings of sound and scenic fragments from popular TV, film and karaoke film clips.
For an event which champions the Canadian turntablist and composer’s clever manipulation of elements, the title is also tweaked from Steven Soderbergh’s popular 1989 comedy, Sex, Lies and Videotape to describe Lizee’s twentieth century influences.
During the opening Lynch’s Etudes, on a screen above the stage we see small excerpts from the TV and film classics of David Lynch. These are reworked through savage reiteration, visual scratching and dragging. Time and vocal pitch in scenes from Wild At Heart, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks are also warped heavily. Continue reading NICOLE LIZEE WITH THE AUSTRALIAN ART ORCHESTRA @ RECITAL HALL→
Above : Performer Gabriel Dharmoo. Featured Image: Gabriel Dharmoo in front of the Anthropologies Imaginaires screen. Photo credit Greg Locke.
This fifty-minute experience from French-Canadian Gabriel Dharmoo is a unique and highly entertaining one. It combines a one-man tour de force performance of singing and sound effect with voluptuous accompanying movements. A subtitled documentary-style commentary on a screen behind the performer matches the vocal gymnastics to language and behaviours of imaginary cultures.
This event could be described as the Umbilical Brothers meet a deceptively satirical SBS. This performance’s subtle start is quite believable and resembles the canon of anthropological films on non-fictional tribes. However, as the show progresses the tongue in cheek comedy around the validity of commenting on a single aspect or practice by an ‘other’ culture becomes increasingly obvious. Continue reading SYDNEY FESTIVAL : ANTHROPOLOGIES IMAGINAIRES @ SEYMOUR CENTRE→
Sydney Chamber Opera is currently presenting a second offering for the Sydney Festival which familiarises local audiences with the French composer Pascal Dusapin. This time the compelling piece is O MENSCH! (2008) for solo baritone and piano.
This event is part of the About an Hour series during the festival. Its focused romp through the shifting emotional reactions of one character is a dramatised cavalcade of Fredriech Nietzsche’s quite anguished poetic texts. This uninterrupted journey of self-analysis through contemporary music is not for the feint-hearted but very worth the ride.
The torments, doubts, desires and moral fragilities of the mortal illustrated by the single character on stage is given slick direction by Sarah Giles. Giles’ guidance of baritone Mitchell Riley, who is perched delicately on a small landing halfway up a set of stairs leading nowhere masterfully enhances the ebb and flow of the texts. Continue reading SYDNEY CHAMBER OPERA PRESENTS O MENSCH! @ CARRIAGEWORKS→
I’m not much of a crier at public events. Occasionally when something has its basis in how I experience the world I will find myself teary. But seriously, what on earth could I have in common with Ab Solomons, a Jewish shoemaker from London’s East End in the 1920s and why was I sniffling? And why were so many of us leaving with balled up tissues in our pockets?!
From 1926 to 1982, Ab drew a little cartoon on his weekly pay-packet for his wife, Celie. Kept in old shoeboxes … naturally… there are 3000 of these drawings. Danny Braverman discovered his great-uncle’s art works and brings them to the life in his one man show WOT? NO FISH!! The beautifully rendered images chronicle the hatched, matched and dispatched of a long life but there is more here.
We see the area where the family lived from the boom times after WW1, through WW2, peace time and the changing times of the 1970s. The themes of the drawings touch on racism, ignorance, divorce, even sex.
Danny Braverman is a self-confessed schlump. This, he assures us, as he hands out fried Gefilte fish, is different to a schmoe or a schmuck. His grand-uncle was also a schlump and so we enter Ab’s world.
The storyteller uses a table camera to project the small wages packets onto the big screen. When we first see them, the big surprise is the quality of the drawing. Initially in pen and ink, the characters are recognizable, the topic relatable and the detail inclusive.
Sometimes Braverman will bring our attention to one of these details and sometimes he will interpret an image or provide the family background. At times he allows us to linger on the artistry or he will foreshadow what we are about to see. Towards the end, he shows us the date on the back of the envelope first. Ab and Celie are failing.
The final drawing is brought forth with such love and care that we miss his family already. This is a life interpreted by someone who knows and we are guided by a wonderfully written presentation, well delivered.
He is funny and charming and spontaneous and his performance is a masterclass in Yiddish storytelling.
Good storytelling leads the listener to the truth in any matter and well-crafted art leads the viewer to the same destination.
In WOT? NO FISH!! we experience both, and Danny and Ab bring emotions to the surface. I doubt you will get tickets to this Sydney Festival event now but there is a display of the pay-packets in the Seymour Centre upper foyer. Take tissues.
WOT? NO FISH!! is playing the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre until January 18th as part of the Sydney Festival.
What a great story for a leading Australian theatre company like the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) to tell at this time! And what timing! Whilst the show was still playing, on Australia’s Day, Koori AFL star Adam Goodes was announced ‘Australian Of The Year’.
BLACK DIGGERS tell of how, at a time when Kooris in this country were treated as less than second class citizen without voting rights, more than 1,000 indigenous soldiers fought side by side alongside their white countrymen in the battlefields of the Great War- in Palestine, the Somme, Gallipoli and Flanders Fields. Some became highly decorated soldiers…
It was another chapter in Australia’s- ‘White Australia has a very black history’- that the treatment that Koori returned servicemen received was no different from what they were used to before they left for the War.
With such a tough story, it would have been very easy for the playwright Tom Wright and the director Wesley Enoch to come up with a depressing, even spiteful production. Not so….Instead they have come up with a vibrant production.
The show went for 100 minutes without break, allowing the actors to maintain their momentum. We closely followed the individual journeys of the soldiers.
There were some sixty scenes- some stand-outs…The scene where two Kooris walk into a pub. The publican blocks their entrance. ‘We don’t have Kooris here’. From inside the pub a guy they fought alongside in the war spots them. He comes up to them and says to the publican- ‘You let these guys in- they fought with me in the war- or I will have words to the RSL about you’. His two mates are let in.
The play’s setting authentically changes from pre-war Australia to the horrors of the trenches to a cold, ineffectual post war country, giving us ‘the whole picture’. There was humour amongst the men with them just trying to stay on top of things.
A feature of Stephen Curtis’s set design was the chalkboard walls. Through the play the cast would inscribe telling details on these walls- signifying time periods, locations and much more.
The cast were great, delivering strong performances. The team comprised George Bostock, Luke Carroll, David Page, Hunter Page-Lochard, Guy Simon, Colin Smith, Eliah Watego, Tibian Wyles and Meyne Wyatt.
This was a show that absolutely called for something special and powerful. Wesley Enoch and his team delivered.
A Sydney Festival and Queensland Theatre Company World Premiere production, BLACK DIGGERS played the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House from the 17th to the 26th January, 2014.
THE SHADOW KING is the apt title of an adaptation of King Lear by Tom E. Lewis and Michael Kantor.
Set in Northern Australia, THE SHADOW KING is the fulmination of a dream the two theatre practitioners have held dear – “to tell one of the foundation stories of contemporary Western civilisation but use it to question and probe contemporary indigenous experience.”
More than a mere palimpsest, THE SHADOW KING retains whole phrases from Shakespeare, sometimes translated into traditional tongues, cantilevered with the use of colloquial English.
Aerial acrobatics can be relied upon to provide exciting thrills, as it easily evokes sensations of tension and vertigo, but to create narratives and imagery that bear strong aesthetic appeal within that framework is a challenging one. OCKHAM’S RAZOR succeeds in presenting beautiful imagery and emotionally involving pieces while allowing acrobatics to remain centre stage. Their stylistic choices are always simple, but they are masters at communicating to our eyes. They know exactly what we look at at every point in time, and they feed us everything we need by controlling how our eyes move and what we focus on.
Undeniably this theatre work is inventive, unconventional, modern, well-performed and, given that it includes film, dance, music, actors stripping to their underwear, and even a person in a gorilla suit, a production of commendable variety. For some, no doubt, it was an enjoyable testament to surrealism. It is suggested, however, that, judging by the number of the audience seen looking at their watches during the performance, for many the work was an unmitigated nonsense.
The concept behind the work was that three of the four directors from different theatre companies made up a 15 minute segment after having seen the last 60 seconds of the preceding segment, with the fourth director working up the initial part and having, as it were, a second bite by providing the fifth and closing segment. It is a concept adapted from a fairly universal children’s game, and it could well be a great way of developing the skills of people studying in a school for theatre. However to allow it to be the subject of a public performance which the public is charged to watch, is a pure conceit!
An absorbing blend of dance, physical theatre and the warehouse/industrial environment Forklift is brought to us by KAGE from Melbourne as part of the 2014 Sydney Festival.
Directed by Kate Denborough, there are three female performers in the show (four if you count the forklift itself. And the forklift does get bows at the curtain calls!). The cast are Amy Macpherson, Nicci Wilks and Henna Kaikula all of whom have had circus and dance training and special contortionist training as well.
The whole huge area of Bay 17 of Carriageworks is used, opened right up to the back walls. The show begins with one of the cast starting a late night shift in a warehouse. We see her arriving for work, playing cards with a friend, making coffee, grabbing a snack from the machine … Meanwhile, eerie unusual events begin to happen.The other two performers emerge in skin coloured bra and pants.
One of the major highlights of the 2014 Sydney Festival CHI UDAKA is an explosively energetic blending of colour, rhythm, dance and music. Inspired by the forces of nature, ,’Chi ‘ is Earth ( the Taikoz musicians) and ‘Udaka ‘ is water , ( the dancers ) the traditional elements of fluidity, solidness and separation that shape and form the world in constant movement.
A world premiere, the show fuses several worlds – Western classical music ( cello by wonderful John Napier) , Japanese music ( Shakuhachi and shinobue by maestro Riley Lee) , the rhythm and power of extraordinary Taikoz and the Indian world of the Lingalayam dancers with singer Aruna Partiban. Directors Anandavalli and Ian Clenworth sought to develop a sense of surprise and exploration through dialogue between the at first seemingly mismatched groups, with glimpses of parallels, symbiosis and apparently discordant clashes that actually work magnificently .
There’s a complete and utter nutter already on the sparsely dressed stage when the audience enters the small theatre for the Sydney Festival production of Tim Crouch’s I, MALVOLIO.
The nutter is Malvolio (Tim Crouch), steward to the beautiful and aristocratic Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
We’re more used to seeing Malvolio formally attired rather than in this hideously stained and bespattered, and torn and moth-eaten, one-piece undergarment which his arse is literally hanging out of. He’s also wearing a grubby medieval-looking cap festooned with antennae-like wires and two horns, and a bright-red gonad-like turkey’s wattle around his neck.
With ALL THAT FALL, the Sydney Festival has given festivalgoers the opportunity to savour a great Samuel Beckett play in its original form, as a radio play, in an environment designed to give the play maximum impact.
We (the audience) are ushered onto the stage of the Everest Theatre. It is there that we all take our seats amongst a group of rocking chairs (with a pillow depicting a skull on it) facing a made up stage area, replete with an array of lights. Also, above us, hanging from the ceiling, are lights everywhere.
A Sydney Festival 2014 show, this contorted acrobatic whirlwind sped along by a band playing funky jazz, rap and oompah, is a delight to the senses and keeps the heart beating rapidly.
Sxip Shirey’s music provides the score and some of the comic mayhem. Over 50 sound making devices are used by the band. Three male acrobats and contortionists, a female fire-eater and sword swallower plus a female aerial artist work seamlessly as a team with perfect changeovers.
With AM I, Shaun Parker & Company continues to redefine Australian dance and identity. This work relies heavily on traditional Indian forms of performance and Chinese martial arts, to create a new contemporary dance that is not only about Australia but also an international landscape. As societies come to terms with technological advancements and multiplicity in their cultural compositions, art begins to conflate and we seem to be arriving at a time when a universality, in creativity and practice, usurps geographical differences. Shaun Parker’s work is international not only because of its high standards, but also because of its global language.