In our QUEST FOR THE BEST OF THE FEST we turned our attention this week to preparations. Head of Production John Bayley was very generous with his time to answer some questions about the the work that gets done before Sydney Festival 2019.
SAG: There are so many venues across the festival, 32 by my count from the back of the program. I imagine each would have very specific challenges so as to bring the physical place in line with the artistic requirements?
JOHN: At the festival we always try to choose the right venue for the show. That’s the ideal. When that’s not possible we work closely with the venue to understand just how far we can push and what we can do to make a show work.
Our aim is to create an environment where an artist can do their best work. Sometimes we create that environment in the space , but also it can be by surrounding the artist with the best people or equipment for their show. All of us enjoy the challenge of making a venue work.
SAG: A venue like the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent must need to be incredibly flexible in its lighting and sound rig given the number of performances and limited time between them? Does it come fully populated and then each show is designed from a set rig or are the artist requirements in the design before the bump-in?
JOHN: The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent is a venue we know intimately so the incoming creative teams are carefully briefed about what is possible . Our programming team is also very adept at choosing the right work for the space.
Having said that we do tend to base the lighting rig around the needs of the ‘House Show’ as a starting point and the sound is designed to be a full range system for the tent.
Again it’s about good people working together to get the best results from a constrained space. Of course, the Spiegeltent helps a lot in that regard because people just love being in it so lots of special effects are not required.
SAG: Some setups must be very labour intensive and require expert handling? I’m really looking forward to the Nick Cave crystals, UNTIL, at Carriageworks but it seems like a mammoth task.
JOHN: The festival directly handles the tech for many events in the Festival , but not all. The UNTIL exhibition is being entirely handled by the team at Carriageworks who are incredibly skilled at installing works of this nature. This is one we just get to walk through after all the hard work is done !
SAG: The Festival ranges in venue size from the intimacy of the Seidler Salon Series in heritage buildings to the massive set-up for the Symphony in the Park. Where do the big headaches lie: restricted, protective setups or starting from scratch?
JOHN: The hidden gem of the Seidler series this year is the Ian Thorpe pool show . It has also been the trickiest (so far) . The plan is to have a the Harpist, Mary Lattimore, playing poolside. Her performance is both acoustic but also uses looping technology to give it an electronic feel.
For this performance the acoustic will be above the water and the electronic will be below . So the audience will be in the water. So will the speakers for the sound .
First challenge , hiring a harp for the gig. The conversations go great until you get to the part about the humid chlorinated atmosphere but amazingly we have secured one. The speakers were the next challenge we were looking at permanent in pool systems until we discovered there is a system used for synchronised swimming. We are in the process of trying to arrange a loan.
Finally, the pool has to continue to operate as a public pool (it’s Sydney in summer after all) so we have to get in , get out and perform after hours!
SAG: Challenge over challenge there. The Festival Garden is always a great meeting place during the Festival. I expect the commitment to sustainability has a considerable focus on that site with so much food and drink available and such a big power draw?
JOHN: We have a commitment to sustainability at the Festival. Wherever we can we reduce ,reuse and recycle. It’s a constant conversation as new technologies become viable. Doing an event is never as sustainable as not doing one , the key is to be constantly working to reduce impact.
So we create a flexible power plant that responds to draw rather than providing more power than we need. Waterless toilets, recyclable packaging (hang-on does that need packaging ?) and so on.
JOHN: I have three choices and I have seen them all . ONE INFINITY , just go and thank me later, Gideon Obarzanek is a genius and it’s a unique experience for the audience.
HOME , because this is something you will never see on Netflix and rarely onstage, live to the core and good fun. “
A GHOST IN MY SUITCASE, take the kids , lots of stage magic and a different take on a ghost story.
SAG: There’s great advice from the source. Thank you so much and best wishes for great weather for all of January.