January is a lazy languid time in Sydney, so it’s slightly unfair that the art lover’s idylls should be rudely interrupted – but in the best possible way – by the massive feast of cultural events that is the Sydney Festival.
Like a refreshing summer shower, some of the festival’s most appetising events are fleeting, lasting for only one or two nights; others, like a lingering heatwave, bask the greater Sydney region in their glow for weeks.
This year’s 179 events spread from the CBD to the Blue Mountains, 85 of them are free and there are almost 500 performances in total. Eight of them have exclamation marks in their title (one even has two!!) so expect some very exciting shows!
As always with the Sydney Festival, it’s best to get in early: by the time you hear about them they have may have vanished or sold out.
Here’s a heads up for just some of our favourites.
The Night Dances:
Movie star Charlotte Rampling and renowned cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton combine two of the most important voices of the 20th century. American writer Sylvia Plath and British composer Benjamin Britten are brought together in a rare performance of her words and his music.
Far From Folsom:
Tex Perkins heads behind bars to embody the spirit of Johnny Cash. Delving into the country music star’s dark repertoire, he recreates Cash’s seminal 1968 Folsom Prison shows within the haunting surrounds of Parramatta Jail.
Canada’s Cirque Alfonse promises whip-crackin’, log balancin’’ and axe-jugglin’ galore, with banjo-pickin’ and blue-grass playin’ thrown in for good measure. Three generations of circus performers include 67-year-old grandpa in a show for all the family.
Disco Dome: The lost discotheques of Parramatta:
This after-dark walking tour will get you struttin’ your stuff through the streets of Parramatta as you revisit the era of 1979-95 when the city shook its groove thing. Bump your booty through music, architecture, history and the streets and get on up to digital/sonic/live artworks.
Kit William’s much-loved children’s book is brought to life in a magical tale that will enchant audiences from nine to 90, starring Wicked’s Helen Dallimore and with music performed live by Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen.
Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor:
The sounds of Africa will have everyone on their feet dancing to the futuristic grooves of Nigerian synth pioneer and music legend William Onyeabor. Features a star studded line-up headlined by Gotye, Sinkane, Money Mark (Beastie Boys), Luke Jenner (The Rapture), Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem) and the legendary Mahotella Queens.
Wot? No Fish!!:
For more than 50 years, shoemaker Ab Solomons drew a picture on the weekly wage packet he gave his wife Celie. These images chronicle family life in the East End of London from the 1920s to the 1980s and inspire this performance, which is like a graphic novel brought to life.
Take a trip to the Top End and discover what it means to be a homeless Aboriginal living on the fringes despite being in the heart of the city. Choreographer Vicki Van Hout’s dance-theatre work combines weaving, shadow play, text and sparse video with an idiosyncratic dance language.
Nothing to lose:
Artistic director Kate Champion collaborates with artist and fat activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater to celebrate the sculptural splendour of the fat dancing body.
This dirty and dangerous circus-cabaret sold out early last year, so get in early for this sinister netherworld of jaw-dropping contortions, gut-churning aerial acrobatics, nail-biting stunts and staggering illusions.
Popping up in Darling Harbour for the enjoyment of the young and not-so-young alike, Waterfall Swing is a large-scale summertime play set with one crucial twist – using sensory programming it lets you swing right through the waterfall.
About an Hour:
The hugely popular festival within the festival, About An Hour, returns but moves to a new home at the Seymour Centre for five days of diverse 60-minute-ish morsels spanning theatre, dance (including Long Grass), cabaret, music and comedy. Tickets are just $35 or less.
From art installations to performance, theatre and music: Sound/On Sound features four world-premiere works, including an immersive large-scale paper labyrinth by acclaimed British artist Mira Calix, an affecting new Australian work by Tamara Saulwick, a chilling monodrama by David Chisholm based on text by Mark Ravenhill, and a moving depiction of loneliness by Greg Barrett.
Concerts in the Domain:
A special Summer Sounds in The Domain concert with Seu Jorge will have the South American superstar’s samba sounds kick-starting summer in Brazilian style. Symphony in The Domain has a new addition with ARIA-award winning William Barton on didgeridoo alongside the Sydney Symphony. Opera in The Domain showcases the brightest operatic stars.
… and the Festival Village is back
Hyde Park’s popular Festival Village returns with a variety of thrilling circus and cabaret shows, activities and almost 40 contemporary music performances. Open day and night, the Village is an oasis of arts, eats, beats and other treats.
Audiences can enjoy all the entertainment on offer in the magnificent surrounds of The Famous Spiegeltent and The Aurora Spiegeltent, and climb through Maser’s multi-dimensional giant art installation, Higher Ground. Rising up two storeys, the work’s colourful explosion of stripes and shapes is the closest thing you will get to stepping into a painting.
The 2015 Sydney Festival runs from 8 January to 26 January and tickets are now on sale.