Sydney Festival is coming around again, and this year Festival Director Wesley Enoch is determined to focus on diversity, pushing the boundaries of what the festival is in artform, culture, story and experience.
For me, that’s what makes this year’s Festival lineup so exciting – the way we’re challenged in what we expect to see and experience. All the shows are new, experimental and ambitious, while also deeply reflecting on elements of ourselves and our world, as art always should. Here are my seven top picks for January’s Festival.
1. 10 Minute Dance Parties by JOFA dance party inside a shipping container? Yes please!
The Meriton Festival Village is always remembered for its accessible, exciting and interactive installations, and JOF’s 10 Minute Dance Parties look set to be no exception, bringing people together to share an ephemeral moment in time – with blasting music, sweating, and the spread of good vibes.
Australian artist Joseph O’Farrell (JOF) likes to bring people together in unlikely situations and play with the potential for human connection, which is sometimes lost in our fast-paced world. The immersive experience of being ‘locked in’ to a shipping container and essentially made to party is pretty much the epitome of this concept – connecting people through the simple but universal joy of dancing.
Whether you’re with friends or complete strangers, when you’re inside a shipping container with your favourite music blaring and strobes flashing, it’s inevitable a party will be born. Just thinking about it makes my heart race a little, because literally nothing beats that feeling of letting go and dancing like no one’s watching. Let’s get sweaty, and boogie like there’s no tomorrow!
GET A VILLAGE SIDESHOW PRIORITY PASS
2. You Animal, YouForce Majeure’s provocative new work delves into what it means to be human, explored through the power of smell; because our response to smell sometimes brings out the ‘animal’ in us – it’s only human.
Force Majeure is committed to creating stimulating movement-based theatre, and the company’s diverse cast of actors and dancers confronts its audiences in a visceral, multisensory manner, pushing the boundaries of what is expected of contemporary dance.
Completely raw and vulnerable, the performers tell stories touching on issues of gender, ethnicity and age, which question our relationship to the most overlooked human sense: smell. It is this taboo-busting exploration of humanity told through a compelling Australian voice that’s most exciting to me. You Animal, You is a reminder of the importance of celebrating new Australian work, because that’s where some of the most incredible and important stories are told.
You Animal, You
3. Gotye Presents a Tribute to Jean-Jacques PerreyLet’s time warp back to the 1940s and rediscover the roots of electronic, synth and techno music.
Visionary of electronic pop. Sole virtuoso of the Ondioline. Some may not be familiar with the name, but French electronic composer Jean-Jacques Perrey is one of the visionaries that paved the path to today’s electronic music.
Wally ‘Gotye’ de Backer has put together the Ondioline Orchestra, a new ensemble dedicated to preserving the legacy of the legendary Perrey, sharing his work with new audiences, and celebrating the rare sounds of the Ondioline, an early synthesiser keyboard notable for its whimsical and kooky sound.
The performance showcases restored Ondiolines and other early electronic instruments to pay tribute to the quirkiness and complexity of Perrey’s compositions, revitalising the sounds of the past. It’s always exciting to go back in time, celebrate where we’ve come from, and hear the musical spirit of luminaries. GET TICKETS
Gotye & Jean-Jacques Perrey
4. Tree of CodesModern ballet Tree of Codes combines the artistry of the boundary-pushing choreographer Wayne McGregor, installation artist Olafur Eliasson and electronic musician Jamie xx (The xx).
All three are at the peak of their individual practices, and it’s the melding of their art forms that’s most exciting. I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds on stage, with an immersive multi-sensory experience inviting audiences to a completely new dimension, while being very much reflective of our own.
Tree of Codes is inspired by Jonathan Safran Foer’s postmodern novel of the same name, ‘an artwork in the form of a book’ carved from the pages of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles. What’s most thrilling about Tree of Codes is the anticipation of seeing how a postmodern reinterpretation of a novel will again be reinvented into something even more exciting. GET TICKETS
5. Barber Shop ChroniclesBarber shop culture – a world I’ve never entered before.
It’s always exciting to see new work, and that’s what multi-talented Nigerian-born, UK-based playwright Inua Ellams delivers. Barber Shop Chronicles is inspired by Ellams’ childhood in Nigeria and gives insight into African barber shop culture in Lagos, Johannesburg, Harare, Accra, Kampala and South London, exploring their nuances of culture and experience.
What I adore about theatre is the way it allows audiences to enter worlds you personally have no experience of, and leaves you feeling a little differently about everything. The London National Theatre production presents an all-African male cast, chatting and bantering during their haircuts and exploring concepts of identity, belonging, politics, race and family life – the things that need to be talked about.
The story is simultaneously ambitious and intimate, telling a story that often isn’t told on stage. It will be exciting to see how this world unfolds, and gain a refreshing perspective on our world and the issues of our time.
6. RIOTCabaret combined with politics? Count me in.
RIOT is billed as sassy, passionate and raucous – in the best way possible. All the way from Ireland, it’s a variety show combining high and low culture, comedy, heartbreak and political commentary, with a mix of dance, drag, circus, comedy and spoken word. Sounds like a lot - because it is! RIOT goes deep into the current state of Irish culture and politics, in the dazzling fashion of a party. Unique in its execution and loud in its ideas, RIOT has a lot to say, and I cannot wait to listen.
7. AquaSonicYou think you’ve heard it all, and then you find out about an underwater band?
AquaSonic is ambitious, experimental, and a world first. Trying to comprehend how the entire concept even possible is indicative of just how unique this work is, truly pushing our understanding of what music can be.
Avant-garde ensemble Between Music has put years of research into the realms of possibility when it comes to music, literally diving down into a new, spellbinding world of sound. The performance features five musicians submerged in glass tanks, singing and playing custom-made instruments underwater. Many of the instruments have only just been invented, creating powerful, resonant sounds that have never been experienced before. I like to think AquaSonic takes us back to our roots: our mother’s womb, where we heard sound for the first time, entirely through water.
AquaSonic is the quintessence of boundary pushing, and an exciting glimpse into the future of music…but to be completely honest, I’m just excited to see how they sing and breathe!
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