Sydney in January is all about two things … hitting the beach and Sydney Festival. The city’s premier arts and cultural festival comprises 136 events, 47 of which are free, with 702 performances taking place across 51 venues, featuring over 700 artists from 22 countries.
With 12 world premieres, eight Australian premieres, 14 Australian exclusives and nine new Australian works, this year’s Sydney Festival is not to be missed. Festival Director Wesley Enoch says, “Sydney Festival is Australia’s Cultural New Year’s Resolution, starting the year with experiences that stimulate discussion and reward the curious, adventurous citizen.”
Music and dance take centre stage in this year’s program. “Tree of Codes” is a contemporary ballet that brings together choreographer Wayne McGregor, installation artist Olafur Eliasson and electronic composer Jamie xx to reinterpret Jonathan Safran Foer’s haunting experimental novella. This mash-up of dance, visual art and electronic music is performed by 10 dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and two from the Royal Ballet.
Fans of the legendary Australian group The Go-Betweens won’t want to miss “16 Lovers Lane”, a 30th anniversary reimagining of their classic album “16 Lovers Lane.” The album’s co-creators, drummer Lindy Morrison, guitarist/bassist John Willsteed and multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, perform the album in full, with Dan Kelly, Danny Widdicombe and Luke Daniel Peacock, plus an all-star line-up of guest vocalists.
Australia’s own Gotye presents “A tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey” with a live performance of his work, featuring the near extinct electronic instrument The Ondioline. Gotye’s Ondioline Orchestra features leading thereminist/keyboardist Rob Schwimmer, former Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Joe McGinty and members of acclaimed US alternative band Zammuto. The set includes Perrey’s more familiar works as well as super rare cuts made with Dick Hyman and “Twin Peaks” composer Angelo Badalamenti.
Cabaret lovers should head to “RIOT” an acclaimed Irish variety show that melds high art and trash culture. With an all-star cast including famed drag queen Panti Bliss, this show is a dazzling blend of dance, drag, circus, comedy and powerful spoken word.
“Briefs: Close Encounters” is back after a sold-out season last year. You can expect an extravagant mix of circus, comedy and drag with feather dancing, hoop twirling, acrobatics and more.
Circus Oz bring their Big Top to Parramatta to explore what it means to be a ‘model citizen’ in Australia today through awesome physicality, biting satire and highly skilled, unpredictable acrobatics. With an impressive cast of mesmerising aerialists, cheeky characters, daredevil acrobats, cigar box juggling, hula hooping and backyard banter, “Model Citizens” subverts the suburban dream. The performers swing from knife-dodging to acrobat-tossing, contorting through huge steaming irons to tumbling off a house of
giant credit cards.
The whole family will love the all-new Australian version of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, “Alice in Wonderland.” Written by award-winning playwright Mary Anne Butler, it stars Dubs Yunupingu as Alice, and is the first time the role has been played by an Indigenous woman. The show is recommended for ages seven and up.
“The Wider Earth” is a coming-of-age play about science and faith. It recounts the tales of scientific discoveries on Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle and brings to life creatures great and small with incredibly crafted puppets.
For something a little different head to “Jurassic Plastic” at Sydney Town Hall. This immersive contemporary art installation by Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji features discarded toys that have been turned into a giant ‘Toysaurus” amongst a sprawling landscape of colour.
Karaoke Carousel, which is part of the Meriton Festival Village in Hyde Park, is exactly as it sounds—a merry-go-round where you can rock out and sing along to your favourite
Speaking of the Meriton Festival Village, it is the place to be seen before or after your shows. Enjoy food and drinks here plus free performances and DJs every night. The Village Sideshow presented by China Southern Airlines, a fun park filled with wild, wonderful and bizarre attractions. Check out the freaky virtual reality Ghost Train, plus the Village Pools, Glitterbox, Temple of Din pinball artworks, 10 Minute Dance Parties and more.
The city’s favourite free events are back! Symphony Under the Stars has a new home at Parramatta. Head to The Crescent at Parramatta Park on 20 January for this free concert under the stars featuring the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Opera in The Domain on 13 January sees Opera Australia’s biggest stars performing with the magnificent backing of the Opera Australia Orchestra, in the city’s green heart, The Domain.
With so many free and ticketed events, this is just a taste of what Sydney Festival 2018 has to offer.