Sydney Festival 2022

Rebecca Varidel
30th Dec 2021

Each January, Sydney Festival presents bold and memorable experiences that ignite, unite, and excite the city of Sydney. More than any other cultural event, Sydney Festival reflects the personality of our city, while audacious contemporary programming positions it at the forefront of arts practice in Australia and as one of the most wonderful arts festivals in the world.

The Festival of Sydney, as it was known in its inaugural year 1977, was first conceived by the Sydney Committee, the NSW State Government and the City of Sydney to attract Sydneysiders into the city centre during the holiday month of January

Sydney Festival has since grown to become one of Australia's largest annual cultural celebrations with an international reputation for modern, popular and intelligent programming. From 6 - 30 January 2022, Sydney Festival will again celebrates our city. While the full program of 140 events over 25 days is available here Sydney Scoop has curated a list of our top five picks for 2022 under new Festival director Olivia Ansell.

Legs on the Wall presents THAW
presented by Sydney Festival in association with Sydney Opera House, Friday 14 - Sunday 16 January 2022

Australia’s renowned physical theatre company, Legs On The Wall will bring death-defying beauty to the current climate crisis with the premiere of THAW, as a feature of the 2022 Sydney Festival program.

Taking place across three days, THAW depicts the very real peril of climate change with a solo performer atop a 2.7tonne iceberg, suspended 20 metres above the waters of Sydney Harbour, from the foot of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Alone on the ice, the woman scrambles to protect the colossal structure from the elements and the industrial crane that seems to toy with them both. Audiences are invited to gather and witness as the ice erodes beneath her in real time over 10 hours each day, thawing in Sydney’s summer heat.

“THAW is an artful statement on climate change and our shared sense of urgency for action,” said Legs On The Wall’s Artistic Director Joshua Thomson. “It speaks of our connectivity and responsibility to the natural world and calls on us to work together towards a sustainable future.”

THAW will deliver powerful resonance as it delights and provokes audiences. Unable to look away as her fate hangs in the balance, this work invites us to grapple with our own role in the climate emergency and define our collective obligation to a sustainable future inspired by the performer’s determination to survive.

Sydney Festival is working closely with Legs On The Wall and Sydney Opera House on activities associated with THAW that invite audiences to take real-world action towards climate justice! Stay tuned!!

Girl From The North Country
Theatre Royal Sydney, 6 January- 27 February

Since opening at The Old Vic in London, Girl From The North Country has taken the theatrical world by storm, selling out seasons in the West End, Toronto, Public Theater New York and on Broadway, and is now one of the most critically acclaimed new productions of the 21st Century.

An uplifting and joyful story of American life in 1934 Minnesota, a group of wanderers cross paths at a guesthouse. Standing at a turning point in their lives, they realise nothing is what it seems.

Featuring the reimagined songs of Bob Dylan and starring Lisa McCune, Zahra Newman, Helen Dallimore, Peter Carroll and Terence Crawford. Written and directed by Conor McPherson.

“May your heart always be joyful. May your song always be sung.”

Speakers' Corner
corner of College and William Streets, 6 - 30 January

The history of soapbox oratory is fascinating. And very much part of the history of Sydney. Speakers’ Corner began in 1878, in the newly opened Sydney Domain when Pastor Allen, a Baptist social reformer, took his platform there, after the Government closed Hyde Park as a venue for public speaking in 1874.

Now the history of Speakers' Corner is reborn and reimagined like never before with a bespoke 1000-seat pop-up space in the heart of central Sydney.

22 nights of live music, DJs, a tease of cabaret, a dash of comedy, and a splash of street, feature the likes of Amyl and The Sniffers, King Stingray, Jaguar Jonze, Gordi, Sunshine and Disco Faith Choir, Sydney Yungins, Emma Pask Big Band Show and many, many more. 

Every Sunday there is a free weekly salute to free speech, big ideas, rants, raves and good old fashioned ratbaggery saluting the original Speaker’s Corner with a curated line-up featuring some of Sydney’s best spruikers taking to three Soapbox stages (running simultaneously) to stimulate, contemplate and possibly irritate and placate. Provocative entertainment ahead!

The finale on Sunday 30 January hosted by Warren Fahey includes a topic we can't resist! Lockdowns, washdowns and The Rats Must Die: scary parallels between the 1900 Sydney epidemic and COVID - with writer & presenter of the Forgotten Australia podcasts, Michael Adams.

Sydney Dance Company Decadence
Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 6 - 9 January

Bursting at the seams with vitality and impact, featuring physical refinement alongside playfulness, Decadance is contemporary dance that speaks to everyone.

Made from excerpts of the visionary choreographer Ohad Naharin’s works, crafted over a decade with Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company and remoulded into a coherent whole, Decadance is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a sparkling statement from the choreographer and company who brought the groundbreaking Gaga movement language to the world, propelling dancers into more eccentric and experimental places than ever before.

Moving to an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Dick Dale to John Zorn, Goldfrapp to The Beach Boys, 17 of Sydney Dance Company’s finest will take a virtuosic dive into Ohad’s world, bringing fresh life and fresh limbs to a work that is constantly evolving as part of the repertory of major dance companies worldwide.

The Museum of Modern Love
presented by the Seymour Centre in association with Sydney Festival, 22 - 30 January

Adapted from Heather Rose’s Stella Prize-winning Australian novel, The Museum of Modern Love follows Arky Levin, a New York film composer struggling to live and work in the face of incredible loss. Finding his way to MoMA, Arky sees Marina Abramović in The Artist is Present – a marathon and now-legendary feat of performance art that saw Abramović sitting silent and completely still opposite thousands of museum visitors in the spring of 2010.

Returning to MoMA again and again, Arky encounters other viewers also drawn to the exhibit, each with their own reasons for spending hours in the presence of Abramović. As the performance unfolds, so does Arky, and with his life coming back into focus, he finally understands what he must do to move forward.

Set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, The Museum of Modern Love is a transfixing new work exploring dying and living, courage and commitment, and the power of art to unite and connect us, even in an increasingly disconnected world.