Top 10 Must-See Experiences @ Sydney Festival 2019

Joseph Lloyd
6th Dec 2018

Sydney Festival takes over the city from east to west, north to south and everything else in between. Running from 9 to 27 January across 50 venues all over Sydney, an even bigger year is planned for 2019 as our city explodes into an array of art installations, expressive dance, theatre, music, action packed experiences and thought provoking works.

“Sydney Festival knows how to throw a party, start important conversations and welcome the world to our shores” says Sydney Festival Director, Wesley Enoch.

He says the collection of events curated reflect the Sydneysider’s character - risk takers, adventurers, leaders and influencers. “We are the site of the first British colony and home to cultures going back over 40000 years, we are pioneers and creators, the storytellers, visionaries and innovators. We are diverse, coming from all corners of the globe with all abilities and reflecting the myriad facets of being human. We are born here, live here and visiting.”

From Carriageworks to Sydney Opera House and out to Riverside Theatre and everything else in between, here are just some of our hot pics for the festival season:

Shànghǎi MiMi (Riverside Theatre, Parramatta)

Pictured: The Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe, Sophie Koh (Image: Yang Xiaohuo)

This world premiere cabaret inspired by 1930s Shanghai is directed by the award-winning Moira Finucane who has been described as the black matter of burlesque, defining and redefining cabaret! The Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe will provide a visually provocative display of dance acrobatics, aerialists, song and elements of martial arts set to a live musical arrangement forgotten vintage jazz and blues. It will be a sensory assault of overhanging power, precision and technique.

10-13 & 15-20 Jan - 2.30pm, 5pm, 6pm, 8pm
Tickets; $36-$66, Phone: 1300 856 876

Seidler Salon Series – Mary Lattimore (Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Pyrmont)

Pictured: Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre. (Image: Dirk Meinecke)

Music and architecture come together in a series of concerts hosted in and around, and inspired by, the singular buildings of Australia’s most famous modernist architect, Harry Seidler. In this instalment, LA-based harpist Mary Lattimore’s music is played through speakers submerged in the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre’s pool. Audience members are encouraged to physically get in the pool and swim to hear sounds below the water that are completely different to those above.

The Chat (Carriageworks, Eveleigh)

Pictured: The Chat. (Image: Bryony Jackson)

Video trailer 

This dark and comic exploration brings to the forefront some harsh realities of the criminal justice system. Issues like sensory deprivation, warehousing effects of incarceration, mental health are rarely explored by the mainstream and the undertones of these topics set the framework for its principal characters. In this experimental theatre performance, a real-life ex offender takes on the role of parole officer interviewing a version of themselves. An interactive performance, the audience becomes the parole board, left to decide who deserves their freedom.

14-20 Jan, 7.30pm, 2pm (Sat 19 Jan), 4pm (Sun 20 Jan)
Tickets: $36-$41

Phuong Ngo: Article 14.1 (Museum of Conteporary Art, The Rocks)

Pictured: Phuong Ngo Article 14.1. (Image: Alex Clayton)

Multi-disciplinary artist, Phuong Ngo presents this durational performance in which he will live in the Museum of Contemporary Art for 10 days, living off the same rations his parents had then they immigrated to Australia in 1981 after the fall of Saigon. As interviews with Vietnamese refugees play, he will fold origami boats out of 'Hell Bank Notes' - the paper currency traditionally burnt as an offering to the dead in tribute to the memory of those Vietnamese refugees lost at sea. An interactive installation, the audience can participate by folding boats. The final night performance culminates with a sunset ceremony where the paper boats are burnt. Drawing on the experiences of his family and the wider Vietnamese diaspora, he presents the cultural, social and political factors that impact personal and collective identity.

14-23 Jan, Burning Boat Ceremony 23 Jan 6-9pm
Tickets: Free

Biladurang (QT Sydney)

A native of the central coast derived Wiradjuri people, dancer Joel Bray's Melbourne Fringe award winning tells the story of the Biladurang (platypus). It's an intimate setting in a hotel room that is limited to only 20 audience per performance, where he uses contemporary dance and the Biladurang to explore his personal questions about his identity and in tern the audiences. It's a 55 minute interactive work that destabilises preconceived notions about how the audience should behave in the space or interact with the work.

11-20 Jan - 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm
Tickets: $56

Masters of Modern Sound (Art Gallery of NSW)

An after dark journey through the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ exhibition Masters of modern art from the Hermitage to live sound performance from a program of electronic music artists, including longtime David Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley, William Basinski (of The Disintegration Loops) and Lawrence English. Exploring the origins of modern art, from the bold experiments of Cezanne, to the radical innovation of artists like Matisse and Picasso, the exhibition documents the seismic shifts that took place in European painting in the years after 1900 and encapsulates a defining moment in art history. A live soundtrack of performances by leading international and Australian composers, musicians, sound designers and dancers as you view explore this world premiere.

10-12 Jan - 8pm to Midnight
Tickets: $65

The Iliad - Out Loud (Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills)

Pictured: William Zappa, Blazey Best, Heather Mitchell and Socratis Otto (Credit: Hugh Hamilton)

Exclusive to Sydney Festival, The Iliad is a poem written in the 8th Century B.C. by the ancient Greek poet Homer, set in the final weeks of the decade long Trojan War. It's the oldest surviving work of Western literature and follows the story of Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Hector, Paris, and Helen, the abducted Spartan queen. Zappa who wrote and stars in this worked from multiple translation of Homer's text. Poetic rhythm and contemporary language modernise the classic 3000 year old piece of prose which is a 9 hour performance that unravels over three days.

23 Jan (Part 1), 24 Jan (Part 2), 25 Jan (Part 3) - 7pm
Special Full Performance on 27 Jan - 10am (Part 1), 2pm (Part 2), 7pm (Part 3)
Tickets: $36-$79

In The Heights (Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay)

Video trailer

The setting of this 13 time Tony Award nominated musical is in Washington Heights, a borough in Manhattan where one quarter of its residents live below the poverty line. It's a feel good production focusing on the tight bonds of a Hispanic-American group which, despite their challenging circumstances tell a tale of community, family and joy. It explores social issues of multiculturalism, identity, love and racism. Despite the seriousness of the topics, it manages to keep an upbeat tone backed by an 11 piece Latino band with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Broadway productions, Hamilton and composer of Disney film, Moana.

16-20 Jan - 7pm, 19- 20 Jan - 2pm
Tickets: $39-139

Beware of Pity (Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay)

Pictured: Beware of Pity. (Image: Gianmarco Bresadola)

This Australian premiere and Sydney Festival exclusive is presented by SchaubÜhne Berlin and Complicite. The dialogue is in German with projected surtitles. It follows the misadventures of Anton Hofmiller, a young cavalry officer who falls for a partially paralysed girl named Edith. After breaking her heart, she takes her own life and we are taken on a journey of his guilt as he attempts to put things right.

23-26 Jan - 7.30pm, 27 Jan - 2pm
Tickets: Free

50th Anniversary since man landed on the moon (World Square, Barangaroo South, Darling Harbour)

A number of installations will be set up across the Sydney CBD to commemorate the 50th anniversary since man landed on the moon. You're invited to collectively cycle the 384,400km to the moon on their stationary bikes and on the Lunar Velocipede (a pedal powered rickshaw with wings) at World Square. Barangaroo will feature 'Sydmonauts' a collection of 11 astronaut sculptures featuring key figures and groundbreakers in space exploration. 7 supersized water filled moon drops are being installed at Darling Harbour ranging in diameter from 3 metres to 8 metres.

Just some of the 80 experiences and events constituting the vibrant collection of dance, theatre, music and visual arts which feed the soul and taking place over 19 days throughout the Sydney Festival season.