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Sydney Festival 2015 Program Announced

Two Spiegeltents, two labyrinths and close to two hundred events.

By Rima Sabina Aouf
October 23, 2014
By Rima Sabina Aouf
October 23, 2014

Two Spiegeltents, two labyrinths and close to two hundred events are part of the program for Sydney Festival 2015, announced today. A happy 85 of the events are free this year, so it's looking like a long, wallet-friendly summer.

"What’s really special about Sydney Festival is the diverse programming, with the best local and international artists from high arts — opera, theatre, and contemporary dance — to circus and family shows," says festival director Lieven Bertels. "Sydney Festival gives audiences the perfect excuse to celebrate the city in summer."


Music at Sydney Festival has doubled this year, with Domain concerts, Spiegeltent gigs and late-night parties dominating the program. Latin and South American tunes take centre stage, from The Life Aquatic-popularised Brazilian legend Seu Jorge to Afro-Brazilian hip hop powerhouse Karol Conka and Argentinian WTF genre-spanners Frikstailers. Beats stake their claim as festival favourites this year, from Warp Records legend Nightmares on Wax to Young Turks’ Oneman, while strummers like #1 Dads and Kim Gordon’s Body/Head take things up a notch from the myriad of female folk artists on the bill — Alela Diane, Olivia Chaney, Jessica Pratt, Tiny Ruins.

Anna Von Hausswolff takes to the Sydney Town Hall grand organ supported by NZ’s Aldous Harding, Moroccan trance dancers Fez Hamadcha explore Sufi sounds, co-founder of The Saints Ed Kuepper delves into a retrospective, while Ben Frost and Tim Hecker team up for a co-headline show at the Opera House. Then Tex Perkins plays Johnny Cash tunes at the historic Parramatta Gaol (check out the Parramatta program, announced yesterday over here), while Gotye realises the music of William Onyeabor with members of LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip, among others.

Sydney Festival’s love for the eclectic ‘who the hell?’ wildcards shines once more, from frenetic Barcelona multi-layering duo ZA! to the unexpected J-pop-meets-noise-pop team-up of Salyu and Cornelius. International hype cards How to Dress Well, Omar Souleyman, Wye Oak and return SydFester Dan Deacon are sure to get punters' paws rubbing.

Giving local artists a sophisticated SydFest high-five, one third of the program features Australian musicians. Raise a plastic cup to the likes of Client Liaison, Kirin J Callinan and Firekites among the big Tex Perkins/Gotye guns.

Public art

Home to much of the festival's music, two Spiegeltents will be anchoring the expanding Festival Village, one of the real successes of last year and a true hub for hanging out in. Also within it will be a huge-scale art work from Ireland's answer to Banksy, street artist Maser. The maze-like, colour-splashed, two-storey-high installation, called Higher Ground, is said to be "a dream come true for those who always wished they could step inside a painting", and will be the focus of everyone's Instagramming this festival (which for the first time in two years, is Rubber Duck-less). Maser will be the artist-in-residence at the Village, though as he operates in anonymity, we don't expect to see too much of him.

Other highlights among art installations include the must-ride Waterfall Swing at Darling Harbour, a giant swing that sends you flying towards a curtain of water that, thanks to the work of sensors, parts just before you hit it. Over at Carriageworks is another super-enticing labyrinthine experience, Inside There Falls (by UK-based Mira Calix), an immersive, tissue-paper environment you walk through, guided by haunting audio and the occasional glimpse of dancers. Also at Carriageworks, you can watch the meditative, 45-minute SpongeBob SquareTimes, an accidentally shot video of a man in a SpongeBob suit trying to make friends in Times Square.


Another big pillar of the festival is international theatre, dance and performance works. This year the big draws are Belgium's Kiss & Cry, a cinematic romance performed by two hands (yes, hands); India's The Kitchen, a spectacle of cooking and drumming from the creator of The Manginyar Seduction; France and the UK's The Night Dances, a celebration of the words of Sylvia Plath and music of Benjamin Britten, performed by Charlotte Rampling; and France's On the Harmful Effects of Tabacco, a Chekov one-act comedy performed by Theatre Des Bouffes du Nord (former home of Peter Brook) with costumes by Christian Lacroix. These join the already announced Tabac Rouge, a festival centre piece from another French innovator, circus performer James Thierree.

On the smaller and more experimental side, there's one-woman memory mission I Guess If the Stage Exploded and, told entirely through the contents of one man's shoebox, Wot? No Fish!!. There's plenty of Australian contributions too, of the likes of Kate Mulvany's Masquerade, Force Majeure's Nothing to Lose, ambitious multimedia ethical exploration The Experiment and the return of the folks from Alvin Sputnik for Falling Through Clouds. On the circus side of things, the new Aurora Spiegeltent will be home to both last year's Limbo and new minimal circus artists A Simple Space, while the USA's Wau Wau Sisters lead the cabaret lineup.

Those still holding a torch for the iconic Festival First Night will have to keep holding it; there's no sign of its return any time soon. Absent that inclusive and accessible event, hit up Sounds in the Domain, the Festival Village and the POP Parramatta Opening Party for free outdoor shenanigans.

The 2015 Sydney Festival is on from January 8-26. Multipack tickets go on sale on October 24 (tomorrow!) at 9am, and will get you nice discounts. Single tickets go on sale on October 27 at 9am. To buy tickets and check out the full program, see the festival website.

By Rima Sabina Aouf and Shannon Connellan.

Published on October 23, 2014 by Rima Sabina Aouf
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