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Brisbane Festival Has Revealed Its Luminous and Immersive Full 2021 Lineup

This year's 23-day program includes inflatable art installations on a boat, a new riverside festival precinct, and shows featuring 168 First Nations artists and performers.
By Sarah Ward
July 14, 2021
By Sarah Ward
July 14, 2021

Some days, we all just want to want to wander through a vibrant, inflatable, lit-up dreamscape filled with billowing shapes and rainbow-hued arches. Pop these dazzling installations on a boat floating down the Brisbane River, and we'd all want to make their acquaintance there, too. Brisbanites, the time to do both of these things is this September — because moseying around two giant and luminous installations, which'll also spend time on the water, is a key part of the 2021 Brisbane Festival program.

Brissie's annual citywide arts festival has been revealing components of this year's lineup for a few months now. In the case of the pandemic-delayed stage premiere of Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe, that news goes back even further. But now the huge event has unveiled its full roster for 2021, with the aforementioned Airship Orchestra and Sky Castle installations by ENESS — and Brisbane's Art Boat, the river-faring vessel that'll host both when they're not set up at Northshore Hamilton — chief among the big highlights.

The standouts won't stop there when the fest takes over the city from Friday, September 3—Saturday, September 25, of course. In her second year as Artistic Director, Louise Bezzina's 23-day program includes 18 new works, 15 world premieres and 139 productions in total — and events in 223 locations. There's also a big focus on First Nations artists and performers this year, too, with 168 involved in the lineup.

Airship Orchestra by ENESS, Ben Weinstein

Brisbane Festival 2021 will kick off with Jumoo, a smoking ceremony that'll be led by Yuggera and Turrbal man Shannon Ruska — and will take place in the new Festival Garden at South Bank. Afterwards, that's where the shows such as the Bond-themed Skyfall cabaret will take over the South Bank Piazza, and where two pop-up bars will also serve drinks.

Also gracing the fest's new precinct: First Nations Fashion: Walking in Two Worlds, which focuses on design; a mass karaoke session that's all about 70s, 80s and 80s hits, unsurprisingly called Massaoke; Briefs Factory's new cabaret Dirty Laundry; and a display of light designed by the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

West End's West Village will be brightening things up, too, thanks to Lost, Amanda Parer's floral illuminations — and 2020's Messengers of Brisbane is making a comeback around town, because big pieces of outdoor art are definitely the number one drawcard in this program.

Other must-sees include Buŋgul, a celebration of Gurrumul Yunupiŋu; Ishmael, which sees Dead Puppet Society turn Moby Dick into a post-apocalyptic space saga; the Indigenous-focused gig Blak Day Out; and Let's Be Friends Furever, a community-sourced ode to dogs of all shapes and sizes. There's also rom-com show 44 Sex Acts in One Week, jazzy drag party Razzle Dazzle Riot, and everyone from Client Liaison and Jarryd James to Marlon Williams and WAAX hitting the stage. And, you can attend the official housewarming party for Woolloongabba's revamped Princess Theatre.

As previously announced, Bris Fest's suburban Street Serenades series is returning, too — with the likes of Boy & Bear, Christine Anu, Montaigne and the Queensland Ballet doing shows all over the city. Riverfire is back as well, because the event's particularly glowing 2021 lineup really wouldn't be complete without it.

Brisbane Festival will run from Friday, September 3—Saturday, September 25. For further details, head to the festival's website.

Top image: Sky Castle by ENESS, Zhu Rui


UPDATE, July 26, 2021: Brisbane Festival has announced that Circa's Silver City will no longer be part of this year's program. This article has been updated to reflect that change. For further information, visit the Brisbane Festival website.

Published on July 14, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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