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Brisbane Festival's Full 2023 Program Boasts Dancing Drones, Circus in a Cathedral and 1000-Plus Performances

Brisbane's annual arts festival is back to light up the sky, the City Botanic Gardens, and every stage and venue it can find around town.
By Sarah Ward
July 05, 2023
By Sarah Ward
July 05, 2023

Arts festivals are all about looking. Before the event starts, everyone looks forward to something dazzling dancing in front of their eyes. When a fest is in full swing, audiences peer at everything that the lineup can splash their way. Brisbane Festival is currently engaging the first mode for 2023, and there's plenty to get excited about. More than 1000 performances will take over the River City across 23 spring days, filling the first three weeks of September with everything from fireworks and kazoos to gospel-meets-dance music parties and glowing gardens.

Throw in brand-new musicals, including one by Kate Miller-Heidke; Paul Kelly getting behind the microphone; and a day-long music festival headlined by Groove Armada and The Avalanches, too. In fact, that was all announced before Brisbane Festival even dropped its full 2023 program. Now that the whole shebang has been unveiled, the list of things to start counting down the days to — looking forward, of course — is even heftier. Swirling drones, circus in a cathedral, large-scale dance pieces: they'll also have you looking, as well as listening, between Friday, September 1–Saturday, September 23.

From Brisbane Festival's just-revealed highlights, Nieergoo: Spirit of the Whale is set to literally soar. It's a never-before-seen mass drone performance that'll tell a First Nations narrative. And we mean mass: 400 drones will fly through the sky above the river in front of Queen's Wharf.

Also certain to stun is Circa's new world-premiere show Eternity, which will see eight acrobats and artists tumble into St John's Anglican Cathedral — and Maxine Doyle, Es Devlin and Australasian Dance Collective's Salamander, which'll head to Northshore, settle into a riverside warehouse, and ponder the future, labyrinths and landscapes beset by floods.

Clear your calendar, then prepare to fill it with Brisbane Festival events — there's more where the above must-sees came from. The Making of Pinocchio, which hits Brisbane with international acclaim and a personal tale about gender transition, is one of them. Hiromi Hotel: Yu Ka 夢花, aka Hiromi Tango's latest towering installation, is another. And, so is Bangarra Dance Theatre's new show Yuldea, which makes its Queensland premiere.

In Tracker, Wiradjuri choreographer and Australian Dance Theatre Artistic Director Daniel Riley steps through his great-great uncle's story. In Stunt Double, film fans and theatre lovers alike can delight in a piece about the shooting of a 70s Aussie action flick filled with, yes, stunts. Love rom-coms? There's Something About Music will sing through a heap of movie soundtracks. And, with The Party, Strut & Fret return to Brisbane Festival after Blanc de Blanc and LIMBO to live up to their latest show's name.

Bite Club is similarly back, courtesy of Briefs Factory, this time with Sahara Beck joining the saucy cabaret, drag and burlesque blend. Also, South Bank Piazza is welcoming in circus again thanks to Cirque Bon Bon, which hails from former Cirque Du Soleil Assistant Creative Director Ash Jacks (McCready) and choreographer Julieann Nugent.

While almost every inner-city venue you can think of will host part of Brisbane Festival's 2023 program, this fest isn't just about the middle of town. The returning Brisbane Serenades takes tunes to the suburbs, with more than 23 places across the Queensland capital playing host. Also, Moorooka's block party with First Nations and World Music talents is on the bill again, as is MOSAIC Multicultural Festival. A newcomer: West End Stories, a world-premiere session heroing storytelling and songwriting about Meanjin through an Indigenous lens.

Common People Dance Eisteddfod graces the lineup for the fifth year, puppeteers Erth will get you diving with sharks without actually diving with sharks and Dead Puppet Society is unleashing full-size flamingos. Bowen Hills' King Street is going retro with inflatable gaming consoles and an 80s street party complete with rollerskating, while South Bank will host the fest's wine and food hub.

Given the massive number of performances — including 19 world premieres, two Australian premieres and 11 Queensland premieres, plus more than 1400 Queensland-based artists and arts workers taking part, 57 arts organisations getting involved and over 170 First Nations artists joining in — the program clearly doesn't end there. When it all comes to an end, however, All Together Now will do the honours. A closing concert at Victoria Park / Barrambin, it'll feature the already-announced 10,000-kazoo orchestra and the 100-drum percussive sounds of Noise.

Jacinta Oaten

Brisbane Festival 2023 runs from Friday, September 1–Saturday, September 23 at venues all around Brisbane — head to the fest's website for further details and tickets.

Published on July 05, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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