Brisbane Festival

2024's Brisbane Festival program includes everything from dazzling fashion and the return of The Art Boat to a bingeable theatre show.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 06, 2024


The Australian-premiere season of Jean Paul Gaultier's Fashion Freak Show. Trent Dalton's Love Stories making the world-debuting leap from the page to the stage. A serialised live blend of dance and theatre that asks you to binge-watch in person. The return of both Lightscape to make the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens shine and The Art Boat sailing down the Brisbane River. You'll find them all at one place and one place only in 2024: Brisbane Festival.

The dates for your diary: Friday, August 30–Saturday, September 21. For that three-week period, almost every corner of Brissie will play host to the fest, as 1000-plus performances — more than 320 of which will be free, and with 13 enjoying their world debuts — fill the city. Some aspects of the program will get you seated in theatres around town, of course, but Brisbane Festival has always adored taking its roster of performances, gigs, installations and parties well beyond the usual venues.

Hailing from Ireland, Volcano might be among the shows popping up in expected digs — at Brisbane Powerhouse — but it's anything but standard. Watching this performance means making a date with four 45-minute episodes, complete with intermissions, in a piece that riffs on a TV sci-fi thriller.

Lightscape and The Art Boat are no strangers to Brisbane, with both making a 2024 comeback to dazzle iconic areas of the city with light and colour. On the latter, DJ sets will provide the soundtrack, while Briefs Factory and a range of other artists will be in the hot seat with burlesque, drag and circus performances.

Firmly new not just to the Queensland capital or Brisbane Festival but to the world is opera Straight from the Strait, which is about the seven kilometres of railway track put down in a single 1968 day by Torres Strait Islander workers — and yes, it's a true story. Also enjoying its global debut is Lighting the Dark by Dancenorth Australia, in collaboration with Chris Dyke. The latter, a performer and choreographer living with Down Syndrome, has weaved his love of Banksy, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury into what promises to be a heartfelt presentation.

Kitchen Studio from artist Elizabeth Winning is yet another highlight, acting as an installation by day and hosting small guests for a sensory experience by evening. Still getting interactive, Adrift tasks its audience with playing a role in a participatory theatre work — following instructions received via headsets — that's a mix of a mystery and a game.

The standouts keep coming, including Queensland Indigenous designer Grace Lillian Lee unveiling her first solo exhibition The Dream Weaver: Guardians of Grace; Big Name, No Blankets, which celebrates Warumpi Band across two nights of concerts, as inspired by founding member Sammy Tjapanangka Butcher's stories; Skylore — The Rainbow Serpent, as featuring 400-plus drones to tell a First Nations story above the city; GRIMM, with Shake & Stir switching from 2023's stage iteration of Frankenstein to a show that weaves in Snow White, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood; and this year's round of Brisbane Serenades, complete with events in Moorooka, Northshore Brisbane, St Lucia, Kuraby and Victoria Park.

Or, there's the Queensland premieres of Eucalyptus and Private View and — the first turning Murray Bail's Miles Franklin Award-winning novel into an opera, and the second exploring the intersection of disability and sexual desire across a four-room setup. Throw in Riverfire, Sweet Relief!'s return headlined by Kelis, the tradition that is the Common People Dance Eisteddfod, Cirque Bon Bon bring Le Retour back to Brisbane and plenty more, and no one in Brisbane will be short on things to do across the festival's 23 days.

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