Culinary chaos boiling and bubbling on stage, as two TV cooks and their assistants put on a beatboxing, breakdancing, acrobatic show in Chef: Come Dine With Us! A musical reimagining of Orpheus, with The Tivoli becoming a 1930s-style Parisian music hall complete with French food and wine.
They're two of the Australian premiere highlights of this year's Brisbane Festival, jumping from eye-popping gastronomical entertainment to old-world European charm between September 9 to 30. Throw in the return of the Treasury Brisbane Arcadia festival hub on the South Bank Cultural Centre Forecourt — the space to be when you need a wine, craft beer or food between shows — and there truly is something for everyone with burlesque and art in the Salome Lounge, top music acts and floor shows at The Courier-Mail Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, free performances with Little Creatures LIVE, plus a riverside Pimm's picnic every Sunday.
In his third year as artistic director, David Berthold has put together a lineup of more than 60 events — five world premiere commissions, 11 Australian premieres and 25 Queensland premieres among them — for the 22-day fest. In what proves a feast of arts, culture, performance, music and cinema, the rest of the agenda includes a masquerade-ball rock show celebrating the stellar soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet; blind movie screenings, where a child describes what you can't see on screen; and a 40-foot-tall outdoor light installation inspired by a Czech/French animated science fiction flick.
Chef: Come Dine With Us! has been described as "a smorgasbord of treats" by Berthold. Hailing from Korea, the performance is like a live cooking show, where two rival chefs come together to see who can create the best bibimbap. The catch is, there's no actual food involved. Instead, the chefs and their teams go through the cooking process via beatboxing and breakdancing, acrobatics, live music and plenty of humour. And while Chef takes us into a bustling Korean kitchen, Orpheus whisks us to Paris in the 1930s, where famed gypsy jazz musician Django Reinhardt has been cast as the lead of a jazzy rendition of Orpheus.
Not only has the festival's production of Orpheus transformed The Tivoli into a Parisian music hall, but they've also created an entire cabaret vibe where tables have been set up so you can enjoy a romantic Rendezvous for Two with French food and wine by candlelight. There'll also be free live music and food before the show, and on Friday and Saturday, the Bar de la Muse opens its doors and the cast of Orpheus becomes the Hot Club de Bulb. As the Hot Club de Bulb, the cast will join the audience for live music and dancing after the show, for a night as whimsical and raucous as a nuit blanche in Paris.
Interactive on-stage dating and a participatory trance-noise music/dance ritual will also be part of the program, as is a month-long season of unnerving and alluring Italian giallo cinema. Fans of Blanc de Blanc and LIMBO's Strut & Fret should flock to the world premiere of their latest effort, the house party-like, jumping castle-filled, pop-up technicolour world of FUN HOUSE. Oh, and LIMBO UNHINGED, a sequel to their 2014 hit, too.
Elsewhere, treading the boards offers everything from circus and physical theatre piece Per Te to famous Chinese dance and choreographer Yang Liping joining forces with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Oscar-winner Tim Yip for the battle-focused dance piece Under Siege. Over at the indie showcase Theatre Republic, audiences will also find music, comic performances and all things weird and wonderful, such as the world premiere Laser Beak Man puppet show.
Music-wise, this year's Brisbane Festival boasts a London Grammar-headlined mini-fest within the fest, taking the party over to Riverstage for a day. They'll be joined by international and local support acts, while the rest of the festival's music lineup spans Megan Washington teaming up with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Regurgitator performing The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Aints playing The Saints, a Bowie cabaret tribute and more.
As always, it all comes to an end with the explosive finale that is Sunsuper Riverfire. Of course it does. How else would we know that we've just had a mighty fun month if we didn't bring it to a close by packing out South Bank en masse, staring at the sky and watching pretty fiery lights? It's a Brisbane tradition.
Brisbane Festival runs from September 9–30 across Brisbane. For the full 2017 program, or to book tickets, visit the festival website.
Words: Sarah Ward and Quinn Connors.