Brisbane Festival 2023

Glowing gardens, dancing drones, circus in a cathedral, fireworks, kazoos: they're all on this citywide arts festival's lineup for 2023.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 05, 2023


When Brisbane Festival takes over the River City for 2023, it'll do so with more than 1000 performances across 23 spring days. Between Friday, September 1–Saturday, September 23, everything from fireworks and kazoos to gospel-meets-dance music parties and glowing gardens are on the bill — plus 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.

From Brisbane Festival's full 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.

Other standouts include The Making of Pinocchio, which hits Brisbane with international acclaim and a personal tale about gender transition; Hiromi Hotel: Yu Ka 夢花, aka Hiromi Tango's latest towering installation; and 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.

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