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By Tom Clift
July 27, 2017

Melbourne Festival 2017

This year's kaleidoscopic program features Jamie xx's ballet and Tom Waits' cult musical.
By Tom Clift
July 27, 2017

Start saving your pennies and cordoning off your calendar. The team behind the Melbourne Festival have unveiled their chock-a-block lineup, and as always, there's a hell of a lot to like.

Spanning music, dance, theatre, film, visual art and much, much more, this year's festival will take place from October 4–22 at more than two dozen venues around town. As in previous years, the festivities will begin with Tanderrum, a ceremony by the five clans of the Central Kulin Nation. It's one of several works by Indigenous artists on the program — others include The Season, a stage comedy by Tasmanian playwright Nathan Maynard, and Our Place, Our Home, a free music showcase featuring musicians from Indigenous and refugee backgrounds.

Music is, as always, a massive part of the program. Victorian Opera and Malthouse Theatre will co-present the Australian premiere of Tom Waits' cult musical Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, while Oscar-nominated film director Rithy Panh collaborates with composer Him Sophy on Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia, an orchestral performance about life under the Khmer Rouge that combines song, film, dance and voice. Meanwhile the festival's centrepiece, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, takes audiences on a decade-by-decade walk through the history of American music reinterpreted through a radical queer lens.

On stage, standout works include already-announced headliner Tree of Codes, which combines the talents of choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual artist Olafur Eliasson, musician Jamie xx and the Paris Opera Ballet — it's the visually stunning ballet we really, really hoped would come to Australia. There's also 7 Pleasures, a sensual dance work from Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen featuring 12 dancers kitted out in nothing but their birthday suits; and Backbone, a frenetic circus show from Adelaide's acrobatic sensations Gravity and Other Myths.

Other highlights include Under Siege, the Yang Liping Contemporary Dance company's critically acclaimed take on Farewell My Concubine featuring a blend of ballet, hip hop, kung fu and Peking opera; and a special screening of Voyage of Time, the highly anticipated new film from master auteur Terrence Malick narrated by Cate Blanchett with a live score by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

"We have searched the world for the most courageous, visionary and ambitious artists: artists who are actively taking on the biggest subjects with flair, excitement and drive," said artistic director Jonathan Holloway in a statement. "This year's Festival is the result of collaboration without compromise, of great people bringing out and amplifying the best in other great people."

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