As if ringing in the new year isn't exciting enough, January, as always, will also bring with it the dazzling, vibrant carnival that is Sydney Festival. Turning the city into a creative playground for a full three weeks, the Festival brings a (very generous) dose of culture to the sizzling days and balmy nights of Sydney summer. The festival has unveiled its 2018 program — and it's an absolute cracker, packed with hundreds of events ranging from mind-boggling circus to cutting-edge theatre and awe-inspiring musical performances. Whatever art experience you're after, you'll find it in Sydney between January 6–28.
While this year doesn't have an installation quite as interactive as Snarkitecture's giant ball pit or the House of Mirrors (which is currently on display in Melbourne), Sydney Town Hall will become a shrine to 50,000 of Japan's unwanted plastic toys with Hiroshi Fuji's large-scale work Jurassic Plastic. It looks like a kid's paradise but there will be adults-only nights too. Four Thousand Fish will be an immersive work where participants will help create ice sculptures of fish and then return them to the harbour to commemorate Barangaroo and the Warrane women.
On stage, we ecstatic to hear that Tree of Codes will be coming to Sydney after performances at Melbourne Festival; the visually stunning ballet — which we really, really hoped would come to Australia — combines the talents of choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual artist Olafur Eliasson, musician Jamie xx and the Paris Opera Ballet.
On the musical side of things, not only are Opera in the Domain and Symphony Under The Stars back for another year of dreamy music performed under the open night skies, there are also a host of gigs, most notably from NZ's Aldous Harding and Argentinian three-piece Fémina plus a tribute to The Go-Betweens' 16 Lovers Lane album and an otherworldly concert performed entirely underwater called Aquasonic. Five iconic Harry Siedler buildings will also host a series of talks and concerts, blending architecture and music on the program.
Theatre buffs, meanwhile, should nab tickets for Barber Shop Chronicles. Offering a juicy peek into the vibrant life of barbershops across the world, this delightful show took British audiences by storm. Burlesque aficionado? Don't miss iconic Aussie boylesque troupe — and Syd Fest regulars — Briefs in all its glamorous, saucy glory in sci-fi spectacle Close Encounters. Don't miss My Name Is Jimi, where, Jimi Bani will call up four generations of his family to take you on an evening of music, dance and comedy at Belvoir.
Head over to Parramatta's Circus City to catch the always-impressive Circus Oz in top form with Model Citizens, a satire that lampoons the suburban Aussie dream with impressive physicality and a foot-tapping soundtrack. Also in the environs is Highly Sprung, a soaring performance by Legs on the Wall, which tells the story of inner-city residents through the media of trampolines and other physical art forms. Punters will get a chance to have a go on the trampolines and even take part in an aerial workshop in-between shows — all for gratis. You can also sign up for a flying trapeze workshop for $49.
In addition to the many ticketed events, there is also a panoply of free offerings, from art exhibitions and thought-provoking talks to interactive installations. As always the Meriton Festival Village will have heaps to offer between shows — dance to your fave song in a transparent, glitter-filled cube, swim in a shipping container pool, go for a spin on a karaoke carousel or join a 10-minute dance party in a shipping container.
Whether you're in it for the inspiration, a shock, or just a whole lot of fun, this year's festival is sure to delight. Sydney, you're in for a summer treat.
By Yelena Bidé and Lauren Vadnjal. Image: Jamie Williams.