“I believe that artists go into moments where communities need them. We can tell stories in ways that lift them.”

Director of the Sydney Festival, Wesley Enoch, with artist Josh Quong Tart dressed as Betty Blokk-Buster.

Director of the Sydney Festival, Wesley Enoch, with artist Josh Quong Tart dressed as Betty Blokk-Buster.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Enoch says about a third of the program has sold out, another third of the shows are “on track” to sell out, while organisers will have to “keep pushing” the rest.

Apart from dealing with the disappointment of French actress Isabelle Adjani and her crew cancelling their show, Enoch says he’s relaxed and confident the festival will run smoothly when it opens on Wednesday.

Not content with running the entire festival, Enoch is also directing Black Cockatoo for good measure.

While organisers anxiously wait to see whether Sydneysiders turn up and support the arts across the two-and-a-half week program, the national bushfire crisis has framed the festival for its performers too.

Canadian Dana Gingras is the choreographer for Frontera, a non-traditional dance performance about frontiers, boundaries and borders that’s making its Australian premiere at the festival. She says flying into Sydney was “pretty intense”.

“We could see from quite far away the red glow of the fires.”

Gingras says her performance touches on “the mass migrating of bodies we’re dealing with” at this moment in history.

“I feel like the fires really put that into stark relief when you see people and animals lose their habitat. A lot of it is because of global warming and climate change, and it’s just the beginning.”

Gingras says she hopes Frontera will be able to handle whatever people carry into the theatre, with the show able to “act as a screen for those projections”.


“The timing of the show appearing in Sydney now will definitely affect the reading of it because of what’s going on. I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus.”

Gingras says the show’s focus on barriers is partially rooted in US President Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in 2016.

“Everyone was walking around in shock and there was all this rhetoric about building his great wall,” she says.

She is also interested in power structures and how surveillance and social media tracks our every movement.

“It’s almost like we’re being forced to move algorithmically rather than rhythmically through our lives.”

Wednesday’s top Sydney Festival shows:


History but make it fabulous. This micro musical was the darling of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and went on to be one of the hottest tickets on London’s West End Stage. It takes the six wives of Henry VIII and reimagines them as a modern girl group taking ownership of HERstory. Where: Sydney Opera House

Black Cockatoo

Sydney Festival’s artistic director shows why he is one of the most exciting theatre directors in the country when he turns his hand to the story of the first Australian cricket team to tour England. From the wild frontiers of country Victoria in 1863 to Lord’s 13 Aboriginal men became Australia’s first Indigenous sporting heroes. Where: Ensemble Theatre

Joan Didion’s The White Album

Didion’s seminal essays, traversing racism, youth, music and politics is brought to life by director Lars Jan and performer Mia Barron, along with four performers who take on the myriad ancillary characters, in a staged reading of “the highly theatrical The White Album”. The multilayered performance piece, which has been lauded by critics and audiences alike, makes its Australian debut this evening. Where: The Roslyn Packer Theatre

Laser Beak Man

The creators of the 2018 Sydney Festival hit, The Wider Earth, are back with their quirky take on Tim Sharp’s super-hero Laser Beak Man. The story’s protagonist protects the world by using lasers to turn bad things to good, and the show uses more than 35 puppets and a live soundtrack from Ball Park Music’s Sam Cromack for this family-friendly festival highlight. Where: Sydney Opera House

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