Sydney Festival Jan 2021

Australian Made: Sydney Festival program unveiled

JAN 6-26 2021

From Parramatta to Chippendale, Sydney will provide the canvas for 24 days of engaging and immersive events, exhibitions, workshops and talks. After a year hallmarked by uncertainty, the 2021 program reflects an unwavering commitment to, and celebration of, the very best Australian art, artists and the audiences who love them.

With public health and audience safety of paramount concern this year, much planning has going into ensuring that the 2021 festival is a Covid-safe environment. All 130 events and festival venues will be deploying Covid-19 Safety Plans and implementing all mandatory Department of Health regulations including capacity and social distancing measures, as well mandatory registration where required.

In response, this summer’s Sydney Festival is set to embrace the outdoors like never before, with a spectacular new Covid-safe pop-up stage at Barangaroo Reserve. At an impressive 32 metres wide, The Headland stage is set to outdo both the Capitol and the Sydney Lyric in size, and will be decked out with twin side screens offering close-up views of performers. Set against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour, the stage will feature the festival’s biggest theatrical performances and companies.

The Headland stage will play host to circus acrobats and a 30-strong choir into a shimmering mass spectacular; Bangarra Dance Theatre, electro-pop icon Paul Mac and a choir of Sydney’s finest singers.
Elsewhere in The Headland program, Sydney Symphony Orchestra will premiere The [Uncertain] Four Season, the inimitable Paul Capsis and iOTA will unleash RAPTURE: a song cycle of Desire and Ecstasy, Murder and Mayhem. Completing The Headland program is Songs of Don, which sees Katie Noonan, Christine Anu, Suze DeMarchi and Emily Wurramara join forces to pay tribute to one of Australia’s greatest musical troubadours, Don Walker.

Alongside the Barangaroo program, the festival’s headline events include: Sunshine Super Girl – the theatrical celebration of Wiradjuri woman Evonne Goolagong’s life story which will see Sydney Town Hall transformed into a tennis court; and The Last Season, a provoking new work of dance theatre by Force Majeure that explores human survival and environmental destruction.

Following their global smash-hit Humans (Syd. Fest. ’17), virtuosic circus ensemble Circa returns to the festival with a new intimate and joyous love letter to humanity, HUMANS 2.0.
Rounding out the headline program is H.M.S. Pinafore – director Kate Gaul’s wild reimagining of Gilbert and Sullivan’s masterpiece that puts a 21st-century spin on the song-strewn mockery of class, patriotism and the rise of unqualified people to positions of power, which will play at Riverside Theatres.

Free and Family
A free, large-scale immersive installation outside Customs House in Circular Quay, Groundswell is an interactive artwork that responds to every step you take. As audiences take to a raised platform and shift their weight, thousands of illuminated balls below create a visual and sonic response to individual motions, ensuring each moment is different from the last.
The beloved Sydney Symphony Under the Stars returns to Parramatta Park. Once again, conductor Benjamin Northey takes up the baton for a program ranging from the classics of the 18th and 19th centuries to the great film scores of the 20th century.
A Mile in My Shoes is a unique pop-up store that lets you do just that. Entered via a giant shoebox, the space invites visitors to try on a pair of shoes that belong to someone else (a refugee, a war veteran or a surgeon) and to listen to their story.
In Under the Madhan, Wiradjuri dancer Jo Clancy shares a series of gentle, sometimes cheeky stories about caring for Country. Mixing puppetry, song and movement, this delightful family show will see audiences learn dances and Wiradjuri words with Jo under the shade of the gifttree on a magical set designed by revered creators of visual theatre, Erth.
A Bee Story follows Queen Bee and Worker Bee’s adventures rebuilding their hive after a bushfire. This family show explores sustainability and environment via acrobatics, dance and live music.
In other bee-related programming, Dead Puppet Society (Laser Beak Man ’20) returns to the festival with HIVE MIND – an innovative new installation that sees large floating bees arranged among the trees at Vaucluse House to inspire a sense of wonder in the natural world.

Blak Out
A gift of Enoch’s tenure, Sydney Festival’s Blak Out program once again foregrounds First Nations voices with stories and performances from First Nations communities from across Australia and New Zealand. Featuring the aforementioned Sunshine Super Girl, Bangarra’s Spirit and Hide the Dog, the 2021 Blak Out program is a richly diverse collection of dance, theatre, music, visual art and performance.
Audiences are invited to take a stroll through Parramatta Park to discover In Situ, a collection of site-specific dance works telling First Nations stories, choreographed by dancers including Wakka Wakka/Kombumerri woman Katina Olsen and Wiradjuri woman Emily Flannery. This roving project was conceived by Western Sydney’s Dance Makers Collective (The Rivoli ‘20) with the cultural consultation of Darug elders Peta Strachan and Julie Webb.
Songstress Casey Donovan brings her powerhouse vocals and rock star band to the City Recital Hall stage for Casey Donovan in Concert.
Innovators in the realm of visual and physical theatre, Erth, return to Sydney Festival with a two-part project which includes Duba at Carriageworks and Badu at the Maritime Museum. Meanwhile, the Australian Maritime Museum will host another Erth experience designed just for families.
Mariw Minaral (Spiritual Patterns) presents a stunning retrospective of the artworks of cultural and environmental artist, Alick Tipote.
Presented by Artspace and Sydney Festival Carol McGregor and Judy Watson features the work of Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, Kulin Nation) and Judy Watson (Waanyi), two Indigenous Australian artists working with historical material and narratives to illuminate the continuing strength of Indigenous culture.
Elsewhere in the visual arts, Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial brings together works by 30 contemporary Indigenous artists to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australians for the first time.

Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love. Through intimate storytelling and epic ballads from the streets of Kabul, Tehran and Quetta via Western Sydney, Dorr-e Dari marks the festival return of the brave and transformative theatre company PYT Fairfield (Tribunal ‘18).
In Maureen: Harbinger of Death writer and performer Jonny Hawkins pays homage to his late friend, Maureen by sharing her acerbic life advice. Framed by Jatz crackers, velvet and cigarettes, Maureen invites audiences into her bohemian living-room for a journey of exquisite storytelling.
The high-spirited play, Queen Fatima! Written by the acclaimed James Elazzi (Lady Tabouli ’20) and directed by Paige Rattray, Queen Fatima! is a heartfelt comedy about celebrating our differences.
Provocateur Mitch Jones (aka Captain Ruin) imagines our dystopian future in AutoCannibal, a visceral blend of clowning, performance art and physical theatre that takes us into a world in which only one human survives.
Portable toilet engineer Kenny Smyth is proud of his job, despite what his dad and the public may think of him. In this big-hearted and hilarious salute to decency and hard work, KENNY (adapted for the stage by Steve Rodgers from the hit film of the same name) reminds us that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

Seymour, Hear More
Sydney Festival takes over Chippendale’s Seymour Centre with a program of Australian made music, ranging from genre-defying original works to old favourites performed in new ways.
Broadway and West End star Philip Quast takes us on a captivating journey through the songs and stories of his incredible life in Is This All Then?
A richly flavoured musical treat, Afternoon Tea
at Six blends traditional Persian classical music with Western jazz. For this performance, Hamed Sadeghi’s Eishan Ensemble is joined by the spine-tingling vocals of Dharawal woman Sonya Holowell.
Rewired: Musicals Reimagined by Hayes is the latest production by award-winning musical theatre and cabaret ensemble Hayes Theatre Co. reworking a selection of classic musicals like you’ve bever heard them before.
Jazz composer Jeremy Rose and the 8-piece Earshift Orchestra return to Sydney Festival with Disruption! The Voice of Drums – a thrilling concert-length tribute to the timeless, visceral and disruptive power of the drum.

Allowed and Local
In 2021, Sydney Festival invites audiences to share in the joy of live music with ALLOWED AND LOCAL – the festival’s takeover of some of Sydney’s most storied and treasured music venues. From The Lansdowne to the Factory Theatre, Tokyo Sing Song to The Vanguard and Low 302, ALLOWED AND LOCAL will feature label takeovers by Dew Process and Of Leisure along with performances by Alice Ivy, HANDSOME, Sui Zhen, Urthboy, Emily Wurramara, Birdz, E^ST, Ngaiire, Christine Anu, Annie Hamilton and many, many more.

Opera & Classical Music
In Universal Woman, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra celebrates the remarkable creative achievements of Hildegard von Bingen, the twelfth-century polymath whose life story and body of work continue to resonate through the ages.
In a virtuosic kaleidoscope of music, 12 Hands 6 Grands will see audiences experience six of Australia’s best pianists playing six grand pianos at Sydney Town Hall.
Musical Microparks invites audiences to step outside for a pop-up musical and performative walking tour of Erskineville, with guest artists from Somalia, China and Australia.
Future Remains presents an exquisite double bill by Sydney Chamber Opera featuring Leoš Janáček’s Diary of One Who Disappeared and the world premiere of Huw Belling’s Fumeblind Oracle.
Presented in conjunction with Sydney Chamber Opera, Jane Sheldon’s poem for a dried-up river begins: in summer darkness with the sounds of breathing floating over chirping cicadas.
Sydney Festival’s treasured Salon Series will also return for a fourth year, bringing together music and architecture for a series of intimate concerts in unique spaces, including the Vestibule of Sydney Town Hall and historic Vaucluse House.

Visual Arts
Using light, shadow and scale, the work of influential Australian-Chinese artist Lindy Lee will mesmerise you at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales comes alive with Archie Plus, a festival of portraiture celebrating people and the power of community in a challenging year.
Design Isolate is an Australian Design Centre initiative to show how creative thought can help lead the way for change. Over 60 designers/creative thinkers have captured their thoughts in sketches, diagrams, drawings, text or collage on Covid-19, isolation, what ‘a new normal’ in Australia might look like, how they are affected and how design might contribute to recovery post-pandemic.
Space YZ, curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham, draws inspiration from the visual arts legacy of Western Sydney University.
How do we mourn and remember the inestimable loss -of animals, of flora, of ecological worlds – wrought by the black summer fires of 2019-2020? Curated by artist Janet Laurence, Requiem weaves together visual art, music, poetry, performance, literature, science, philosophy and environmental advocacy to craft a time-space for us to lament and be present to the reality of the loss.
52 ACTIONS is Artspace’s latest online commissioning platform supporting artists living and working in Australia through the development and presentation of new works. Each week for a year a different participant will present a new commission on the Artspace’s website and Instagram.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore concluded that the pandemic had shaped this year’s Festival and made it more important than ever. “ This year’s Festival will not only bring relief and joy to audiences as we leave the pandemic behind, it represents a vote of confidence in the Australian arts and cultural sector.”