Maybe one of the most awkward, prickly things about theatre is that you are forced to live what’s being played out before you. In the dark, up close and unable to make a sound, there are no screens to act as barriers or distractions.
No matter what you’re watching, it can be excruciating and exhilarating. Point is, you’ll typically feel something pretty strong, no matter the calibre or content.
The program for Syd Fest 2019 has dropped and there's a lot to take in, from performance art through to live music, dance, and immersive theatre. As well as the powerful, soulful voice of trip-hop legend Neneh Cherry, next year's program asks you to reunite with your attention span, spark up your imagination and get set to really (really) feel something.
The theme for 2019 is 'Immersion' and festival director Wesley Enoch has given you a whole universe of extreme to dive right into.
Reckon you could endure a 9-hour performance of Homer's Illiad? Totally transport yourself to a nightclub in 1970s Paris? Take a bubble bath with a performance artist? Cycle the distance to the moon? Are you ready to get beneath the surface of some of the most pressing topics of our time?
Here's our pick of some of the most outrageous and exciting acts at Syd Fest 2019.
Nick Cave: Until
American artist Nick Cave's enormous floating crystal cloudscape will blow your mind. Made of crystals, beads, ceramic birds and tonnes of bric-a-brac, the epic installation speaks to the intricate, storied and urgent issues of gun violence, gender, police brutality and race in the States. You can climb up into the installation, and peer down into it too. Keep an eye out for the crocodile. More info is here.
When: 23 November, 2018 - 3 March, 2019
Set in an imagined future, this dark play explores big issues with the Australian criminal justice system. Performed by actual ex-offenders, the play reveals uncomfortable complexities surrounding real freedom and people who have 'done their time'. Imagine Shawshank Redemption, but a whole lot more real. Get tickets, here.
When: 16 - 20 January, 2019
Cost: $39 + BF
Amrita Hepi is a Sydney based writer, choreographer, artist and activist. The visual language she plays with is bright and bold: dancers tumbling over a motorbike and a giant peach-coloured inflatable dome that breathes. She's concerned with self-determination, cultural identity and how dance can carry self-expression and cultural celebration. For Syd Fest 2019, she's created a video installation that builds upon the rich history of skipping and weaving that will be shown alongside work from Venice Biennale Gold Lion winner Adrian Piper.
When: 11 January - 13 March, 2019
Where: Cement Fondu
Fly Me To The Moon
To cheer in the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and celebrate the astronauts and mathematicians that got us there, Syd Fest is hosting a whole heap of lunar activities. Get your 'gram on at Barangaroo South with Sydmonauts—a gang of 11 larger than life (like, huge) astronaut sculptures to honour Apollo 11. There'll be giant floating heliospheres, big black 'moon drops' you can bounce around on, and an exhibition of astro artifacts at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Syd Fest is also asking Sydney to jump on a bike and collectively cycle the distance to the moon. Find out how you can, here.
When: 9 - 28 January, 2019
Where: Various locations
The Iliad — Out Loud
We all love a good binge. Like, staying home all day soaking up the best of Netflix. Based on the idea that Homer's Illiad (that really long ancient Greek poem about war and violence and betrayal) is kind of an antique version of Game of Thrones, playwright William Zappa has devised a new live rhythmic adaptation of the poem complete with episode recaps. You can witness it in one 9-hour stretch, or three 3-hour parts across three nights. Get tickets, here.
When: 23 - 27 January, 2019
Where: Belvoir Street Theatre
Cost: $36 – $79.95 + BF
Loosely based on the Dreamtime story of the Biladurang (the weird and wonderful creature otherwise known as the platypus), this one-man show is super, super intimate. Created and performed by proud Wiradjuri man Joel Bray, you'll put a bathrobe on and share your most awe-inspired stories in a hotel room at QT Sydney. The play is led by audience interaction, but at one point Joel will indulge in a bubble bath (because why else do you stay in hotel rooms?). Tickets are here.
When: 11 - 20 January, 2019
Where: QT Sydney
Cost: $56 + BF
Described as a "house party where the whole audience is invited", this play is a magical, immersive spectacle that asks us to think about what home can really mean. Basically, award-winning theatre genius Geoff Sobelle will build a home up from an empty stage as inhabitants eat, sleep, love, argue and throw a party. In the end, you get to get on stage and join in. More info, here.
When: 9 - 18 January, 2019
Where: Roslyn Packer Theatre
Cost: $50 - $95 + BF
For everyone who has watched Hannah Gadsby's absolutely electrifying, gut-wrenching Netflix Special, Nanette—this one-man monologue will take you down a similar, sobering path. Not for the faint of heart (women in the audience walked out at Edinburgh Fringe), it's a confessional that unearths the darkest corners of humanity and the toxicity in modern masculinity. Tickets and more info, here.
When: 10 - 13 January, 2019
Cost: $36 – $41 + BF
The Paris club scene has always been cool, but it was extra slick in the 70s during the iconic, glittery disco era. Held in the Magic Mirrors Spiegel Tent, Pigalle will totally transport you to the city of lights and the decade of discotheque with a smack of burlesque and circus stuff too. Tickets are here.
When: 8 - 27 January, 2019
Where: Magic Mirrors Spiegel Tent
Cost: $70 - $80 + BF
Image credit: Amrita Hepi from The Ropes: Amrita Hepi.