Brisbane Festival’s 2018 program brims with big-name acts, more world premieres than ever, and a new light-and-laser show on the river that will see Brisbane illuminated for 22 days of celebration. There will be almost 600 performances – 100 of them free – of close to 70 shows across 17 venues. More than 1,000 artists will be involved.
The Festival will premiere eight new works, involving major commissions from some of Australia’s leading companies including Circa, Dancenorth and Legs on the Wall. Program highlights include two major Riverstage music events on the opening and closing nights headlined by Ball Park Music and Violent Soho; two semi-staged concerts of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, starring Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton; and #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light – a nightly, all-ages, free river show. In a first for Brisbane Festival, the program is presented in three distinct acts – one for each of the three weeks of activity from 6 to 29 September.
“Each act has its own explosion of story, and each opens a window to the world that will entertain and enlighten,” Brisbane Festival Artistic Director David Berthold said. The first week offers almost 30 different productions in 15 venues across the city, including Treasury Brisbane Arcadia, home to the Spiegeltent; the Theatre Republic at Kelvin Grove’s QUT Creative Industries Precinct; and the Tivoli. Act One revolves around ideas of home, memory and gender. Among the events is Memorial, a theatrical experience that gives life to each of the 215 dead soldiers named in Homer’s Iliad. It stars the Helen Morse and a community chorus of 215 choreographed by Circa’s Yaron Lifschitz, with music by Golden Globe nominee Jocelyn Pook.
“This spectacular new Australian work, featuring a massive chorus drawn from the Brisbane community, will be a snapshot of the city in 2018,” Berthold said.
From the United States comes Home, in which a house is built onstage, seemingly from nothing, before becoming a celebration of all the things that make a house a home. By the end, the audience becomes part of a joyous house party.
Qweens on King is an inner-city garden party that will see eight real-life same-sex couples tie the knot in a public ceremony officiated by Gai Lemon. “The King Street area in Fortitude Valley registered the highest YES vote in the marriage equality postal survey in all of Queensland, so it’s an appropriate place for a public celebration like this,” Berthold said.
Strut & Fret returns to the Spiegeltent with LIFE the show. It’s a world premiere for Brisbane Festival, showcasing the extraordinary capabilities of the human body, from contortion and aerials to fire-breathing and feats of strength. Additional Act One headliners include Australian TV favourite Hugh Sheridan and friends in the return of 2016 smash-hit California Crooners Club; Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project; the return of Brisbane Festival’s free concert Symphony For Me, which sold out within minutes in 2015 and 2016; and Katie Noonan’s Elixir, Michael Leunig and Camerata in Gratitude & Grief, a combination of spoken-word poetry, music and live drawing.
Act Two of the Festival casts the individual against the giant forces of nature, fate and society, in expressions of circus, dance and music. Highlights include two world premieres: En Masse by Brisbane’s Circa in one of their biggest shows yet, and Dust by Dancenorth. Rhonda Burchmore joins guest star Rob Mills in a new show, BANG! BANG!.
Act Three – the Festival’s final week – includes a scary movie homage Horror; the children’s opera The Owl & The Pussycat; and the world premiere of Man With The Iron Neck from Australian physical theatre company, Legs on the Wall. Eskimo Joe teams up with Brisbane chamber orchestra Camerata in QPAC’s Concert Hall.
The 22-day celebration ends on Saturday September 29 with Brisbane’s fireworks celebration Riverfire igniting the city skyline for its 21st anniversary year. This year’s soundtrack is themed on sci-fi and superheroes.
For the full program of theatre, dance, music, circus, comedy, cabaret and family entertainment, visit www.brisbanefestival.com.au
For more of Eric Scott’s writings on theatre, check out Absolute Theatre
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television