Get ready to paint the town pink. One of Queensland’s biggest cultural events, Brisbane Festival, just dropped its massive 2016 program, featuring more than 70 productions and 540 performances across three colourful weeks.
Artistic Director David Berthold, in his second year on the job, has delivered a spectacular line-up that will see the city’s cultural hubs — including the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, La Boite Theatre and Brisbane Powerhouse — host world-class music, dance, comedy, theatre and opera performances, closing with the Festival favourite, the Sunsuper Riverfire.
South Bank’s Cultural Forecourt will once again be transformed into the Festival village, Arcadia, where food, wine and entertainment flow freely and abundantly. But this year, Arcadia will be home to not one, but two Spiegeltents, where you’ll be able to catch a show, treat yourself to a bite to eat or relax at the Pimm’s pop-up bar from Tuesday through to Thursday.
The biggest name involved in this year’s Festival is no doubt Pharrell Williams. The Grammy Award winner has partnered with American contemporary dance innovator Jonah Bokaer and visual artist Daniel Arsham to create The Rules of the Game, a multidisciplinary work featuring dance, video and sculpture.
The Rules of the Game is an Australian exclusive for Brisbane Festival, arriving in town fresh from its premiere in Dallas and ahead of its New York premiere in November.
On the local front, iconic Brisbane band george will reunite for the festival, playing their first live show together in 11 years to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
Other highlights of the program include La Verita, a dream-like circus extravaganza from the director of Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo and Luzia; Troppo, the latest over-the-top production from rock star Australian circus troupe Circa; En avant, Marche!, Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke’s fusion of music, dance, theatre and opera, featuring a full-scale brass band; Blanc de Blanc, a burlesque circus cabaret confection from the creative minds behind Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour; a gleefully mischevious and anarchic take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream; You Should Be Dancing, a pop-up dance party in the CBD, and Pink Martini, the 15-piece ‘little orchestra’ from Portland that’s been hailed as one of the world’s most elegant live bands.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Youtopia’, in recognition of a world in which Berthold says “authority is more contested and the people more empowered than ever before”.
“We see it all around us,” Berthold says. “With new knowledge and power, people now distrust the dead centre of politics and are drawn to the edges: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the USA, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, the Austrian spectacle of a remarkable battle between the far left and the far right, and in Australia (more moderately) with the Prime Ministerial pandemonium of the last few years.
“Look also at the convulsions in media and music, or the great wave of human migration powered by the smart phones in the hand of almost every refugee, or the potential of a tweet to swing the conversation.
“Much of this year’s Brisbane Festival reflects this great realignment.”
That theme is reflected through the four different strands of the festival.
Taking Part features works that celebrate public participation, and the cultural shift from consumer to creator. 2016 works that involve public participation, in one way or another, include En avant, marche!, You Should Be Dancing, Chekhov’s First Play, The Game, Wilting in Reverse, Game Show-Off, 50/50, Galaxy Stomp, Symphony for Me, Gender Gaze, and the Sunsuper Riverfire, which will feature music voted on by the public.
Ireland celebrates the centenary of Ireland’s Easter Uprising, in which 1,500 rebels participated and 450 people were killed, leading to the formation of the Irish Republic. The first rebel killed was an actor. Original works by Ireland’s most talented young artists will feature at Brisbane Festival, including three productions by Irish theatre company Dead Centre — Souvenir, LIPPY, and Chekhov’s First Play.
The Record Label focuses on the reinvention of the record label, in the wake of services like YouTube making it possible for anyone to upload their own songs, create their own playlists and stream music. Three influential contemporary record labels — Los Angeles hip hop pioneer Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw Records, who’ll be celebrating their 20th anniversary at the Festival; Queensland Indigenous label Impossible Odds; and Australian dance music gurus Purple Sneakers DJs — will be featured.
The final strand, Snow White & The Little Mermaid, focuses on the way we rewrite fairy tales as we read them, making alterations to match the needs of society at any given time, until multiple iterations of the tales become part of our DNA. The versatility of Snow White will be celebrated with four vastly different productions, including Ballet Preljocaj’s lush, full-length ballet; La Boite Theatre and Opera Queensland’s new musical theatre work; and two films — an obscure 1916 silent film, and the 1937 Walt Disney classic it inspired. Meanwhile, Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid turns Hans Christian Anderson’s fable into a sexy, bittersweet take on the ‘happy ending’, with new music by the likes of Amanda Palmer, Kate Miller-Heidke and Megan Washington.
The Festival’s contemporary music program will include performances from reunited ’90s indie heroes Custard, Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster (following the August release of his memoir, Grant and I, about his friendship and collaboration with the late Grant McLennan), and Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon.
The 2016 program also includes an official Family Week to coincide with the school holidays, which will include a slew of events and performances for the whole family.
Brisbane Festival will run from September 3-24. Tickets are available now from brisbanefestival.com.au.