Top Picks for the 2019 Sydney Festival

SF19 Paul Capsis - photo by Mandy HallTransforming the city with a bold cultural celebration based on critical ideas and cutting-edge art and performance, the 2019 Sydney Festival returns to many favourite destinations across Sydney, Parramatta and beyond this Summer.

Bringing together a vibrant collection of dance, theatre, music and visual arts over 19 days, Festival Director, Wesley Enoch’s third year features 18 world premieres, five Australian premieres and eight Australian exclusives alongside a variety of new Australian co-commissions. With so much on offer, the Australian Pride Network takes a look at ten events worth checking out!

Beware of Pity
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 23 – 27 January
This bold, technically adventurous and sexually charged staging of Austrian Stefan Zweig’s 1939 novel is a masterful and newly prescient portrait of a Europe stumbling toward chaos. Written over a period of years and completed when Zweig was exiled in London, Beware of Pity follows the misadventures of Anton Hofmiller, a young cavalry officer who falls in love with Edith, the partially paralysed daughter of a local landowner, then breaks her heart. Overwhelmed by guilt when the girl takes her own life, Anton enacts a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to put things right.

Brett and Wendy… A Love Story Bound by Art
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 18 – 27 January
Take a deep dive into the extraordinary, turbulent artistic partnership of Brett and Wendy Whiteley. They blazed a trail from Sydney in the late 1950s, to London in the swinging 60s, to New York City in the tumultuous Vietnam War years. Eventually, they settled at Lavender Bay, where Brett captured Sydney Harbour in his signature ultramarine blue. But there were dark times ahead – restless years of separation and addiction that ended with Wendy alone, building and tending her magnificent Secret Garden. Kim Carpenter directs and designs, and Lucas Jervies choreographs a visually ravishing production that conjures the joys, passions and struggles of Brett and Wendy’s relationship.

Deer Woman
Carriageworks: 16 – 20 January
Deer Woman tells the story of a young, missing and murdered girl in a country where 1,600 Indigenous women and girls currently are recognised as being missing or murdered. But Lila, the missing girl’s big sister, refuses to stand idly by. She is the daughter of a hunter who taught her all he knew. She’s ex-army, too. When circumstances converge, Lila finds the perfect opportunity to avenge her baby sister’s murder while exercising the skills taught by the Canadian government. Created by Indigenous artists Tara Beagan and Andy Moro, Deer Woman features actor and activist Cherish Violet Blood.

Le Gateau Chocolat: Icons
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 23 – 27 January
Cabaret sensation Le Gateau Chocolat’s international smash-hit is a joyous and moving celebration of the musical heroes, moments and relationships that shaped his life and inspired his dreams. The beautiful, bearded baritone delivers show-stopping renditions of Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Pavarotti, Madonna and Meat Loaf between stories about growing up gay in Nigeria, being bullied, religion, finding love and losing a loved one. Live from a teenage bedroom furnished with pop-star posters, hairbrush microphone and wind machine, Le Gateau moves between his public and private personas, charting how the universality of music – pop, opera and rock – connects with a British-born Nigerian boy’s own objects of worship.

Man With The Iron Neck
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 23 – 26 January
A powerful new work about a small town Australian family, finding hope and embracing life after trauma. When Ash loses his best friend Bear to suicide, he starts to idolise 20th century stuntman The Great Peters, who jumped from bridges with a rope around his neck and lived. But the fabled stuntman’s death-defying legend is an impossible dream to follow. Written by Ursula Yovich, with spectacular aerial performance and video design, this bold and tender story is based on an original work by Josh Bond, who created this piece with co-director Gavin Robins.

One Infinity
Carriageworks: 23 – 27 January
A hypnotic, cross-cultural music and dance collaboration, where the audience are also performers. Genevieve Lacey is one of the world’s best and boldest recorder virtuosi. Wang Peng continues a Chinese tradition of instrument building and playing that dates back at least 3000 years. Together with Australian director-choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and British composer Max de Wardener, they have created One Infinity – bringing together traditional Chinese music and contemporary movement, with the help of the audience itself, in an intricate, echoing dance. Simultaneously meditative and electrifying, One Infinity is an act of deep listening and profound engagement.

Paul Capsis with Jethro Woodward & The Fitzroy Youth Orchestra
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 17 – 18 January
One of the most gifted interpreters of song in Australia, Paul Capsis deploys his vocal blowtorch to light up rock music’s dark side, featuring songs by artists including Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Lana Del Rey and The Doors, and classics made famous by Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and Led Zeppelin. Backed by a high-octane live band led by Jethro Woodward, this is Capsis at his most raw and rock. One of Australia’s most versatile performers, he’s worked with most of the leading Australian theatre companies, as well as in Vienna, Hong Kong, London, Edinburgh and New York.

Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: 8 – 27 January
A once glamorous but now fading Parisian neighbourhood is transformed into a joyous carousel of music, muscles, abandon and redemption in this fusion of burlesque, circus and discotheque with a soundtrack of 70s classics. The international cast of performers is led by the iconic Marcia Hines, with cabaret legend iOTA, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Waangenga Blanco, British burlesque star Kitty Bang Bang and more. Pigalle is a glittering, raucous night on the town. Follow the noise!

Shànghai MiMi
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 10 – 20 January
Inspired by 1930s Shanghai, a city famous for its flamboyant clubs and heady nights, Shànghai MiMi parts the curtains on an enchanted world. Directed by internationally acclaimed performer and director Moira Finucane, whose groundbreaking cabarets enrapture audiences from Beijing to Berlin, this world premiere season stars Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe from beyond the Gobi desert and a hotshot live band playing long-lost vintage Chinese jazz and blues unearthed in a condemned Mumbai warehouse. Meanwhile, dancers, acrobats, aerialists and singers from China, Cameroon, Australia and France give thrilling performances: flying overhead, dazzling your eyes and winning your hearts.

The Vigil
Barangaroo Reserve: Friday 25 January
Gather at dusk at Barangaroo Reserve on 25 January for the lighting of the fire. A vigil will be held overnight to reflect on the impact of colonisation in Australia, the significance of the day before the First Fleet arrived, and what happened after. Hear musical performances and stories of Country from current and future community Elders. Join in the musical performance by participating in Baraya: Sing Up Country

The 2019 Sydney Festival runs 9 – 27 January. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: Paul Capsis – photo by Mandy Hall