Sydney Festival 2023 back to its best

Sydney Festival 2023 back to its best

Alas, a third big-ticket event, Holding Achilles, like Troy, fell victim to something wooden: the acting and dialogue. Focusing on the love between Achilles and Patroclus, the show had only one moment of emotional truth. Otherwise, this Legs on the Wall/Dead Puppet Society collaboration relied on visuals, and they were only occasionally striking, while the music, with live vocals from Montaigne, succumbed to predictability.

Montaigne in Holding Achilles.Credit:Getty

Alongside Frida Kahlo, the festival’s triumph was Girls & Boys, Dennis Kelly’s one-actor play about human disintegration, expertly directed by Mitchell Butel for State Theater Company South Australia.

Initially, as we witness the waning patience and negotiated settlements of motherhood, the narrative gradually shifts from scattered fragments to pin-point focus, and Justine Clarke’s performance shifts gears accordingly, until she emotionally scorches you in a furnace of the unimaginable left

Another standout one-hander, Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, was a comedic parable that twists and turns between ice cream and vultures, written by actor Jacob Rajan and director Justin Lewis of New Zealand’s Indian Ink Theater Company.

Currently loading

Along with an astonishingly lifelike vulture puppet, Rajan’s portrayal of seven characters was so sharp that you never lost track of who was talking to, even in fast-paced, three-way conversations.

This year’s festival was the apathy of the vast realm of improvisation-based music, with Hamed Sadeghi’s performance the worthy exception.

Art writer Helen Pitt’s verdict

Two names stand out for me from the entire 24-day Sydney festival programme: Christie Whelan Brown and Jo Davie. Remember them. I will not forget their performances.

Christie Whelan Browne a standout at the Sydney Festival. Credit: Steven Siewert

Both played at the Sydney Theater Company’s Wharf One in cabaret shows where the audience sat at tables like an old-fashioned music hall (can we have more of this please, STC?).

Whelan Browne’s Show People was part musical, part stand-up and laugh-out-loud funny from the moment she ran on stage as eager new insecure art graduate Jessica Walt-Somers, to playing a retiring diva.

One of the eight characters she played included a confident male star of a musical theater show who denies sexually harassing a young woman in the cast – a certain resonance with her own life. It was exuberant, entertaining and executed with aplomb. Brilliant. Her versatility is impressive. See everything she’s into.

Katie Noonan.

Jo Davie was the support act for Katie Noonan: Joni Mitchell’s Blue 50th anniversary – a triumph of programming for Sydney festival audiences given how quickly it sold out.

Davie took the stage in a ’70s-style chiffon dress that could have been from the Canadian crooner’s wardrobe, and her husky, sweet, high-pitched, bell-like voice could easily be mistaken for Mitchell’s, which jumped to her head voice. an art.

She was a fine appetizer for the lead role of Noonan, whose vocal acrobatics, along with her 17-year-old drummer son Dexter Hurren, sent shivers down the spine, ensuring that this beloved old album continues to enthrall new audiences.

Son & See was also a standout – the town hall full of beach scenes on the first weekend of January, when the bad weather meant an indoor beach was preferable to an outdoor one. The Lithuanian opera singers were interspersed, with extras recruited for the show including a dog (Fleur) and a baby (SF director Olivia Ansell’s). There was so much to look at that I wanted to linger longer, but the servants kept us moving on the upper balcony. I would rather have settled in to slowly enjoy the scene as much as the climate activist lyrics.

Sun & Sea in the Sydney Town Hall. Credit: Getty

Daniel Riley from Australian Dance Theatre’s Tracker was a dreamlike dance drama that told the story of Alec Riley, his great-great-uncle, the famed Wiradjuri tracker and the first Aboriginal police sergeant – a story that should be better known.

New York-based Australian-born pianist Lisa Moore gave a brilliantly lyrical performance at The Neilson in Show Your Heart, which she did indeed with a diverse repertoire.

Reta Lusher, dusting the tables at the Commercial Travelers Association for Sydney Festival. Credit: Steven Siewert

The show for me this year was the fact that the festival opened up parts of Sydney that were previously off limits to music and live theatre.

From the vault under the old Sydney Water Board Building, to Strickland House and to the triumphant opening to the public of the Commercial Travelers Association for the first time in its 140-year history with its Weary Traveler bar. Being lulled to sleep by The Lucid in the Harry Seidler “mushroom” building that is CTA HQ was a first for me to sleep. But my lasting memory of Sydney Festival 2023 is two trans men in skirts, holding hands under a 1954 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and other old men’s club memorabilia. Like most of the shows, I’ve never seen it before. Exactly what theater – especially festivals – should be about.

A cultural guide to going out and loving your city. Subscribe to our Culture Fix newsletter here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *