74 events, 16 Australian premieres, 7 world premieres

AF20 offers a total of 74 events in theatre, music, opera, dance, film, writing and visual arts – with uniquely local festivals-within-the-Festival Adelaide Writers’ Week, Chamber Landscapes at UKARIA and WOMADelaide returning – over 18 days from 28 February to 15 March.

16 Australian premieres, 7 world premieres and 19 events playing exclusively in Adelaide will establish this 35th Adelaide Festival as a cultural benchmark in a very special year which also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art – along with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, whose works inform four major events in the 2020 program.

So, with Adelaide Festival just around the corner, we wanted to take a look at some for this year’s top picks.

 

 

The Doctor

Robert Icke has been described as “the brightest directing talent British theatre has produced in a generation”. This, his final production for the Almeida Theatre as Associate Director, is a brilliantly skilful update of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 Viennese drama Professor Bernhardi, which has just been performed to packed houses and uniformly rave reviews in London.

The original play’s male protagonist is now Dr. Ruth Wolff (in a towering performance by British stage and screen legend, Olivier-award winning Juliet Stevenson). On an ordinary day, at a private hospital, a 14-year old fights for her life. A priest arrives to save her soul. Dr. Wolff refuses him entry. In a divisive time, in a divided nation, a society takes sides.

Icke’s production, gripping as a thriller, navigates the contemporary minefield of freedom of religion issues, identity politics, medical ethics, gender and class with remarkable eloquence, fairness and humour, constantly upending our perspectives and sympathies.

As the debate charts its catastrophic course through, The Doctor reveals itself as a major and urgent contemporary tragedy.

Exclusive to the Adelaide Festival, don’t miss the most talked-about theatre event of the year.

 

Cold Blood

Theatre, dance, cinema, comedy, drama, illusion; this show bursts triumphantly out of artform pigeonholes creating a hybrid performance experience that’s entirely unique. Belgian choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey and her film-maker partner Jaco Van Dormael have whimsically dubbed their unique art form “Nano-Dance”. That’s because it evolved on their kitchen table and the principal ‘dancers’ use only their fingers, hands and forearms.

It’s a tale of seven “stupid deaths”, each tragi-comic and unexpected, with expirations caused by the likes of a swallowed bra clasp, a carwash mishap and a pre-prepared packet of mashed potato. Filmed live on superbly lit, exquisitely detailed miniature sets and projected to spectacular wide-screen scale, moments of heart-stopping beauty, wit and exhilarating craftsmanship are backed by a captivating unfolding narrative from a short story by Thomas Gunzig.

Magnificent set-pieces (a Fred and Ginger tap routine on thimbles, a Busby Berkeley synchronised swimming extravaganza, a pole dancing club, a Kubrick inspired space station sequence) are interspersed with magically conjured mini cinematic marvels as the fingers drive cars on lonely foggy roads or through war-ravaged cityscapes.

It’s laugh-out-loud one minute and unexpectedly poignant the next as the magnified hands intertwine and caress, embrace and depart to a soundtrack that ranges from Doris Day and Nina Simone to Ligeti and Schubert. Lauded with five-star reviews across the globe, it’s silly, serious, magical and like nothing you’ve ever seen.

 

Mouthpiece

It’s rare indeed for a local play to blow the international competition out of the water in Edinburgh at festival time, but in 2019 that’s what Kieran Hurley’s sensational two-hander did.

Its premise seems simple: Libby, a middle-aged, middle-class playwright has not picked up a pen in years and, roundly rejected by London’s artistic establishment, spends her time brooding in the rarefied environs of Edinburgh’s New Town. Declan is a 17-year-old struggling with a volatile home life in a deprived Edinburgh housing estate, but in possession of a remarkable artistic talent.

When Libby’s despair drives her to a literal cliff edge, their lives collide.

But if you think you’ve heard this story of despair and the power of an unlikely friendship before, Mouthpiece is way, way ahead of you.

As their relationship strengthens and develops, Libby decides Declan’s story must be told. And sure, it doesn’t hurt that it also might reboot her career…

From its startling opening, through to its final devastating showdown, this audacious, gripping and self-questioning play invites us to probe where the lines should be drawn. It’s very funny, very moving and will have your head spinning with the knotty ethical issues it provokes long after you leave the theatre.

Winner of the 2019 Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, Mouthpiece is unmissable; destined to be a classic of our times.

 

Dimanche

North Pole, 4am. Against a snowy landscape dotted with miniature trees, houses with twinkling lights and smoke puffing from chimneys, a dilapidated campervan containing three filmmakers battles the elements. They’re on their way to capture a part of the world which is disappearing; doing their best with what little equipment they have, to document Earth’s last living species.

A masterclass in wit, ingenuity and sheer theatrical brilliance (and a Total Theatre Award winner at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe), the three performers from the Belgium based Chaliwaté and Focus companies create a wordless call to arms against our own ravaging climate monster. Unsurprisingly, it’s more effective than a thousand earnest sermons.

Collective insanity, blindness to the bleeding obvious; it’s a rich subject for bittersweet clowning (think of Buster Keaton as the hurricane blows down the barn). What sets this piece apart is the sheer genius of the storytelling. Involving lo-fi FX, miniature vehicles, puppetry, video, deadpan mime and ingeniously simple physical recreations of film language it constantly delights and makes us wonder as much at the cleverness of humanity as at its stupidity.

Oh and there are also the most adorable polar bears you’re ever likely to see on stage.


Adelaide Festival opens on Friday 28 Feb and runs until 15 March for full program and tickets, click here.

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

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