For the past four years, Australian Plays has proudly published the scripts of new Australian works featuring (and often premiering) in the Sydney Festival. These texts live online fleetingly, available only for the duration of the festival - expanding an audience’s interaction and experience of how modern performance texts are constructed.
Artistic Director Wesley Enoch has been a powerhouse at the festival, broadening its remit and commissioning, developing and producing extraordinary and vitally, local work. The Sydney Festival is now the largest commissioner (and equally importantly, producer) of new Australian works in the whole country. This is a significant feat – there are many companies who commission work with no ability or intention of producing those works. Wesley and the team are committed to local works, by local artists – another relative rarity amongst our major organisations. I sat down with him a few weeks ago in Sydney enveloped by bushfire smoke to talk through some of the lines that connect works in the festival and in particular explore 6 new Australian works in the 2020 Festival that feature in our fourth Sydney Festival Collection.
In this year's Collection we have works that touch on ideas of sovereignty, neuro-typicality, history and re-imaginings. Wesley and I discussed a spate of First Nations work which seek to talk about the present through the past – building on the questions and concerns of earlier generations of artists – including Black Drop Effect, The Visitors or Black Cockatoo. Other works like Lady Tabouli take a deliciously ‘funny-until-its-not’ examination of culture clashes in contemporary Australia. And it feels bold in our current world to finish with the soaring theatrical hope of Laser Beak Man.
These works are scintillating, insightful and brand-spanking-new! We hope you enjoy the 2020 Sydney Festival Collection.
- John Kachoyan
Literary Manager, Australian Plays
Every January, Sydney Festival starts the new year with a bang, transforming the city with a bold cultural celebration based on critical ideas and cutting-edge art and performance.
More than any other cultural event, Sydney Festival defines Sydney's personality. For over four decades we have presented international artists who guarantee headlines, and whose presence in Sydney adds to the Festival's buzz and prestige, including names like Björk, Brian Wilson, Grace Jones, Manu Chao, Elvis Costello, AR Rahman, Cate Blanchett, Ralph Fiennes, Robert Lepage, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Peter Sellars, Sir Ian McKellen and David Byrne & St. Vincent. Some of the world's great companies – Wayne McGregor's Random Dance, Cheek by Jowl, Gate Theatre and The Wooster Group to name only a few – also share the Festival with the most exciting artists and companies in Australia.
Sydney Festival's audacious contemporary programming positions it at the forefront of arts practice in Australia and up there as one of the most wonderful festivals in the world.
Sydney Festival was originally conceived by the Sydney Committee, the NSW State Government and the City of Sydney with a view to attracting people into the city centre during the holiday month of January.
The first Festival took place in 1977 and it has since grown to become one of Australia's largest annual cultural celebrations with an international reputation for modern, popular and intelligent programming. In many ways it is probably still best understood as a celebration of Sydney, and its style and energy reflect the confidence, diversity and vigour of one of the world's most beautiful cities.
The Festival has a history of presenting Australian premieres, and many of Australia's most memorable productions such as Cloudstreet and Smoke & Mirrors have resulted from Sydney Festival's commitment to nurture local artists.
It has brought many of the world's great artists to Sydney including: Ariane Mnouchkine and Thèâtre du Soleil (Flood Drummers); Robert Wilson (The Black Rider); Robert Lepage (Far Side of the Moon, The Andersen Project, Lipsynch); Schaubühne Berlin (Hamlet, Beware of Pity); Netherlands Dance Theatre; James Thiérrée; Philip Glass; Ian McKellen (Dance of Death); Peter Sellars; Batsheva Dance Company; National Theatre of Scotland (Beautiful Burnout, Black Watch, Aalst); Al Green; AR Rahman; Kneehigh Theatre (Tristan & Yseult, The Red Shoes); Wayne McGregor's Random Dance (Entity) and Studio Wayne McGregor (Tree of Codes); Ludger Engels and Vivienne Westwood (Semele Walk); and Fabulous Beast (Rian).