Celebrate Sydney

By Diana Simmonds

For three weeks in January, the Sydney Festival sees the city in celebratory mode. It’s Australia’s most attended annual cultural event, presenting a broad array of theatre, music, dance, film and talks, attracting one million enthusiastic locals and visitors alike.

The University is again a major partner with the Festival and the Seymour Centre is once more one of the performance hubs. The success of events such as World Café, in the Great Hall, means more will be happening there and in 2011, the Quadrangle will become a performance space.

In any given year the Festival presents more than 1500 artists from Australia and around the world and although many shows have relatively short seasons – ranging from one night to three weeks – there will be something on every night.

Among the shows at the University: Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre (Tristan & Yseult) returns to the York Theatre with The Red Shoes (January 18–30), which was described by The Observer as “Giddy, grisly and gorgeous.”

Image of World Café 2010 in the Great Hall

The 2010 World Café in the Great Hall

The Great Hall hosts the pipa virtuoso Wu Man (China/USA) for one night only (January 16). She is known for her collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass and many of the world’s great orchestras.

Local hero Kim Carpenter brings his Theatre of Image to the York Theatre with Richard (The Book of Everything) Tulloch’s Snow on Mars (January 7-16). Snow on Mars combines aerial performers, actors, music and song to tell an inspirational story for every generation.

One of the most-anticipated parts of the Sydney Festival is the About an Hour series, which marries short, sharp shows with ticket prices of just $30. The mix is eclectic: international, local and rest-of-Australia and they are once again at the Seymour Centre.

The Quadrangle comes into its own with A Night at the Quad: Music & Movies (January 18-23). The precious lawns are where you’ll sit or loll with popcorn, jaffas and choc tops to hear some live music and talk connected with the film that follows. For instance, Kev Carmody and One Night the Moon; The Necks and The Boys; Decoder Ring and Somersault.

The Nicholson Museum also joins the party as a Festival venue in 2011 with Exposed: Photography and the Classical Nude. Featuring works by Max Dupain, Robert Doisneau, Lee Miller, Eadweard Muybridge, Leni Riefenstahl, Clarence White and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the exhibition celebrates the significant role of photography in modern interpretations of the classical nude.

The University will also be the venue for a number of events under the banner of The Scope – connecting arts and ideas; in other words: the post-event, post-performance talks that link themes, artists and the public. Audiences are invited to join in animated and provocative conversations with a dynamic mix of artists, academics, leaders, thinkers and dreamers. The Scope is part think-tank, part-performance, part-lecture.

Microscope, with SAM contributor and well-known journalist and broadcaster Caroline Baum, is another opportunity to hear artists offering insights into their thinking and creations; some will be at the Seymour Centre, post-show.

The most popular “cerebral” event, last Festival, was World Café in the Great Hall. It returns in 2011 with animated discussion on a recurring Festival theme: When we tell a story, how important is the truth? (January 14, 6pm-9pm, $45 – includes light meal and wine). Over-18s only.

All in all, there’ll be something for everyone and all ages at the Seymour Centre with bars, a BBQ and informal eating areas indoors and out, making it perfect for a drink and snack between shows and as a meeting place for friends and family.