In South Australia’s capital, they call it “March Madness”. For us, visitors from alien lands, this city is a cornucopia of cultural delights, with so many things happening during the month ( in fact the whole summer/autumn season) that it’s hard to keep up.
“Vibrant Adelaide” takes its leading role in the Australian Arts scene very seriously. Since the first Adelaide Festival in 1960, the city has set the standard for Arts events in Australia. It has, along the way, attracted some outstanding Festival Directors including Sir Robert Helpmann, Barrie Kosky, Robyn Archer and Paul Grabowsky contributing to the festival’s international reputation. In 2004 Adelaide was the first Australian city to stage Wagner’s Ring Cycle, a hugely ambitious opera event which turned out to be a tremendous success.
In large measure this success is due to the 1973 opening of the Adelaide Festival Centre which provides several performance spaces ranging from a full-size concert hall, the Festival Theatre, to smaller venues, restaurants and display areas. The Centre opened just 3 months before its famous cousin, the Sydney Opera House [cop that, Sydney!]. Moreover, the Festival Theatre is known for its excellent acoustics and backstage facilities.
In this New Year of 2022 (and for the Chinese, the Year of the Tiger) perhaps we all need a lift to get the spirits soaring again. As Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield described this “feisty and defiant festival…we invite audiences to experience the release of primal dance, of exhilarating performance and how the spark of collegiate music making can jump centuries. It’s all there: a celebration of body and soul and how great it is to keep them together”.
There are many Festival highlights…too many to mention here…but following are a few that should inspire cultureholics as well as those just looking to escape interstate and have a fun time.
MACRO (Opening Event, free), a “contemporary circus powerhouse” which incidentally will also open this year’s venerable Edinburgh Festival, features Gravity & Other Myths, a homegrown 30 strong physical theatre troupe. Add to this a mass choir, ancient Celtic rhythms, fireworks and giant projection scrims and you have an opening event which will launch the 2022 Festival with a bang!
Icehouse…Great Southern Land 2022 featuring legendary frontman Iva Davies and yidaki (didgeridoo) master William Barton in a homage to Australia and its landscape. The Adelaide Advertiser sums it up as promising “a searingly good concert by a band of top-notch musicians with a deep back catalogue of great songs”.
The Golden Cockerel, opera by Rimsky-Korsakov. First performed in 1909, half surreal fairy tale, half political satire, the work has never before been performed in Australia. This extraordinary dreamscape of a production directed by Barrie Kosky, with an outstanding overseas cast including Russian superstars conducted by Arvo Volmer will be an experience well worth the trip to Adelaide, even if it’s the only event you attend.
The Rite of Spring/Common Ground[s]. This double bill is an Australian exclusive
featuring the visceral 1975 Pina Bausch version of Stravinsky’s jaw-dropping Rite of Spring score which created a riot when first performed in Paris in 1913. The production brings together 38 superb dancers from 14 African countries; its companion piece Common Ground[s] is a new work from Germaine Acogny, dubbed “the mother of contemporary African dance”. A truly exciting programme.
Wudjang: Not the Past. While on the subject of dance, Bangarra Dance Theatre brings ancestor Wudjang to life in Stephen Page’s inimitable fusion of contemporary and traditional choreography in an ambitious corroboree for 17 dancers, 5 actors and 4 musicians. As magazine Time Out puts it, “The company is one of the true wonders of Australian culture”.
Juliet & Romeo. More dance theatre, this time from the UK’s Lost Dog Company.
It’s a humorous, yet sad, observation of any marriage where familiarity has replaced the first hormonal rush of desire. Critics have described the performance as “a beautiful and utterly involving show: insightful, funny and rich”.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sydney Theatre Company’s re-imagining of Oscar Wilde’s classic play, had Sydney critics and audiences scrambling for superlatives.
Directed by Kip Williams and starring Eryn Jean Norvill, this groundbreaking production will be a highlight of this year’s Festival.
Girls & Boys, a searing one-woman show and an Australian premiere promising a high-wire balancing act of comedy and drama which has stunned audiences in New York and London. Once again, the contemporary theme that plays out explores the marital power dynamic where imperceptible cracks become yawning gulfs with dramatic results.
Paul Grabowsky & Ngaiire, a perfect blend of talents in an exciting programme of PNG-born Ngaiire’s original genre-bending and jazz-influenced songs alongside the multi-talented Grabowsky, composer, pianist, conductor and director.
The Nightline is a collection of real-life stories, rants, confessions, inanities and private thoughts accessible by you, the listener, via a pre-recorded telephone chat from anonymous callers, compiled by Roslyn Oades and sound engineer Bob Scott. Hop on the party line and listen to genuine late-nighters like lonely truckies, bored shift workers and others.
Prayer for the Living. The Festival’s final day will bring appropriate closure with inspiring and rarely heard choral music from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and 60 voices conducted by Benjamin Northey. Featured composers are Francis Poulenc, Lili Boulanger and Latvian Peteris Vasks, an uplifting spiritual tonic at the end of nineteen unforgettable days.
SPECIAL EVENT…ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK 5-10 MARCH
This is your chance to engage with some of Australia’s most talented authors, academics and journalists over a 5 day period. Directed by Jo Dyer, names like Tom Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Stan Grant, Colm Tobin and Hannah Kent are just a few on this kaleidoscopic list…see the programme for full details and times.
WHERE TO STAY FOR THE FESTIVAL
Adelaide offers many fine accommodation choices although it’s wise to book early if you want good rates. At top level you should check out the new Accor Sofitel Adelaide…a stay here could be as exciting as the Festival itself! The hotel features 251 spacious rooms and suites combining French elegance and vintage decor with views overlooking the Adelaide skyline. The hotel has an indoor pool and gym, vibrant French inspired restaurant and bar Bleu Garcon, and Club Millésime – an exclusive lounge and meeting space for guests. If Paris is off the itinerary at the moment, Sofitel Adelaide is your next best choice.
Accor has no less than 12 hotels in the Adelaide area to choose from, including the venerable economy-level Grosvenor Hotel. In the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, it’s conveniently located on the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, opposite the Adelaide Convention Centre, Casino and a short 8-minute walk to the Adelaide Oval. For busy Festival-goers this hotel has everything you need, in a great location.
There’s no doubt that Adelaide has much going for it when it comes to art and culture. Added to that is the proximity of the famous wine growing areas such as the Barossa and Clare valleys, and you have the perfect recipe for a short break or longer holiday embracing some of South Australia’s many regional attractions, as well as its famous Festival.
Adelaide Festival Centre respects the Kaurna peoples’ spiritual relationship with their country. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land and acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to those people living today.