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10 Shows to See at Sydney Festival

3 January 2019 by Cassie Tongue
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There’s an undeniable buzz during summer in Sydney. The days are bright and gorgeous. The harbour is bluer than ever. And Sydney Festival sprinkles art, culture, and little pockets of delight throughout the city.

And while it might seem like art and culture can be break-bankingly expensive, that doesn’t have to be the case! Live performance is for everyone, and Sydney Festival’s Tix for Next to Nix program offers you seats at a variety of shows for $26.00. Plus, under 30s can score discounted tickets at many shows on weekdays.

Here are 10 shows you shouldn’t miss at the festival – and we’ve marked the ones you might just see on the daily Tix for Next to Nix listings.

“Pigalle” – Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, 8-27 January 

The creators behind disco fantasy burlesque-cabaret “Velvet” are back, and this time, they want to take you to Paris. Pairing again with iconic performer Marcia Hines, a roster of cabaret, circus and burlesque stars will turn a fading Parisian neighbourhood into a carousel of joyous abandon. Australian force of nature iOTA will make an appearance, as will Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Waangenga Blanco, cabaret star Kitty Bang Bang, and more. Expect ’70s hits, amazing feats of the human body, and a party atmosphere.

“Man With the Iron Neck” – Sydney Opera House, 23-26 January

Is there anything Ursula Yovich can’t do? The critically acclaimed and nationally beloved actor is also a writer, and her new show – a theatrical, movement-driven work by physical theatre company Legs on the Wall – aims to find hope and solace amidst the difficult reality of suicide amongst young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“Counting and Cracking” – Sydney Town Hall, 11 Jan – 2 February

Watch as Sydney’s Town Hall is transformed into a Sri Lankan town hall for “Counting and Cracking,” Belvoir’s ambitious new epic play that’s taking an iconic public space and changing the way we look at it – and maybe the way we look at the city, too. Following four generations of a family that has moved their lives from Colombo to Sydney, this is a play about reconciliation, about refuge, and about family.

“In The Heights” – Sydney Opera House, 16-20 January

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton, the room where it happened was any theatre playing “In the Heights” – an energetic, warm-hearted slice of life about two days in the New York City neighbourhood of Washington Heights. The musical blends hip-hop with salsa and Latin beats, and this production, directed by Luke Joslin, has already played a wildly successful season at the Hayes Theatre. This is a tried and tested hit.

“Nick Cave: Until” – Carriageworks, 23 November – 3 March

This staggering installation artwork is completely free and completely unmissable. “Until” has taken over Carriageworks, transforming the venue into living, moving art – thousands of wind spinners and ceramic birds, beads, and crystals move with the breeze. A beautiful work based on a pivotal word in the heavy phrases ‘innocent until proven guilty, guilty until proven innocent,’ this artwork is four years in the making, and it’s here to change hearts and minds about gun violence, police brutality, and race.

“The Iliad: Out Loud” – Belvoir St Theatre, 23 & 27 January

Diehard theatre and classics fans, this is for you. Four actors will tackle the entire classical tale – the tale of all tales – with live music, rhythmic percussion, and episode recaps. If you want the complete experience, on Saturday, you can see all the parts all at once. That’s nine hours of Homer: your extreme summer sport, sorted.

“Home” – Roslyn Packer Theate, 9 – 18 January

You’ll walk into the theatre and see an empty stage. A house will be built on it before your eyes. American artist Geoff Sobelle has a knack for transforming spaces (you might remember him moving hundreds of boxes into Sydney Town Hall in 2016’s “The Object Lesson”) and in this production about the meaning of home, expect to be transformed. It’s a house party, and you’re invited. Audience members will be part of the action, so come with an open mind.

“Beware of Pity” – Roslyn Packer Theatre, 23-27 January

Berlin’s influential Schaubühne partnered with Simon McBurney from the UK’s daring company Complicité for this play: a staging of a 1939 novel about cavalry officer and the woman he loves – and loses – and his attempts to make things right again. This is a performance with big ideas, from artists with bold styles. Different countries make different kinds of theatre, and Sydney Festival is a great vessel for something a bit different.

“Article 14.1″– Museum of Contemporary Art, 14-23 January

This is a free, 10-day durational performance. That’s right. Free. All 10 days. This performance is an invitation from artist Phuong Ngo to all of us – to join him as he relives his parents’ immigration by boat to Australia from Vietnam. Ngo will fold thousands of origami boats and you will hear recorded interviews with Vietnamese refugees. In a country with an uneasy relationship to the hardship of those who fled here by boat, this an artwork that shouldn’t be missed.

“Le Gateau Chocolat” – Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, 23-27 January

The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent is an essential Sydney Festival venue: Its old-school glamour, built-for-purpose cabaret vibes take you out of Hyde Park and into another world. Le Gateau Chocolat’s show will be no exception. The cabaret performer, all beard and glitter and talent, will sing the songs that shaped him. Expect Whitney Houston, David Bowie, and Madonna, with a little Pavarotti and Meat Loaf thrown in. This is a show about icons, but it’s also about Le Gateau Chocolat’s life growing up gay in Nigeria, navigating love and loss, and finding belonging in pop music.