Adelaide Festival’s joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy today announced a 2018 program with several high-profile exclusives, and extended their contract until 2021.
The pair were initially contracted for 2017 through 2019, but the Festival Board has opted to keep them onboard for another two festivals, including the 60th anniversary in 2020. This extension of their tenure comes after their first festival this year saw a 9% boost in ticketed attendance and the festival’s best box office result ever.
Armfield and Healy look as though they’ll achieve a similarly strong result in the next festival in March 2018, with Armfield’s production of Brett Dean’s opera Hamlet already selling well.
In addition, there are performances from superstar director Ivo van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam, a large-scale theatrical premiere from Adelaide’s Brink Productions, the final Australian performance of dance legend Akram Khan, and concerts by artists such as Grace Jones, Anne Sofie von Otter, and rising jazz star Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Many of the visiting artists and companies have been booked as Adelaide exclusives, meaning they won’t be seen in any other city around Australia.
The list of exclusives includes: Hamlet, The Lost and Found Orchestra, Kings of War, human requiem, McLorin Salvant’s concert, Akram Khan’s XENOS, FLA.CO.MEN, Us/Them, The Great War, and AZZA.
“Our fight for exclusivity is about delivering on Adelaide’s reputation and Adelaide Festival’s promise, which is a particular calibre of artists and having exclusivity,” Healy says. “There is an expectation that people will come from around the country, as they did last year, and gather in Adelaide for the festival.”
While Sydney Festival and Melbourne Festival focus almost entirely on reaching Sydney and Melbourne audiences, respectively, Adelaide has a big push for interstate visitors throughout March. To ensure that high profile international artists from Europe and the US can justify travelling to the region, Healy has organised Asian tours and New Zealand dates for many performers.
“There is a competitive thing with Australian exclusivity,” Armfield says. “No one wants their festival to be the same as one of the other festivals.”
In spite of this, Armfield and Healy say the relationships between the artistic directors of Australia’s major festivals is perfectly collegiate, and perhaps moreso now that the festivals are all run by local directors with a long history of working together.
They say that there are also both important Australian and international works that they would never seek to make exclusive. One such work was last year’s tour of The Encounter, and Armfield says there’s another international performance lined up for 2019 that will inevitably tour.
“There’s one work in Edinburgh that we saw this year and it just seemed criminal that you would not want as many people to see that as possible,” Armfield says. “The idea of exclusivity with that one didn’t seem as important.”
The legendary trend-setting, genre-defying diva and fashionista performs in Adelaide for the first time since 1982, at Adelaide Riverbank and Elder Park. Jones is currently enjoying a career resurgence thanks to several high profile festival gigs and the release of the documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, which screened earlier this year at Adelaide Film Festival.
Kings of War
Toneelgroep Amsterdam returns to the Adelaide Festival after performing their landmark Roman Tragedies in 2014. Director Ivo van Hove’s Kings of War combines five of Shakespeare’s plays (Henry V, Henry VI Part I, II and III, and Richard III) into one four-and-a-half hour epic performed by 17 actors on a massive war room set, complete with offstage events projected on a screen above the stage, and a cast of live goats.
Thyestes was a breakthrough work for Australian director Simon Stone, who this year won an Olivier Award for his London production of Yerma. Now the director, who was championed by Armfield and held the role of resident director at Belvoir for several years, will revive his provocative, ruthlessly modern, violent and funny take on the Greek myth.
THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON
Canadian auteur Robert LePage’s The Far Side of the Moon was the final show at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, before its demolition, and now it returns to Australia after visiting 45 countries around the world. The solo performance fuses video, theatre, and puppetry, to tell an otherworldly tale.
British poet Alice Oswald’s Memorial is an “excavation” of Homer’s Iliad, personalising the deaths of the 215 soldiers named in the epic. It will be adapted for the stage by Adelaide’s Brink Productions, with 215 performers as the soldiers, a live ensemble of singers and musicians, and Australian actor Helen Morse reading the poem.
Akram Khan is one of the world’s most celebrated dancers, and XENOS will be his final performance in a full-length dance piece. The work was co-commissioned by Adelaide Festival, which is where Khan made his professional debut as a 14-year-old in Peter Brook’s 1988 production of Mahabharata.
Cécile McLorin Salvant
At just 28, Cécile McLorin is the fastest rising jazz singer in the world, praised as a worthy successor to the legacies laid down by singers such as Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. She won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and was due to play Leo Schofield’s ill-fated Sydney Sings festival last year. Instead, she makes her Australian debut in an Adelaide Festival exclusive performance.
Adelaide audiences will have the opportunity to see this new opera based on Shakespeare’s play, composed by Australian Brett Dean and directed by Neil Armfield. The opera was a critical hit when it premiered at Glyndebourne Festival this year, and will feature a line-up of local and international singers.
Adelaide-born choreographer Lucy Guerin’s duet for two women premiered to raves earlier this year at Melbourne’s Dance Massive festival, and picked up a Helpmann Award for Best Dancer (Lilian Steiner). One of the women performs clothed and the other unclothed, moving together as the performance space closes in.
THE LOST AND FOUND ORCHESTRA
Every festival needs a big opening weekend, and this year’s festival has a particularly massive one in this performance from the Lost and Found Orchestra. The orchestra, which plays extraordinary music with found objects, was formed in a collaboration between Luke Cresswell, who created STOMP, and Australian large-scale director Nigel Jamieson. For this special performance, hundreds of locals will join the orchestra with their own specially crafted instruments.