Indian Link’s #sydfest guide: Our top 20 picks

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Embrace the unusual, creative and artistic as Sydney Festival presents an extraordinary opportunity. Our city in summer is just waiting to be explored!

Festival Village photo credit Jamie Williams.Indian Link
Photo: Jamie Willams/Sydney Festival

This summer, Sydney Festival celebrates its 40th year. Our city will be transformed as international and local artists stage bold performances; from an Ephemeral City in the Emerald City to a fairground made from recycled materials; from a circus spectacular to Indigenous storytelling; from Indian folk and Australian roots fusion to uber cool Cambodian rock.
While the first ever Sydney Festival (which back in 1977 was called the Festival of Sydney) was held in Haymarket, it has grown to reach locations across the city including community halls, parks and the streets themselves. Just as our harbour city has expanded and become more diverse, so too has the Sydney Festival.
Over the years, the annual celebration has had some impressive Indian links. In 2010, more than 60,000 people packed into Parramatta Park to watch superstar A.R. Rahman live in a free show. It was just after the student attacks and the concert was as much a celebration of music as it was an opportunity to heal the rift between the Indian community and the wider community.
Summer Sounds images by Prudence Upton.Indian Link
Photo: Prudence Upton

Indian showman Roysten Abel has had several outings at Sydney Festival, bringing us 43 Rajasthani musicians in The Manganiyar Seduction, and a husband and wife cooking up huge pots of payasam, accompanied by 12 Keralite drummers, in last year’s The Kitchen.
In his final year as Festival Director, Lieven Bertels has put together a kaleidoscopic program including music, dance, circus and drama to imposing architecture projects and experimental digital formats.
As we mark the Festival’s 40th anniversary, we bring you our top picks from across the jam-packed program. There’s so much to choose from, so get ready to make some memories!
Cosmic Cambodia.Indian Link
Photo: David A. Rosenberger


Summer Nights at Prince Alfred Square  7-23 Jan
Fri and Sat nights from 5.30pm
Sydney Festival is joining Riverside Theatre and Prince Alfred Square together to create a new Festival precinct, the perfect place to relax after a busy week. Celebrate the warm evening vibes with family and friends, with free live music, food and the Arquitectura de Feria fairground.
The Ephemeral City  8-26 Jan
The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve
One of the largest community participation events presented in Sydney Festival’s history, with Olivier Grossetête’s fantastically epic The Ephemeral City, people of all ages are invited to use boxes and tape to construct a sky-high temporary city before witnessing its exciting demolition on Australia Day.

The Ephemeral City.Indian Link
Photo: David Gallard

The Book of Sand  
Online also available for iOS and Android
Explore the arts from the comfort of your own home. In this incredible work, available exclusively in digital format, Dutch artist Michel van der Aa has created an interactive song cycle inspired by the theme of ‘infinity’ in Jorge Luis Borges’ stories. The Book of Sand invites viewers to create their own path by switching between three parallel layers of storytelling, moving between three worlds – stone galleries, a cellar and a desolate desert – as the music shifts from electronic to pop to a cappella.
Flying Fox  8–24 Jan, 2pm–8pm
The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve
Get a bird’s eye view of Olivier Grossetête’s epic The Ephemeral City as you take a zip-lining ride past Shaun Gladwell’s Skateboarders vs Minimalism in a world first indoor Flying Fox experience.
The Ephemeral City.Indian Link
Photo: Simo Karisalo

1000 Bells  20–25 Jan
Prince Alfred Square
This large scale installation aims to showcase the diversity of Sydney. Artists Lauren Brincat and Bree van Reyk are working with various communities to hand-make simple pinch-pot bells. The bells and their creators will then reunite in a series of performances in Parramatta. To join a bell-making workshop email makeabell@sydneyfestival.org.au or visit sydneyfestival.org.au/2016/1000-bells


La Verita- Viviana Cangialosi.Indian Link
Photo: Viviana Cangialosi

La Verita  9-18 Jan
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
A dazzling spectacle combining circus, clowning, acrobatics, dance and music with an extra serving of humour and heart. La Verità is inspired by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí, with one of his recently rediscovered paintings as the backdrop. This thrilling world of imagination and astonishment is not to be missed.
Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid  8-23 Jan
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
A scintillating spectacle dripping with sex appeal, this cabaret show, presented by post-modern diva Meow Meow, raucously subverts Hans Christian Andersen’s mermaid tale of teen self-sacrifice, salvation and seduction.
Woyzeck  7-12 Jan
Woyzeck loves Marie, but what can he offer her? In this 21st century musical by American musician Tom Waits, see German Georg Büchner’s raw and unforgiving Woyzeck. This is a refreshingly vivid, gutsy show dealing with madness, obsession and murder. The performance text is in German with English subtitles with songs in English.
Cypher.Indian Link
Photo: Nick Bassett

Cypher  19-24 Jan
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
Australian hip-hop heavyweight and director Nick Power puts four battle-hardened b*boys through their paces. Raw and rocking, watch as they push the boundaries of movement in a dazzling blur of limbs and trainers.
Djuki Mala  18-24 Jan
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
Direct from Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory, Djuki Mala perform a fusion of traditional Indigenous culture, contemporary dance and storytelling. This show explores the origins of the group and the ways they have developed their performance to include comedy and clowning alongside contemporary Yolngu culture.
Djuki Mala The Chooky Dancers.Indian Link
Photo: Sean Young – SYC Studios


Maru Tarang 10 Jan 6pm
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
Maru Tarang offer an exquisite fusion of Indian folk and Australian roots, founded in the desert lands of Rajasthan, India. Famed Australian guitarist Jeff Lang and tabla player Bobby Singh join forces with sarangi master Asin Langa, and khartal virtuoso Bhungar Manganiyar to bring you an evening of slide hypnotic rhythms and mesmerising vocals.

Maru Tarang.Indian Link
Photo: Kavi Bhansali

Cosmic Cambodia: The Cambodian Space Project 9-18 Jan
City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Singer Channthy Kak and musician Julien, along with their uber cool band, sing back to life the lost divas and legends of Cambodia’s golden age, all but wiped out by the Khmer Rouge regime. Mashing tradition with contemporary groove and soul, this is high-energy, psychedelic rock’n’roll.
In Between Two  21-24 Jan
Chinese-Australian MC and spoken word artist Joelistics (TZU) and Filipino-Dutch-Australian producer/songwriter James Mangohig (Sietta) take centre stage as they weave the stories of their diverse heritages with an original soundtrack of acoustic and electronic music. A vibrant portrayal of the Asian-Australian experience, see two cultures deftly woven together through the stories and photographs.
InBetweenTwo Hero Cesar Rodrigues.Indian Link
Photo: Cesar Rodrigues

40 Ways to Love Your City 23-24 Jan
City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Marking 40 years of Sydney Festival, cultural historian, author and performer Warren Fahey leads a storyteller’s merry dance through our Festival’s rich history. These four decades of summer celebration are a colourful reflection of our ever-changing city and its people.
Birdman 15-16 Jan
State Theatre & Parramatta
Drummer and composer Antonio Sanchez performs his score live alongside the Oscar-winning movie Birdman. The film follows the progress of a washed-up actor (Michael Keaton) trying to re-establish his career and his sanity. Sanchez’s solo drum performance is full of frenetic energy and will be largely improvised, just as it was for the film.
Birdman.Indian Link


Arquitectura De Feria 7-24 Jan
Prince Alfred Square
Welcome to a fairground like no other. Recycled objects gain new life as adults and children play together, twirling handles and spinning pedals to operate the free, whimsical fairground machines – including a hand-cranked Ferris wheel fitted out with toilet seats and a bicycle-powered carousel!

Arquitectura de Feria.Indian Link
Photo: Lila Atta

Bubble Disco 9-18 Jan
Festival Village, Hyde Park
People of all ages can enjoy this free silent disco, with DJs spinning tunes that are sure to get the entire family on the dancefloor and amongst the bountiful floating bubbles! Put on a pair of supplied headphones and dance the afternoon away. Suitable for 4+
Knee Deep 12-17, 20-24, 26 Jan
The Famous Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
Casus Circus has turned the delicate art of egg-balancing into an absolute show stopper. With human shapes twisting and turning, pushing and pulling, soaring and spiralling, Knee Deep is a dazzling display of the capabilities of the human body and a workout to watch for the whole family. Suitable for 8+
The Rabbits.Indian Link
Photo: Jon Green

The Rabbits  14-24 Jan
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay
A deeply moving story of hope amidst colonisation, The Rabbits sparks imaginations of the young and old, inviting us all to question modern society and our role in its future. Kate Miller-Heidke’s exquisite score and performance alongside a cast of opera singers and contemporary musicians, brings John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s haunting picture book to life. Suitable for 8+
My Family’s Weirder Than Your Family 12-16 Jan
The Famous Spiegeltent, Hyde Park
Do you ever feel like you’re the only normal one in your family? Then meet Josh Earl, because he feels your pain. Hear tales of a dad who can’t read maps, a mum who can’t be spoken to when her shows are on and a dog that burps bubbles! It’s family-friendly mayhem with songs, stand-up and cartoons. Suitable for 5+
To view the full program visit: http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2016/

What's On