The Brisbane Festival kicked off over the weekend amid a cloud of smoke (yes, really – there’s a smoke machine at festival HQ Arcadia). The three-week cultural event, devised by artistic director David Berthold, is brimming with dance, music, comedy and theatre shows from Australia and around the world. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
Blanc de Blanc
Taking as its inspiration that most celebratory of drinks, Champagne, the show is just like its namesake: frothy, fun and prone to inducing silliness. There’s no narrative but the spectacle is so entertaining you’re unlikely to feel the need for one. Titillating, bawdy and occasionally laboured, Blanc de Blanc is a series of cabaret and acrobatic acts ranging from the absurd (the grovelling sidekick played to bendy perfection by Spencer Novich) to the incredible (Masha Terentieva’s acrobatic mid-air performance on a hotel luggage trolley). Prepare for nudity, salacious jokes and some interesting props; the performers’ lack of inhibition extends to the audience, which laps it up while dancing and drinking Champagne.
En Avant, Marche!
The French phrase “En avant, marche!” translates as “Forward march!”. In this musical extravaganza, it also refers to the slow march towards death of a former marching-band trombonist. Lest you fear a mournful examination of life and death, know that this story of a music community is actually a joyous profusion of brass-band performances, opera, dance and theatre. At times, the stage is nearly overwhelmed by performers (there are almost 40 of them) so it’s hard to know where to look. It’s a life-affirming celebration of working together in harmony – much like a brass band.
This ballet is a coup for Brisbane: it’s the only city in the country where Snow White is being performed. The retelling of the classic story, which pits the innocent Snow White against her envious stepmother, draws heavily from the Brothers Grimm tale – it’s dark, unnerving and beautiful. Created by French dancer and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, Snow White is set to a dramatic score of Gustav Mahler symphonies, played by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and is performed by a roster of some of France’s most talented dancers. The costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and the enormous sets by Thierry Laproust add to the drama. This fairytale is most definitely not for children.
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The Adventures of Broer & Zus
The first day of school is traumatic enough but imagine what it would be like if you were from a “far away place”. For twins Broer and Zus, who have recently migrated to Australia, it does not start well; as you’d expect, it feels like the end of the world. But as the day progresses (through song, dance, puppetry, circus acts and flatulence), the kids see there’s nothing to be afraid of. The writers and performers, Eloise Green and Samuel McMahon, have worked as teachers and know just how to inspire, entertain and tickle kids (see: flatulence).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Nerf guns in a Shakespeare play? That’s the least of it in this cheeky take on the Bard’s most famous comedy. You can expect superheroes, a food fight and spontaneous bursts of song. On stage, a band creates the soundscape, which includes everything from Barry White to The Ramones. Two former Royal Shakespeare Company collaborators conceived the show as a way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Somehow, we think he’d approve of this anarchic and irreverent production.