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Sefton pushes limits in 2016 Adelaide Festival


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David Sefton’s fourth and final Adelaide Festival will feature one of the loudest bands in the world, a bold and brutal 11-hour theatre trilogy, a pyrotechnics spectacle and a dance work by the late great Pina Bausch.

The artistic director has gained a reputation for the pushing the limits with music over the past three Festivals, and he isn’t  taking his foot off the pedal with the 2016 line-up released today.

The closing-night double bill at the Thebarton Theatre will feature American drone metal band Sunn O))) and French prog-rock ensemble Magma, with hearing protection advised and earplugs to be provided at the venue.

“This is a double event very close to my heart,” says Sefton.

“Sunn O))) are probably the loudest band in the world … their live shows are more ritual than concert. It’s a life-changing thing.

“And Magma are this extraordinary French band formed in 1969. Their entire output is done in a completely made-up language. They define the word ‘cult’ in terms of cult bands.”

The program for the 2016 Festival, which will run from February 26 until March 14, comprises 30 theatre, music, dance and visual arts events, including seven world premieres and 21 Australian premieres.

The launch night event and theatre highlight will be Edinburgh Festival hit The James Plays, a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and National Theatre of Great Britain. An Adelaide exclusive, it comprises a trio of action-packed plays telling the story of three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland during the turbulent 15th century, and can be watched individually or together in one marathon 11-hour sitting. (Read InDaily’s interview with The James Plays director here.)


A scene from Nelken. Photo: Oliver Look

Another Adelaide-only show will be the dream-like Nelken, by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, which is performed by 23 dancers and four stuntmen on a stage covered in silk carnations. It will be the first time in 16 years that the German company created by the celebrated choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch has visited Australia and the first time since 1982 that it has performed in Adelaide.

The Festival’s largest event, on February 27, will be the previously announced À Fleur de Peau, a stadium spectacular by French company Groupe F at Adelaide Oval combining pyrotechnics, video imagery and an electro-acoustic soundtrack.

Although it will use only half the Oval’s capacity, with seating for around 20,000 on the lower levels of the stadium and the ground itself, Sefton said it was still the biggest event the Festival had undertaken. Around 10,000 tickets have already been sold.


Pyrotechnics by Groupe F. Photo: Daniel Roblin

It will be the first time since 2012 that the official opening event hasn’t been free, and the first time in a number of years that there hasn’t been a late-night Festival club or hub such as the Blinc Bar (2015), Lola’s Pergola (2014) and the immensely popular Barrio (2012-13).

“It was very ground-breaking when we did it back then [Barrio], but it’s just not the business we need to be in,” Sefton told InDaily.

“There’s so many options that I don’t think it’s the Festival’s job to be in competition with Fringe drinking venues.”

Sefton said one of the original goals of the late-night clubs was to attract a younger audience. However, he believed that had been achieved over recent Festivals through a more diverse program such as the Unsound series of experimental and underground music, which will return in 2016.

Other edgy shows on the program include Italian theatre-maker Romeo Castellucci’s Go Down, Moses, a dark, esoteric production based loosely around the story of Moses, and Canadian dance company The Holy Body Tattoo’s monumental, which combines film projections, light sculptures and live music by post-rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor.


A scene from Go Down, Moses. Photo: Guido Mencari

For his “last hurrah”, Sefton is also shining a spotlight on South Australian artistic talent, with works by eight local companies. These include Australian Dance Theatre’s latest production, Habitus; a new show by theatre company Slingsby titled The Young King, to be presented at the old Dazzeland amusement complex site in the Myer Centre; and the Australian String Quartet’s Alleged Dancers.

“Because it’s my last fling, as it were, it’s a chance to pull together all the interesting work locally, because I think there’s a lot of good things come out of the scene here,” he says.

“It’s a statement.”

The Adelaide Festival also incorporates Adelaide Writers’ Week, with the first collection of guest writers announced today including Andrew O’Hagan (The Illuminations), Magda Szubanski (Reckoning), Charlotte Wood (The Natural Way of Things), Drusilla Modjeska (Second Half First), Lisa Genova (Still Alice), Patrick Gale (A Place Called Winter) and Kate Grenville (One Life: My Mother’s Story).

Other 2016 Adelaide Festival events include:

Tectonics: New orchestral works curated by Israeli conductor Ilan Volkov and featuring the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Magic Object – the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Presented by the Art Gallery of SA across a number of venues, Magic Object will showcase art that defies classification and seeks to arouse curiosity.

Golem: A dystopian fable presented by UK theatre company 1927 which features handmade animation, claymation, live music and stylised performance.


UK theatre company 1927’s Golem. Photo: Bernhard Mueller

Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo: The Broadway version of the family-friendly, interactive Dinosaur Zoo, with realistic puppetry that “reverses extinction”. Erth will also present its new show Prehistoric Aquarium.

Sufjan Stevens: The American singer-songwriter will play at the Thebarton Theatre with a full band, performing material from his back catalogue and new album.

Deluge: The debut show by new SA theatre company Tiny Bricks (Phillip Kavanagh and Nescha Jelk) in which five plays featuring 10 characters will run simultaneously in a theatre-in-the-round setting at Plant 1 in Bowden.

Vernissage Weekend: Replacing the former Artists’ Week and aiming to appeal to a broader audience, Vernissage will feature free artist talks, panels and performances with the theme Wunderkammer – a weekend of ideas, wonder and revelation.

Full program details can be found in an interactive guide on the Adelaide Festival website.

Read InDaily’s story about the first WOMADelaide 2016 artist announcement here.

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