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OzAsia Festival reveals 2018 line-up


From a play exposing the human cost of the Syrian conflict, to a dance with Shaolin monks and a hyper-real Chinese performance about millennials in a cyber world, this year’s OzAsia will highlight the diversity of contemporary Asian arts and culture.

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Released today, the program for the October 25 – November 11 festival features around 60 events, including five world premieres, 20 Australian premieres and 22 shows that are exclusive to Adelaide.

“There’s a theme of displacement that runs through the program  – and displacement can be a good and a bad thing; you see that across a lot of works,” artistic director Joseph Mitchell tells InDaily.

“For example, in [the previously announced Chinese play] Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, it’s very much about the displacement of people as a result of the Chinese Revolution … and also the piece from Syria, which is about the state of Syria at the moment and how that’s affected an everyday family living their life in Damascus.

“Because of the circumstances of the civil war, it’s a very fractured family – the protagonist is literally in a coma, so he’s displaced from both life and death.

“He’s hovering in a state of nowhere and that’s very much how the writer and director see Syria at the moment – in this kind of purgatory.”

While I Was Waiting, which Mitchell says is the first Syrian play to be presented at OzAsia, is not a factual retelling of actual events but is inspired by the brutal beating which a friend of director Omar Abusaada suffered at a security checkpoint in Damascus.

“It’s set in 2014, but of course the civil war is still raging today so it’s a very timely piece.”

Syrian play While I Was Waiting is presented on a two-tiered stage.

Another program highlight nominated by Mitchell is Belgian dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra, a Sadler’s Wells London production performed with 19 Shaolin monks.

Cherkaoui created Sutra – an acrobatic work, performed on a set of wooden boxes – after spending several months in the early 2000s in a Shaolin temple in China. Because it is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, he will perform the principal role himself for the three shows in Adelaide.

“It is the work that really put him into the stratosphere as one of the best choreographers in the world… it’s a really defining masterpiece,” Mitchell says

“This is a really rare opportunity to get to see him on stage now.”

Among the cutting-edge, contemporary productions audiences have come to expect from Mitchell, one of this year’s more unusual will be Chinese performance installation Here is the Message You Asked For … Don’t Tell Anyone Else.

Taking its name from a virus and directed by Beijing fringe theatre-maker Sun Xiaoxing, the show sees the audience members acting as both voyeurs and participants as seven millennial girls sit on stage in their rooms using their phones and computers, dressing up as cosplay characters, eating junk food and generally living in a cyber reality. The performers also create a live “post-rock” score.

While the performance is intended as a kind of portrait of the way some young people displace themselves from reality by living a digital existence, Mitchell says the director doesn’t seek to make any judgment.

“What’s fascinating about it is that there’s no narrative per se; you essentially observe these girls.

“Everyone in the audience should download WeChat and they can then engage with them by messaging back and forth.”

The 2018 OzAsia Festival will begin around a month later than usual, to take advantage of slightly warmer temperatures and daylight saving for the Lucky Dumpling Market and outdoor festival hub in Elder Park. The always-popular Moon Lantern Parade will take place in Elder Park on October 27.

Other 2018 OzAsia Festival highlights include:

Nassim: A work from Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, whose play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit has been performed at Adelaide Fringe a number of times. Nassim centres on the role of language, and is performed each night be a different actor who hasn’t seen the script or had any opportunity to rehearse the play. The performers for the Adelaide season will be rapper Joelistics, actor Paul Blackwell and The Chaser‘s Alex Lee. “It’s a lot of fun, unpredictable and ultimately a very special experience… it’s a very emotional and powerful piece,” says Mitchell.

Say No More: Twenty-six female artists with and without disabilities from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia come together to “share truths, debunk myths and expose the lies that we tell ourselves about being women” in this collaborative work combining visual art and performance. Presented by Adelaide’s Tutti Arts with international partners Perspektif and Stepping Stone, it explores the women’s diverse views on marriage and will be performed at the Adelaide Town Hall’s Meeting Hall.

Jee Young Lee exhibition: Korean artist Lee, whose work features on the OzAsia program cover, is one of five female artists presenting OzAsia exhibitions which Mitchell says all recontextualise history in some way. She creates immersive installations, or sets, inspired by her own surreal dreamscapes and photographs herself within them. Lee will build an installation in Gallery 3 at Festival Centre during the festival.

Dancing Grandmothers: Glitter balls, ’70s hybrid disco pop, dancing Korean grandmothers and professional dancers all come together in this colourful show by choreographer Eun-Me Ahn. One of several early festival announcements, it is inspired by the generation of women who lived through a period of great upheaval in Korea, with a different group of grandmothers invited to join the show during each tour.

The full OzAsia Festival program can be viewed online from 7pm tonight. 

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