NEWS: The Lowdown on PIAF 2015 – theatre, opera and dance

As I sit here in the afterglow of PIAF’s 2015 launch, the festival program is cracked open next to me, emitting a pungent hot-off-the-press smell. I haven’t even yet scoured its semi-glossed leaves to check the fine print of its contents and search for shows and events that might have not been headline-grabbing enough to make it into the launch event proper. I feel like someone left something out, omitted a major detail — oh my god we’re at the altar, where are the wedding rings?? oh my god we’re at the airport, where are the passports?? But no, as I flip through the Theatre and Circus section (why these two are always paired within the festival’s framework, I don’t quite understand, but whaddo I know?) I see that there’s nothing else to be found, no other secret festival Easter egg tucked away at the end of the brochure for those of us who actually read the darn things before tossing them into a pile in the corner.

So from a global arts perspective, this year’s PIAF is chock full of goodness. The contemporary music section is killer, the Lotterywest films are probably going to keep the whole town running from UWA to Joondalup on a regular basis, and of course, let’s not ignore the big ticket item PIAF is forking out for: The Giants. There is plenty to see and do if you like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But if, like me, you concentrate on theatre because that’s all you have time for because, astoundingly, improbably, there’s always so much theatre to see in Perth, then maybe you might be a teensy weensy little bit underwhelmed by what’s on the menu. Especially given the lavish banquet we were given at this year’s PIAF: Mies Julie, An Iliad, Krapp’s Last Tape (even though I hated that), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It), The Shadow King, 1507….those are just the ones I got to see. There were more that I missed out on simply because I couldn’t find time. This year there appears to be only five theatre works total.

So, given that pickings are a bit slim next year, I feel like it’s my duty to tell you that you must RUN, not walk, to book your tickets to The Paper Architect. This will be the hottest theatre ticket in the festival and it WILL sell out. It will be like Proximity Festival: very few tickets per performance and only 10 performances, gone in a few days. PIAF presented a short film of the work, and it looks BEAUTIFUL. It’s like fast-forwarding to a Tim Watts piece 40 years in the future, with miniatures and screens and lights and fantasy, but really honed and finely detailed. It’s going to be goose-pimply and awe-inspiring. Get on it.

Black Diggers is the festival’s headlining theatre production and is presented by Queensland Theatre Company and Sydney Festival, in association with Perth Theatre Trust. It’s written by Tom Wright and directed by Wesley Enoch (who has been at the helm of BSSTC’s current and final production of the season, Gasp! by Ben Elton). It’s supported by the ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and tells the untold story of Indigenous soldiers who fought in WWI. It’s on in early March for 5 nights at the STC, and should be a top priority for your festival lineup.

Of course, there’s going to be some Beckett. His Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby triptych will be performed by Lisa Dwan down at the Studio Underground mid-Feb. Let’s hope this is far more palatable than Robert Wilson’s Krapp’s Last Tape. I will never forgive Wilson for that.

And from South Africa this year we have Ubu and the Truth Commission, conceived and directed by William Kentridge, written by Jane Taylor, with puppets designed by Adrian Kohler. Sure to be innovative, imaginative, tangible and physical, this production is brought to us by Handspring Puppet Company, the folks behind the much-acclaimed War Horse. It deals with post-apartheid matters, so will be sure to have special resonance with Australian audiences, as there are likely to be many parallels to Australia’s race-related struggles (am I allowed to call it Australian apartheid?). Check it out down at the STC end of February.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST WE HAVE A MOBILE PHONE PLAY. Yay. Haven’t seen enough of those lately. Ok, sorry, that was a bit cynical. This one’s from the UK called I Wish I Was Lonely and apparently you get to take your mobiles into the performance, keep them on and keep the sound up. If you get a text or a Facebook message or a Tinder notification, the performers will deal with it, on the spot. So be prepared for interaction/participation and make sure your battery has plenty of charge. You wouldn’t want to be that guy that ruins it for everybody.


Other than that, we’ve got Opera and Dance. PIAF is giving us Puccini’s Madama Butterfly directed by Anthony Minghella, which by all accounts is absolutely staggering, and another opera, The Rabbits, based on the book illustrated by Shaun Tan, presented by Barking Gecko and composed by Kate Miller-Heidke and libretto by Lally Katz.  Also receiving a lot of fanfare in the dance category are the Mark Morris Dance Group, who will be presenting Mozart Dances, and Aakash Odedra Company, who will be presenting a one-man contemporary dance piece called Rising, choreographed by four of contemporary dance’s most prestigious choreographers. WA Ballet is doing a show down at The Quarry called Zip Zap Zoom.

Finally, defying genre, is Cut the Sky, which is part dance and part storytelling by Marrugeku; although this is not listed under PIAF’s theatre section, I am leaning towards it being physical theatre or at the very least dance theatre, and therefore something that the theatre community should put its sights on. The concept is by Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain, directed by Swain, and choreographed by Pigram, along with Serge Aime Coulibaly. Edwin Lee Mulligan is the storyteller of this work about land and what lies beneath and above it.

That covers just about everything that fits in the scope of this particular blog. There are some exciting entries in the Classical and Contemporary music programming, not to mention the film section. And don’t overlook the Visual Arts programming, the Perth Writers Festival and the Great Southern Festival. Do you feel tired and broke already? I do. So start planning, saving and sleeping now ahead of next year’s cultural tsunami that is FESTIVAL SEASON. (Don’t even get me started on Fringe, because that hasn’t launched yet.)

Happy New Festival Year!

Cicely Binford

2 thoughts on “NEWS: The Lowdown on PIAF 2015 – theatre, opera and dance

  1. It’s funny that it does not get interesting until the ‘Other than that . . . ‘ paragraph. I can’t get excited about the headline acts.

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