Sydney Festival 2022

Sydney Festival 2022

Image: Wudjang: Not the Past. Photographer: Daniel Boud.

Sydney Festival’s 2022 line-up – the first helmed by artistic director Olivia Ansell – has been announced.

Events range from mainstage gigs for 12,000 to intricate musical moments ensconced in the city’s waterways; from Broadway hits to a ballet of BMX bikes; from a symphony under the stars to a cacophonous contemporary corroboree; from intimate moments for one to a rave on Mount Olympus

Spanning 133 events – including 33 world premieres and 52 new commissions – over 25 days, Sydney will burst to life with activity from 6–30 January. Upon unveiling her first program, Olivia Ansell said: “We are thrilled to reunite artists with audiences this summer, unleashing a compelling and diverse line-up of world class performing and visual arts experiences to be enjoyed outdoors, indoors and online. Sydneysiders and visitors alike can rediscover their city differently, through a contemporary, immersive, irreverent and imaginative lens. Sydney Festival’s 2022 program will play a crucial role in restoring culture safely to our city”.

Image: A Chorus Line. Photographer: Robert Catto.

“As Sydney reopens, the community is eager to get out once again and make the most of the summer. It is fitting that we launch the year with the inaugural Sydney Festival program from Director Olivia Ansell, who will bring her incredible breadth of experience and passion to the Festival,” says Minister for the Arts Don Harwin.

“The NSW Government has been a proud supporter of Sydney Festival since 1977 and we look forward to the program of new and contemporary Australian and international works. Get your tickets quickly!”

Below, we share the Festival’s descriptions of the theatre, dance and circus events which we know will be of interest to our readers.


Stories from the past make their mark on the present in an epic-scale contemporary corroboree by Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company. 17 dancers, four musicians and five actors fill the stage with dance, poetry and song, as Wudjang: Not the Past reveals the power of messages that speak to us through the generations.

Image: Qween Lear

This festival, the iconic Hordern Pavilion will bear witness to the fall of a qweendom. In a hedonistic world of love, fetish and all-original house music, an ageing drag matriarch is abdicating their throne. Part rave, part theatrical extravaganza, Qween Lear propels you through the raucous history of Sydney’s queer nightlife, immersing audiences in the excess and ecstasy of an era gone, but not forgotten.

When two skeletons emerge from the dried-up creek bed of a remote Queensland farm, the fates of three women thousands of kilometers apart become deeply intertwined. Part concert, part story, part ceremony, 宿 (stay) is an evocative new collaboration between the writer Counting and Cracking, S. Shakthidharan and Singapore musical ensemble, SAtheCollective.

Image: Girl From the North Country.

The magic of theatre meets the music of Bob Dylan in Girl From the North Country. Written and directed by multi award-winner Conor McPherson and starring Lisa McCune, Zahra Newman, Helen Dallimore and Peter Carroll, this strictly limited Australian premiere season with Sydney Festival is one of the first productions to grace the stage at the newly restored Theatre Royal.

Image: Yung Lung. Photographer: Peter Tarasiuk.

Stomping on history while dancing to a new dawn, Yung Lung is a rave on Mount Olympus from Chunky Move, one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies. Devised by artistic director Antony Hamilton, Yung Lung comes to life via a host of co-conspirators—dancers stomp on a god-like effigy by artist Callum Morton, as a barrage of online imagery manipulated by music video director Kris Moyes rains down; and sweat soaks through Perks & Mini- designed club regalia as Bosco Shaw’s lighting pulsates to the bass-heavy soundtrack of Melbourne techno experimentalist Chiara Kickdrum.

Now in its fourth incarnation at Sydney Festival, The Vigil: Songs for Tomorrow will be an intimate night of contemporary ceremony, song and fire led by the new generation of First Nations artists – an evening gathering of music, ceremony and fire to continue the conversation around identity, the future and January 26.


Global blockbusters, world premieres and new commissions – the 2022 program brings  brings back a classic; and shines a light on outstanding works from some of Sydney’s most beloved theatre companies, affected or cancelled by the pandemic over the past year.

Nat Randall and Anna Breckon, co-creators of the marathon performance The Second Woman, join forces once more to explode the conventions of the couple drama and explore the ordinary and extraordinary facets of queer relationships in Set Piece. Nuanced camera work crushes the distance between observer and observed, theatre and film, and fantasy and reality in this powerfully intimate theatre-film experiment in which lesbian fantasy meets the queer ordinary.

Image: small metal objects

An ingenious theatrical gem, small metal objects unfolds amidst the pedestrian traffic against the backdrop of Circular Quay, its moments of intensity – unnoticed by passers-by – are whispered right into your ears via a personal set of headphones. Created by Victoria’s celebrated Back to Back Theatre, this award-winning production was part of Sydney Festival’s 2008 program, going on to play in cities New York to Tokyo, and Vienna to Hong Kong.

A leafy park near Darlinghurst’s fabled Wall echoes with the ghosts of its past as two men tackle an unpredictable Grindr date at Green Park. Audiences eavesdrop on an intense private encounter in a very public place in this site-specific slice of park noir by Elias Jamieson Brown. Steve Le Marquand and Joseph Althouse reprise their roles in this critically acclaimed production directed by Declan Greene, Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre Company.

Image: The Nightline. Photographer: Sarah Walker.

Lonely hearts and nightlife fiends. Insomniacs and shift workers. Guardians over restless babies and wide-eyed truckies barrelling down the highway. These are just some of the voices of The Nightline. Collected anonymously on a special hotline and arranged by pioneering audio theatremaker Roslyn Oades and sound artist Bob Scott, The Nightline is a sonic collage of Australia’s nocturnal soul.

Of all the stories Jane Hutcheon has encountered as an ABC journalist, China correspondent, war zone reporter and author, one has intrigued her more than any other: that of her mother Beatrice’s turbulent childhood in pre-Communist Shanghai. Visiting Shanghai in 2018, Jane began to search for the truth of her mother’s difficult beginnings. Lost in Shanghai is the result – a story of an ordinary Eurasian family in extraordinary times, set against a backdrop of fading colonial opulence, civil war and revolution.

Image: Black Brass.

A hit at the 2021 Perth Festival, Black Brass is a play of voyaging and discovery told through tongues that span a continent (Shangana, Swahili, Kikuyu, Xhosa, as well as English) and through music and song. Soulful, uplifting, it takes everyone in the room into the rich complexity of here and now. Performed by Mararo Wangai, joined onstage by composer-musician Mahamudo Selimane. Black Brass is a work that stimulates all the senses – and opens the heart.

It’s been a long time coming. Postponed twice due to COVID-19, Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s new production of a legendary dance musical A Chorus Line finally arrives. Dive into a world of sweat and sacrifice, featuring new choreography by Amy Campbell, in this gritty reimagining of a classic.

Image: Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran. Photographer: Peter Dibdin.

Winner of the 2019 Scotsman Fringe First Award, Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran is a darkly comedic, urgent new play about entitlement, consumption and digital technology, that explores the ubiquitous feeling that our societies are falling apart. Combining digital theatre and a live Instagram feed, it is second part of a trilogy of plays from writer Javaad Alipoor about how digital technology, resentment and fracturing identities are changing the world.

Fereydoun Farrokhzad was the Middle East's greatest popstar of the ‘70s – think Tom Jones or Freddy Mercury. By 1981 he was a refugee: working in a German grocer. Six months before being found brutally murdered in an unsolved case, he performed to sold out audiences over two nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall. A co-production between festival spotlight artist Javaad Alipoor, Sydney Festival, and the National Theatre of Parramatta Things Hidden Since the Foundation of The World is a multimedia digital theatre piece that explores the mysteries surrounding Farrokhzad’s untimely death.

Image: Oliver Twist.

Refusing to be defined by a turbulent past, comedian and performer Oliver Twist reflects on his time as a refugee while carefully unpacking his present-day experiences in JALI. Delicately told and impossible to forget, this one-person show proves that exceptional storytelling and belly-aching laughter are powerful antidotes to trauma.

Following a successful series of development readings staged as part of Sydney Festival in 2021, Seymour Centre will present the world premiere production of The Museum of Modern Love. Adapted from the Stella Prize-winning novel by Heather Rose, The Museum of Modern Love is explores dying and living, courage and commitment—and meditates on the power of art to unite and connect us, even in an increasingly disconnected world.

Image: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Edward Albee’s scalding portrait of 1960s America – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – erupted onto the Broadway stage in 1962 and has captivated audiences ever since. Now acclaimed First Nations director and actor Margaret Harvey (Black Medea, RAN: Remote Area Nurse) pulls the rug out from under a whole new generation of viewers with a modern, race-conscious and revealingly Australian interrogation of this dinner-dive into illusion, identity and desire.

Image: Perahu-Perahu.

Our bond with the sea is explored in Perahu-Perahu – a work of shadow theatre and music. Hundreds of intricate cut-outs trip the light fantastic in a playful piece inspired by the vessels that have sailed between the Indonesian archipelago and Australia. Perahu-Perahu, which means “boats” in Indonesian, is a collaboration between Indonesian-Australian artists Jumaadi and Michael Toisuta.

In 44 Sex Acts, five comic actors get busy on microphones and fruit in this slippery and subversive take on a classic radio play. A response to humanity’s decision to go harder, faster, faster, FASTER! towards the end of the world as we know it.

Image: Chewing Gum Dreams.

Directed by Bernadette Fam and presented by Green Door Theatre Company and Red Line Productions, Chewing Gum Dreams is a ride through the last precious days of childhood. From the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning playwright and creator of Chewing Gum and I May Destroy Michaela Coel's, comes this fire cracking work that will delight you, before it smacks you harder than the 67 bus.

On a sweltering summer morning in 1892, in a small American town, a prominent businessman and his wife were brutally axed to death in their home. Their daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect. Lizzie’s trial was a coast-to-coast media sensation, and her story has become legend. Lizzie, presented by Hayes Theatre Co, is a revenge tale for our times set to a blistering score, inspired by Bikini Kill, the Runaways, and Hole.


From major international collaborations to urgent interrogations of our national institutions, the 2020 dance program features works from Australia’s leading dance companies.

Sparkling with physical refinement, vitality, and impact, Decadance is contemporary dance that speaks to everyone. Performed by our own incomparable Sydney Dance Company, Decadance features excerpts of the visionary choreographer Ohad Naharin’s works, including Echad Mi Yodea, crafted over a decade with Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company and remoulded into a coherent whole.

Image: Jurrungu. Photographer: Abby Murray.

Alternately challenging and joyful, Jurrungu Ngan-ga — literally ‘Straight Talk’— tears down walls and builds bridges in a frank conversation with the Australian psyche. Created by Marrugeku —Australia’s leading Indigenous-intercultural dance company Jurrungu Ngan-ga is inspired by perspectives on incarceration shared with Marrugeku by Yawuru leader Patrick Dodson, as well as Kurdish-Iranian writer and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani – a powerful and provocative new dance work.

From climate change to mass extinction events, to the effects of our widening wealth gap, Grey Rhinos are all around us, threatening carnage. A collaboration between award winning choreographers Charmene Yap and Cass Mortimer Eipper, Grey Rhino is an audacious new dance epic which warns us to heed the dangers hidden in plain sight.

Image: Mirage. Photographer: Joshua Morris.

Inspired by the enigmatic optical phenomenon, Mirage is a new full-length dance work by choreographer and dancer Martin del Amo and collaborator Miranda Wheen that conjuries a shimmering world that oscillates between expectation and unpredictability. Fusing dance with striking visual design with a mesmerising score by American post-modern composer Morton Feldman, the work creates a multidimensional reality, in which nothing is what it seems...

For one night only, revellers at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) will be transported to an underground Vogue dancefloor when The West Ball 3 takes over, while across town at The Bearded Tit a special live streaming party of the event will take place. Born from the 1970’s in New York City with queer and trans communities of colour competing in “walks” of various categories that mix performance, dance and modelling, Australia’s ballroom scene has quickly taken off in the past five years.


Kinetic displays of acrobatic skill, prehistoric time shifts, captivating dreamscapes and free outdoor family events throughout Sydney see all ages across the city catered for.

Image: The Pulse. Photographer: Darcy Grant.

World-renowned Gravity & Other Myths, who brought Backbone to the festival in 2018, return with a work of mighty ambition. Pulse is a euphoric symphony of strength, sinew and haunting song, which sends humans into the air and hearts into mouths. Experience 24 acrobats and 26 voices from the Sydney Philharmonia Choir in this a vast and intricate epic folding and unfolding before you.

Directed by acclaimed Circus Monoxide Artistic Director, Zebastian Hunter The Construct is a poignant and playful mix-up of circus and contemporary dance, created in direct response to the effects of living in lockdown. Flying, tumbling and contorting across a cube of welded steel, aXis’s elite ensemble reflects who we are in the new normal.

Image: Demo. Photographer: Mark Metcalfe.

What happens when you throw a fistful of champion skaters, dancers, freerunners, BMXers and a blast of paint powder onto a half pipe together? Dial up the beats and you get DEMO, an exhilarating display of tightly choregraphed mayhem by award-winning physical theatre/street style outfit Branch Nebula, which us set to takeover Century Square in Paramatta.

Settle in for an absorbing Baroque experience. Propelled by the vivacious Brandenburg String Orchestra and gilded with the physical feats of Circa, two of Australia’s finest creative companies meld music and acrobatics into an exploration of four proud and ancient cities of Italy in Italian Baroque with Circa.

Image: Erth's Prehistoric Picnic. Photographer: Cassandra Hannagan.

It’s been a while – 65 million years, actually – since Sydney echoed to the calls and footsteps of dinosaurs. Now, thanks to Erth, Sydney’s world-famous dino- recreationists, it’s like they never left. Made to spark feelings of wonder, Erth’s Prehistoric Picnic sends Parramatta Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens back to the wilderness of a distant era. A delight for the whole family, all you have to do is pack a picnic and prepare to get very close to your favourite ancient creatures.

A fluttering wonderland of swirling, pouring shredded paper, Fluffy is an interactive family show and free-play environment where mess is beautiful, creativity builds adventure and imagination runs amok. Guided by Artbomb’s performers, this confetti cosmos champions art, collaboration and compost.

Image: ZOOOM

Combining old school whimsy with state-of-the-art technology, ZOOOM is an enchanting story of a child alone in her bedroom, unable to sleep and curious to understand. Part music video, part dream, ZOOOM is a show about all sorts of perspective. Inspired by iconic children’s book “Harold and The Purple Crayon,” ZOOOM channels the same philosophy; a child who makes sense of their world through art.

A mini festival within the festival, FUNPARK celebrates place, culture, young people and the community of Bidwill, Mt Druitt. FUNPARK merges contemporary art practices with local experiences, offering a diverse array of talent, activities and place-based activation. Now in its eighth year, the FUNPARK Coalition once again invites Sydney Festival audiences to come and experience local stories, talent and unique community connections.

Image: Magical Putt Putt. Emily Crockford, Thom Roberts, Daniel Kim and Rosie Deacon.

In Magical Putt Putt, Studio A artists teach us to think differently and more expansively about the relationships between individuals and our communities. Using digital art, sculpture, two-dimensional work and a range of performative activations, Studio A promises an interactive exhibition that considers the connection between metaphysical and material worlds, between reverence and revelry with putt putt at its heart.

Sydney Festival 2022 6 – 30 January

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.