There was a time in the recent past, let’s call it the era before years were measured in terms of BF and AF (Before Fringe and After Fringe), when things lay dormant until the Perth Festival kicked off.
That was then. This is now.
The 2014 arts year starts in explosive style on the Australia Day long weekend as Fringe World launches six weeks of continuous artistic hedonism for those with the appetite to dive into the Fringe and/or the Perth International Arts Festival, which starts on February 7.
Fringe World this year expands into new spaces (the much-anticipated Pleasure Garden in Northbridge’s Russell Square being one) and encompasses a record 450 shows. Highlights include aspiring cabaret performer and Olympic gold medal diver Matthew Mitcham along with returning favourites Trixie and Monkey, the Wau Wau Sisters, EastEnd Cabaret and Briefs.
PIAF this year has a life-size Stonehenge bouncy castle (I can’t stop writing that as thoughts of Spinal Tap come to mind), a rich dance program and a film season packed with Oscar contenders.
Starting with a free opening spectacular from Spanish pyrotechnics troupe Xarxa Teatre, the Festival’s offerings include Israel’s renowned Batsheva Dance Company, Beijing Dance Theatre, Russian director Dmitry Krymov’s anarchic fantasy A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You like It) and Robert Wilson’s solo show Krapp’s Last Tape.
A prelude this month to those various Festival treats include the family shows Horrible Histories, opening at His Majesty’s this Friday, The Cat in the Hat and seven of the world’s best magic acts in The Illusionists at the Crown Theatre.
Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno. Picture: SuppliedIn the midst of Festival season in February, the first of the year’s big musicals will roll through as Craig McLachlan dons the stilettos and torn fishnets in the 40th anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show, opening on February 14. In July, Grease will be the word when the latest stage version of the Olivia Newton John and John Travolta classic hits town.
Expect one or two more musical announcements early in the year.
Movie star Isabella Rossellini heads to Perth in March to perform her solo comedy stage show Green Porno about the weird and wonderful mating habits of the animal kingdom. She appears at the Perth Concert Hall on March 19.
The Art Gallery of WA, with some room in its exhibition schedule to fill after the premature closure of the Museum of Modern Art series, has been working for some time on a retrospective of influential WA artist Guy Grey-Smith, which opens in March. In August, the gallery will host a touring exhibition from celebrity photographer Richard Avedon, featuring striking images of Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.
At the WA Museum next door, the major international show is Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum in Kabul. Running from July to November, it features more than 230 treasures from along the ancient Silk Road. Many of the artefacts were thought to have been stolen or destroyed during Afghanistan’s 25 years of conflict, particularly during the Taliban’s 2001 campaign to "destroy all images".
More than 20 full-size animatronic dinosaurs will leap to life in a new exhibition at the WA Museum opening in April, complete with a 3-D interactive display and 1500 plant specimens of the Cretaceous period. Dino-mania is also expected to be unleashed over the Easter weekend at the Fremantle Street Arts festival when the creatures of Saurus run amok through the port city.
On a more sedate note, the story of Easter will be played out in The Passion of Christ, the free but ticketed community event in the Government House Gardens.
Back in the theatres, David Suchet, best known as Agatha Christie’s Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, will lead a strong international ensemble cast in The Last Confession. Roger Crane’s play about the intrigues surrounding the papal election and sudden death of Pope John Paul I opens at His Majesty’s Theatre in July.
The Last Confession, Picture: SuppliedAlso in July, Perth’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company will bring Craig Silvey’s award-winning novel Jasper Jones to life in an adaptation by playwright and actor Kate Mulvany. Around the same time, Bell Shakespeare will be touring Henry V to the State Theatre Centre and other WA venues.
The resurgent Black Swan State Theatre Company will make a hot and steamy start to its year with Sigrid Thornton as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire in March. In a season of powerful female characters, Perth-raised Emmy Award winner Greta Scacchi will return in Chekhov’s The Seagull. Also, Ben Elton is rewriting his 1990 West End air-as- commodity satire Gasp for a run in October.
Theatre lovers are still waiting to see what Perth Theatre Company comes up with in 2014, apart from its co-production with Brisbane’s Griffin Theatre, Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography.
Dance will be well served with tours by the Sydney Dance Company, with Rafael Bonachela’s 2 One Another at His Majesty’s Theatre in mid-June, and Bangarra Dance Theatre presenting Patyegarang at the State Theatre Centre from late July.
The first full program from new WA Ballet artistic director Aurelien Scannella includes Romeo and Juliet set to music by Radiohead as part of Ballet at the Quarry, a new production of Giselle and the high-risk gamble of the little-known but light-hearted classic La Fille Mal Gardee. The company’s year closes with Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.
WA Opera cranks up with a six-company international co-production of Otello, the first time in Perth for Verdi’s tragic opera, as part of the Perth Festival. At the other end of the spectrum will be its English-language version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in what is shaping up to be a very busy July in Perth’s theatres.
Another music giant, Beethoven, will dominate the WA Symphony Orchestra season next year with a two-weekend festival devoted to all nine of his symphonies next August.
The WASO and WA Opera also will venture to Northam in April for a community concert to celebrate the 100th anniversary of chief sponsor Wesfarmers.
Under new WASO principal conductor Asher Fisch, the program will include pianists Stephen Hough, Piers Lane and the astonishing Lukas Vondracek, Simone Young conducting Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, Pixar in Concert at the Crown Theatre and choral works Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Messiah.
In May, Lane will pair up with Patricia Routledge, from TV’s Keeping Up Appearances, at His Majesty’s Theatre in Admission One Shilling, the story of the legendary British pianist Myra Hess’ lunchtime concerts at London’s National Gallery during World War II.