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Sydney Festival reviews

Read all our reviews of the 2019 program

Sydney Festival general image 2019
Photograph: Prudence Upton
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Time Out's review team is out in force over the month of January, taking in all that Sydney Festival has to offer from January 9 to 27. But what shows and events are worth your time and money? Here are all our reviews: wild spiegeltent cabarets, big international acts, local gems, spectacular dance, avant-garde theatre and more.

Recommended: The best shows in Sydney this month and how to score cheap tickets.

1
Julia Holter and her band on stage at Sydney Festival
Photograph: Prudence Upton
News, Music

Julia Holter review

It wasn’t a comfortable start to Julia Holter’s Sunday evening performance at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent: we felt like sardines, seated shoulder to shoulder, unable to wrestle free for relief from the clammy enclosure. But the impressive turnout for the Los Angeles-based musician, who is known for her avant-garde musical compositions with influences spanning pop and folk to classical music, was promising – perhaps Sydney’s live music fans are more dedicated than some give them credit?

2
Marliya choir sining Spinifex Gum song cycle
Photograph: Jamie Williams
News, Music

Spinifex Gum review

You know that warm feeling you got when you watched a bunch of high school kids take more affirmative action on climate change in a national protest than the sitting cabinet? You get the same feeling when you watch the Marliya choral group of young Indigenous women singing protest songs in pitch perfect unison and tight harmonies about mining practices, incarceration, and community closures in the Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House.

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3
Artist Jonathan Bree on stage at Sydney Festival 2019
Photograph: Victor Frankowski
News, Music

Jonathan Bree review

Staring into the eyes of a singer whose entire face is covered by a white mask is a disturbing experience. New Zealand singer-songwriter Jonathan Bree is standing centre stage at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in Hyde Park – he’s flanked by two dancers dressed head to toe in white, plus a drummer and a bassist, all wearing white masks and gloves. No inch of skin on show. 

4
Harpist Mary Lattimore at Sydney Festival, playing at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre
Photograph: Prudence Upton
News, Music

Mary Lattimore at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre review

It’s an eerie experience to enter a cold, dark swimming pool late at night. It’s stranger still to do it to the gentle lullaby of plucked strings on a giant harp that you’ll continue to hear reverberating underwater as you swim. 

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5
Neneh Cherry performing at Carriageworks, Sydney
Photograph: Victor Frankowski
News, Music

Neneh Cherry review

Say the name Neneh Cherry to most people and they’ll recall her explosively thrilling debut single, ‘Buffalo Stance,’ or perhaps her collaboration with Senegalese vocalist Youssou N’Dour, the plaintively haunting ‘Seven Seconds.’ These previously ubiquitous hits were released in 1988 and 1994 respectively but, given she’s comfortably sold out two consecutive nights at Carriageworks as part of Sydney Festival, it’s fair to say Cherry still has a loyal following.

Has all that art left you hungry?

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