Free things to do in Sydney today
Budding horticulturalists who like plants with attitude should head to the Royal Botanical Gardens from October 1 for a free exhibition of carnivorous greenery. The Calyx will be filled with 25,000 of the world’s hungriest, most clever plants. Watch as the venus fly trap lures unsuspecting insects with nectar and snaps them up in its jaws, where they’ll spend their final days being slowly digested. Or meet the drosera, who use their sticky tentacles to attract and snatch their prey before devouring them. Then marvel at the simplicity of the pitcher plant’s hunting technique, which is to lure hapless bugs with honey and let them fall into the pool of digestive enzymes in their pitfall trap. The Plants with Bite display does sound a little like a horror film, but it’s really all bark and no bite (for humans, anyway) and families can expect a very kid-friendly experience. Plus, there will be a range of themed education programs, workshops and a regular feeding display that will intrigue little greenthumbs and their grown-ups.
Whether it be issues surrounding homelessness, domestic violence, sustainable development or nomadic lifestyles, The Ideal Home finds a way to analyse the subject. The exhibition features watercolours, textile artwork, found objects and video installations which all provide commentary on the last century of evolution within Australian families and the concept of home. The Penrith Regional Gallery has partnered with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to produce this series of visual displays, and will house 70 objects from the MAAS collection along with newly commissioned pieces inside the historic gallery. The Western Sydney structure was originally the homestead of two artists prominent in Australian modernism, Margo and Gerald Lewers. When visiting, you’ll find detailed work by eX De Medici that explores domestic violence using tiles made of bullet casings and a wall of flowers that wilt over the course of the exhibition; Blake Griffiths will consider material possessions and home in the age of excess by weaving a blanket with waste products; and Richard Goodwin’s micro-home built out of found objects will examine homelessness and the global refugee crisis. The Penrith Regional Gallery will host this portion of the exhibition concurrently with MAAS until March 24.
This long running, fascinating investigation into museum curation gives visitors insight into how and why historically and culturally significant objects are moved around the globe. It’s sure to tackle some controversial topics related to ownership and heritage of artefacts, but also the value of having access to items which contribute to our understanding of different cultures, social groups and histories. Some particularly intriguing questions may also come up, like how the torso of an Egyptian statue came to reside in Sydney, while its head still calls Cairo home. But what really unveils the truth behind these stories of diaspora and reveals more about the objects, is the connections between museums themselves. The Connections exhibition, divided into connections between identities, structures, assemblages and meanings, will be the last to feature at the Nicholson Museum, before it, the Macleay and Art Gallery collections are moved to the Chau Chak Wing Museum in 2020.
The MCA's collection hang is where you go to get an overview of Australian contemporary art – and it's less daunting than it sounds. The last time they curated the hang was in 2012 (MCA Collection: Volume One), for the launch of the re-designed building, so there are a whola lotta new eye-candies to wrap your brain around. Although several works in the first room of the exhibition do take 'time' as their theme (including Stuart Ringholt's giant clock) curator Natasha Bullock, who masterminded the new hang, says the theme is more broadly connected to the ways in which the works in the show connected to histories of different kinds. Bullock deliberately messed with the Western linear notion of time in the exhibition's title, and explains that the indigenous concept of time would be better visualised in a circular pattern, in which present, future and past are connected. Artists in Today Tomorrow Yesterday include: Vernon Ah Kee, James Angus, Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council), John Barbour, Gordon Bennett, Daniel Boyd, Pat Brassington, Bob Burruwal, A.D.S Donaldson, Mikala Dwyer, Dale Frank, Marco Fusinato, Matthys Gerber, Kevin Gilbert, Julia Gorman, Fiona Hall, Robert Hunter, Robert MacPherson, Sanné Mestrom, Frank Malkorda, Linda Marrinon, Elizabeth Mipilanggurr, Callum Morton, Barayuwa Munungur, John Nixon, Kerrie Poliness, Stuart Ringholt, Joan Ross, Super Critical Mass, Gareth Sansom, Sally Smart, Ricky Swallow, Kathy Temin, Imants Tillers, Tjanpi D
American artist Nick Cave – not to be confused with the Australian singer-songwriter – is bringing 16,000 wind spinners, 24 chandeliers, 10 miles of crystals, thousands of ceramic birds and one crocodile to Sydney. Cave’s Until is a mammoth new installation work coming to Carriageworks from November 23 2018. It will be open until March 2019, so you’ve got plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny of this extraordinarily detailed, opulent, kitschy world. Cave is best known for his ‘soundsuits’: brightly colourful, full-body costumes covered in noise-making materials made of everything from dyed human hair to plastic buttons. He made his first soundsuit in 1992, as a response to the Rodney King bashing, and in late 2016 brought a herd of horse-shaped soundsuits to Carriageworks for a memorable performance parade. While the soundsuits aren’t the focus of Until (although one has crept in), a visit to the installation is a little like stepping inside the belly of Cave’s creations. Thousands of small found objects have been pulled together to create three major spaces full of surprising colours and textures. At the centre of this all is a huge hanging crystal cloud, topped with a beautiful “private garden”. You can climb one of four ladders for a peek into this secret world, complete with its own crocodile, golden gilded pigs and blackface lawn jockeys. If those jockeys seem like an unusual addition, there’s a strong political slant to all of the work by Cave, who has
It was more than four decades ago that journalist and anti-development activist Juanita Nielsen disappeared from the streets of Sydney. Nobody knows exactly what happened to her, but it’s believed she met a violent end due to her opposition to the development of Victoria Street, where tenants were being evicted to make way for more apartment blocks. And the possible theories about her fate are wild; one is that she’s buried under the runway at Sydney Airport. So it only makes sense to approach this unusual story in an unusual fashion, which is exactly what Sydney artist Zanny Begg does in this documentary film having its local premiere for Sydney Festival. The Beehive stitches together documentary footage, recreations and other film shot by Begg (Pamela Rabe plays a narrator), but the fabric of this stitching together is determined by a randomised computer algorithm. Each screening lasts somewhere between 20 and 33 minutes, and there are 1,344 possible ways it could turn out.
Just one day before it was due to premiere in Melbourne in 2018, Sydney duo Soda_Jerk's latest film lost the support of the philanthropic trust that contributed $100,000 to its development. Soda_Jerk (aka Dan and Dominique Angelero) didn't lose the money they used to produce Terror Nullius, but the Ian Potter Cultural Trust no longer wanted to be associated with the promotion or publicity of a film that they deemed too controversial. So what exactly sent the trust running for cover? The film splices together classic pieces of Australian cinema into a political revenge fable that challenges Australian mythology. Expect to see Pauline Hanson alongside the characters of Mad Max while the voice of John Howard rings out across the desert. Characters from Muriel's Wedding meet Josh Thomas in Please Like Me, Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper, and even the Babadook. Terror Nullius is the centrepiece of this exhibition, which features work from 20 living Australian artists working with satire and alternative narratives, and questioning what it is to be Australian. There's also work from Vincent Namitjira, Tony Albert, Abdul Abdullah, Cigdem Aydemir, Karla Dickens, Joan Ross and more.
To try to encapsulate Amrita Hepi’s fast-evolving, still relatively young career – which has dance at its core – with a neat label feels reductive. She’s performed as a dancer around the world, created performance art, taught empowering and joyous Beyoncé-inspired dance classes at Goodgod nightclub (RIP), given an insightful TED Talk about the politics of dance, and created a series of dance films for ASOS. She's also staged a unique series of collaborative one-on-one dance classes at Arts Centre Melbourne. But Hepi was still shocked when the hugely influential American conceptual artist Adrian Piper (one of Hepi's art world heroes) agreed to have her work shown alongside Hepi's in this exhibition at Cement Fondu. Both artists use dance to explore politics and identity, and they do so in a series of engrossing video installations. Read our interview with Amrita Hepi.
Every Friday from 4pm, the main strip of Chinatown along Dixon Street transforms into a vibrant night market selling Asian street food, desserts and gifts. It attracts a wide mix of visitors, from tourists and homesick international students to the post-work crowd, who you’ll find wisely padding their stomachs with cumin lamb skewers before hitting the next bar. During peak times the narrow walkway can get a bit squishy, but the hustle and bustle is also what makes it fun. A number of Chinatown stalwarts run stalls each week, which means you’ll find yum cha favourites like har gow and mango pancakes from East Ocean, or have the joy of pulling apart Mamak’s fluffy roti canai without waiting 40 minutes in line outside their permanent eateries. As tempting as those options might be, ration stomach space for the takoyaki – a Japanese savoury doughnut hole snack filled with seafood, or dragon beard candy and potato chips on a stick. You’ll also find stalls selling clothes and sunglasses to jewellery and phone cases – on some weeks, there’s even a Scientology stall offering ‘free stress tests’ to the curious. There are no artisanal goods, but more mass-produced, imported products à la Paddy’s Markets downstream. Read more about Sydney's best markets.
This annual series of twilight gigs held in the leafy courtyard of the Seymour Center attracts a diverse troupe of musicians each year. In 2019, they are running eight sessions from February 8-March 15, and the consistently inclusive programming will feature acts from the Mardi Gras line-up and the wider LGBTQIA community. Reviving the lilting poetry of Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, Sydney folk songstress Caitlin Harnett will breeze onto the stage for the first performance of the series under a canopy of festoon lights. Tanzer will add disco balls to the mix in an energetic disco set featuring drag stars Betty Grumble and Aaron Manhattan, and you’ll sway-dance into another weekend with acts like Liam Gale and the Ponytails or Alice Terry. There will also be a surprise headliner for the final perfromance on March 15. In between sets, you can find a pop-up bar, vintage games and food available at these relaxed, free, and family-friendly gigs.
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Brisbane-based all-male burlesque sensation Briefs has long been smarter than your average. Yes, audiences go to one of their shows to witness feats of superhuman ability, laugh their troubles away and gawk lustily at the Briefs boys – but there’s something a bit deeper and more subversive lurking under pretty much everything they do. Not that it will always be apparent to you; scantily-clad bodies have a tendency to distract an audience from dramaturgical nuance. And that’s fine. Club Briefs is the scrappier, younger, and, um, fleshier sibling of their more themed, structured shows – last year’s Sydney Festival hit imagined a queer future – but it’s every bit as fun. It’s also appropriate that this is the show they’ve brought to Sydney for their first appearance at Mardi Gras; it’s more daring and relies more heavily on a community vibe, kicking off with a runway which every audience member is invited to walk. The looseness of the format – with hostess Shivannah (Fez Fa'anana’s drag alter ego) leading an audience through the Briefs boys’ acts – makes the “club” of the title feel totally apt. She’s able to keep an audience screaming for 90 minutes and make the Seymour Centre’s York Theatre feel like an intimate club (not exactly an easy feat given how much it feels like a lecture theatre with its fold-out tables on every seat). Plus, she’s absolutely hilarious; an extended bit about being a “busy mum” and a criminally ugly dress she decided to wear is side-splittingly funn
You could almost reach out and touch them. Angels in America is a theatrical epic that has become a cultural touchstone. Tony Kushner’s dizzying, achingly poetic work is huge: comprised of two parts over seven hours and subtitled as a ‘gay fantasia on national themes’. It is included on virtually every list of the last century’s greatest plays, has been adapted for HBO and revived frequently on major stages. Its legacy has begun to feel untouchable – too grand, too important – to feel like a small revolution. But here, at the Old Fitz, it belongs to us again: those of us alive right now in these times of conservative power and despair. That is the quiet, self-assured secret behind director Dino Dimitriadis’ approach, which plays in a 60-seat theatre inside a pub basement. This production isn’t above us, but of us – we are close enough to the work again to see our own reflection in it. It could crack you open. It’s 1985 and Prior (Ben Gerrard) has been diagnosed with AIDS; his lover Louis (Timothy Wardell) leaves him, anguished. Joe (Gus Murray), a Mormon Republican lawyer, is a mentee of the criminal, ruthless, Trump-mentoring Roy Cohn (Ashley Lyons). Joe is struggling with his sexuality, and his marriage to Harper (Catherine Davies) is in trouble. Harper is deeply unhappy and self-medicating with Valium. And then Cohn is diagnosed with AIDS, and Prior is visited by an angel, and Louis and Joe crash into each other, and the play soars into something dazzling: an angry, f
The first act of Australian theatre, television and media polymath Nakkiah Lui’s new play is an extraordinarily funny and incisive political satire. Three Canberra insiders – Vic (played by Lui herself), Zaza (Michelle Lim Davidson) and Chris (Anthony Taufa) – are frustrated that despite their immense skills and education none has the political clout they need to change the country for the better. The reason for their struggle is simple: Vic is Aboriginal, Zaza is Korean and Chris is Tongan. They have to stand by watching mediocre white man after mediocre white man rise to positions of power. And now the Sovereign Territory Bill – a dangerous political tool designed to placate the far right and entrench white supremacy through talk of Australian “values” – is before parliament. One night at a Canberra nightclub, fuelled by an effective amount of cocaine, they hatch a plan to beat those mediocre white men at their own game. They find their own mediocre white man, turn him into a political puppet, and direct him all the way the senate. The laughs come thick and fast for all of the first act, particularly when the trio are transforming their puppet (played to absolute comedic perfection in jelly sandals by Hamish Michael) into the perfect white man. Seeing this group of young people of colour construct an image of whiteness from their own perspective is very funny, and a subversive act in and of itself. There’s even a musical number (thanks to Paul Mac and Steve Francis) t
This is a review of the 2019 Melbourne season of Cake Daddy at Midsumma Festival. There’s been a lot of discussion about identity in the general community, and it’s a theme that has come to dominate this year’s Midsumma Festival. We’re talking about gender identity, sexual identity, racial identity. Disability is finally fully on the agenda. But fat? Well fat, according to mainstream social norms, just ain’t right. More than this, it’s wrong, even has a whiff of immorality about it. It isn’t only the people who fall outside the ideal of physical beauty who are trapped by this mentality; all of us have become dangerously obsessed with our bodies, and the fuel that drives them, and we’re looking around for someone to blame. Ross Anderson-Doherty is a Belfast theatre-maker who has descended on Melbourne’s Midsumma like a giant pink inflatable swimming aid, and he’s here to tell us all about, wait for it… Cakewatchers! It’s a new, totally fabulous, completely indefatigable weight loss scheme, unlike all the other, failure-inducing weight loss schemes that have come before. This one has three central tenets: “Watch the cake!”, “Know your cryminals!” [sic] and “Practise your manoeuvres!”. Ross is going to take us through and out of this new routine, with a touch of autobiography on the way down. Cake Daddy is best described as a three-way collaboration between Anderson-Doherty, playwright Lachlan Philpott and director Alyson Campbell; an attempt to wrangle the separate aesthet
This is a review of the 2018-19 Melbourne season of Peter Pan Goes Wrong. In 2017, Melbourne audiences chortled and guffawed – no doubt at times even choked on their own windpipes – through the hilarity that was The Play That Goes Wrong. It wasn’t the first farce of that year but it was by far the best, leaving local efforts like The Homosexuals and Noises Off for dead. The question is, can the producers step into the same river twice? Peter Pan Goes Wrong promises to up the laughs and the chaos, to be more wrong than the previous play that went wrong. Does it succeed at being a bigger failure? Perhaps not, but it’s certainly fun watching it try. It starts very much like its predecessor, with “stage hands” mugging and ad-libbing their way around the auditorium. Of course, this seeming looseness is actually extremely calculating, lubing us up, getting us in the mood for the riot and mayhem to follow. It’s only when the director Chris Bean (Connor Crawford) comes out, with his assistant/co director Robert (Luke Joslin), that we begin to sense the tensions underpinning this theatrical endeavour. We launch quickly into the production of Peter Pan itself, and within minutes we realise it’s a production that is doomed. Doomed for the actors, directors and producers; comedy gold for us. Anyone who saw The Play That Goes Wrong will recognise the beats, the set-ups and even the specific gags that made that show so funny. What’s remarkable is how amusing it is the second time around