The fourth month of the year means shorter days and cooler nights, but don't hibernate just yet – April is packed with arts and culture festivals, rooftop cinemas and Easter-themed events to help you enjoy the autumn chill.
Parents, you'll find cute animals and fairground rides at the Royal Easter Show and plenty of suggestions for things to do in the school holidays. Reading this on April Fool's Day? You'll need our guide to Easter in Sydney (no, it's not a prank). Planning ahead to ANZAC Day? Here's where to play two-up. Need to get away? See our tips for short getaways near Sydney.
April's biggest festivals and events
Australian acting royalty Hugo Weaving returns to Sydney to play the leading role in Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 play about a Chicago gangster who rises to the top by ruthless means; an allegory for the rise of Hitler and Nazism. Artistic director Kip Williams says that audiences can draw whatever conclusion they like about his decision to program the play at this particular point of time.
Griffin Theatre Company has been churning out new Australian plays for more than three decades. But what about the performance and writing that doesn't quite fit into the neat and tidy "play" category? Batch Festival is the new alternative performance festival from the company and features everything from short comic monologues to stand-up, spoken word, burlesque and even a theatrical walking tour of the Cross.
Ever wanted to see a real human body, from the inside out? This new exhibition coming to the Byron Kennedy Hall features 200 real, perfectly preserved human bodies and anatomical specimens, alongside scientific descriptions and philosophical questions about what it means to be homo sapiens.
You can see 69 artists' works showing at seven venues: Art Gallery of NSW, Artspace, Carriageworks, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney Opera House and, for the first time, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Kataoka is the first Asian director in the Biennale's 43-year history and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there's a strong focus on Asian art in next year's edition.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards and exhibition showcase not only the best of the natural world, but the patience, ingenuity and talent of the photographers who spend their time embedded within wildlife so that they can get that incredible, revealing shot.
It’s all change for Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2018 – they’ve moved to new locations: Carriageworks and the Seymour Centre. They’re also shifting the timing to start on April 30. Though the main hub will be Carriageworks, events are planned for familiar haunts Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall, Roslyn Packer Theatre and venues in Parramatta and Chatswood.
The Blue Mountains’ top attraction, Scenic World, welcomes its annual art exhibition again this autumn, as Sculpture at Scenic World returns. More than 35 artworks from local, national and international artists will be installed along the 2.4km Scenic Walkway, transforming the rainforest into an extraordinary outdoor gallery.
The Merry Widow is one of the Australian Ballet's greatest achievements – it premiered in 1975 and has been revived by popular demand every couple of years since then. It's a visual feast but also features all of Franz Lehár's gorgeously light and romantic melodies, played by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday in April, Sweethearts is putting on free movies on the rooftop. Watching a great retro movie over a few drinks along with a sympathetic audience is a tradition worth reviving in this era of stay-at-home, and at Sweethearts you can get popcorn and hot cocktails into the bargain.
Palace Cinemas once again present the Spanish Film Festival, which returns in April. Big stars such as Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Maribel Verdú and Paco León feature in multiple films, and screenings include retrospectives, exciting new auteur efforts, crazy comedies, and all the passion, sentiment, dark Catholic guilt and political unrest that we’ve come to know and love about the cinema of this vibrant and in some ways divided nation.
Russian playwright Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 black comedy The Suicide might not not be known by everybody but it has some obsessive fans in theatre circles. Belvoir’s artistic director Eamon Flack is amongst them, and will be dusting off the play about a displaced man looking for a place to belong.
Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Paris burned. Prague was invaded by the Soviets. The world erupted into protests. If you thought 2016 was a shit year, then you probably didn’t live through 1968. From Hong Kong to Helsinki, Mexico City to Malaysia, protests, strikes and revolution ripped apart the East-West divide. The latest free movie season at the Art Gallery of NSW brings together ten landmark films all released in 1968.
The Las Vegas rock stars are heading on an antipodean arena tour kicking off in April. Their fifth album Wonderful Wonderful will have wormed its way into our subconscious by now and we’ll be chanting to recent singles ‘The Man’ and ‘Run For Cover’ with the same gusto as old favourites ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘Mr. Brightside’.
There are few public figures more fascinating than Catherine McGregor: cricket commentator, columnist, cricketer, speech writer for Australia's Army Chief, ADF member, Australian of the Year finalist, close friend of Tony Abbott, transgender advocate and the highest ranking openly transgender member serving in Australia's military. Sydney Theatre Company will explore the many facets of McGregor in a new play written and directed by Priscilla Jackman.
Sydney Comedy Festival takes over key Inner West venues for a month from April to May, with a line-up of international, local and interstate comedians across all genres. This year includes international favourites like South African-New Zealander Urzila Carlson and Irishmen David O'Doherty and Jason Byrne. Daniel Sloss is heading our way from Scotland, alongside British stars Ross Noble, Stephen K Amos and Jamali Maddix.
Written by ‘the South Park guys’, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this musical was the highest-charting musical in over 40 years, until Hamilton smashed all records. The show has toured all over the US, has a long-running production in the West End, and recently opened in Sweden. So is it worth all of the fuss? Does it still hold up in 2018? The answer is yes.
Best known for his UK number one hits ‘Need U (100%)’ and Jax Jones collaboration ‘I Got U’, the Grammy-nominated UK producer Duke Dumont is heading to Australia to perform at Groovin The Moo and various sideshows. He’ll be stopping in at the Ivy in Sydney to DJ at Ministry of Sound in April.
Seen together, the works span approximately 20 metres in length. It’s not known who created the tapestries, or whether the lady they depict has a real-life counterpart, but it’s thought that they were commissioned by the Le Viste family in the late 1400s.
Many consider Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) the greatest filmmaker of all time, and the fact we're still watching his movies fanatically is pretty compelling evidence in the affirmative. There's no better way to experience his work than on the big screen, and the Ritz Cinema is happy to oblige with this season of seven of the master's films showing on Sundays and Mondays in April and May.
Budding Sydney photographers can network with industry greats at photography conference Aperture Australia. TV journalist Ray Martin will host this inaugural event, bringing his own enthusiasm for the art of photography to live talks and intensive panel discussions with eight well-known Australian photographers.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men), the third Harry Potter film is for many people the best of the series. Now the 2004 film returns to the big screen at the Sydney Opera House. Sydney Symphony will perform the entire score live, casting a Patronus spell over fans as they revisit Harry's adventures.
Running until the middle of May, the 60-minute workouts will take place on the steps of the House with views of the Botanic Gardens and Sydney Harbour. You can book into high intensity circuit training on Tuesday and Thursday mornings or a more chilled yoga class on Wednesday and Friday mornings. All classes start at 7am and cost $25.
Find more film events in April
Luna Park: not the quietest place in Sydney for an open-air cinema event, right? Never fear – at Luna Park Rooftop Cinema all audience members are issued with noise-cancelling wireless headphones. A blanket to snuggle under can be hired for $5. And just think of the Sydney Harbour views... A deluxe seating section featuring Acapulco Chairs costs an extra $7 per ticket (total of $29 per person). Pink Wednesdays will be all about the chick flicks: guests will be invited to dress up in their best pink get-up for the chance to win a special prize, while Apple Thief Cider will be serving up their rose-hued pink lady cider. The outdoor cinema will screen classic films, recent award winners and blockbusters. Awards season favourites The Shape of Water, I Tonya, Darkest Hour, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, Get Out, Dunkirk and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri are screening. Retro flicks on the schedule include The Breakfast Club, My Neighbour Totoro, Mean Girls, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Spice World, Mary Poppins, Spirited Away, Clueless, The Dark Knight, Donnie Darko, Back to the Future and Edward Scissorhands. Check out the Luna Park Rooftop Cinema schedule.
John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the last he composed for the Harry Potter series, and, as conductor Nicholas Buc tells us from the conductor’s podium, it’s a very special one for musicians, because “John threw everything he had at it”. The music ranges from classical waltzes, to psychedelic jazz and medieval chant, and in this event it is all performed live by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Azkaban is the third in the Harry Potter concert events programmed at the Sydney Opera House. As before, hundreds of fans gather (many in full costume) to experience their beloved franchise in a new way. The film follows Harry and company in their third year at Hogwarts. This is the film where everything gets a bit darker – the story, the characters and, of course, the music. The star of this event is the orchestra, which is fully visible at the front of the stage. This means you have an excellent view of the humble triangle, which while normally underappreciated, has a solid role in the score. Also important is the Sydney Philharmonic Choir, which provides spooky vocals throughout the film, as well as some festive vibes (Buc dubbed them the “Frog Choir” after the memorable scene towards the start of the film involving a handful of massive toads. But what really sets the event apart is the audience. Being among hundreds of people in their respective house scarves cheering for Alan Rickman’s Snape, booing and hissing Draco, and cl
The 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 will be marked during the 4th Irish Film Festival in Australia with four films that explore the legacy of the Troubles. The prolific and incisive American documentarian Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets, Going Clear, Taxi to the Dark Side) has made No Stone Unturned, which investigates the murder of six Catholics in a pub in County Down in 1994 (the Loughinisland massacre), and points to British government collusion. Maze dramatises the 1983 Maze prison breakout – Maze was the prison in Northern Island that housed paramilitary prisoners. The Journey dramatises the negotiations between Loyalist leader Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and republican Martin McGuiness (Colm Meaney) towards the historic power sharing agreement in 2007. And In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America looks at civil rights campaigner John Hume’s work to bring the US into the peace process to get Britain to come to the bargaining table. The festival comprises eight feature films and a short film competition session, for which filmmakers in Australia and elsewhere may enter if they're telling an Irish story or are of Irish descent. "Be in bed by midnight's bell..." Chilling Gothic horror tale The Lodgers has orphaned twins confined to a crumbling mansion in the 1920s and suffering under a family curse; Harry Potter's David Bradley is in the cast. The Flag meanwhile is a farce about an Irish labourer who plots to steal an Irish flag from an officer’
See a show
The stage is a mound of dirt. It feels spare and raw. A Woman emerges. We don’t learn her name, but we’re about to learn all about her. In an Irish lilt and a unique, sharp-edged syntax, she tells her story. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, adapted by Annie Ryan from Eimear McBride’s 2013 novel, is a performance piece that takes the intense, interior world of a young woman filled with jagged, broken thoughts and brings it to the stage for examination and catharsis. As you enter the theatre, you’ll receive a content warning: the play discusses sexual abuse. The staff are happy to help answer questions and assess your comfort, but the warning is there for a reason: this is a harrowing ride. Ella Prince plays the Girl from in utero and beyond, maturing nimbly as she tears through the 75-minute monologue. It’s the Irish storytelling tradition reinvented for persecuted and frequently voiceless women. It’s about all the ways a woman can be hurt and long legacies of abuse. And the Girl is going to tell it exactly as she remembers it, and exactly the way it feels: tumultuous, rough and un-pretty. When McBride’s book hit shelves it was instantly notable for its stream-of-consciousness narration that took language, smashed it, and morphed it into something new. It’s a little Joyce, a little Beckett, but all McBride. The sentences, like the titular girl, are half-formed; onstage, we fall into her rhythm quickly and there’s no gap between her speech and our comprehension (the first s
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour is Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini’s big success story. The massive annual outdoor event seemed insurmountably ambitious when it arrived in 2012: a complete opera staged on an enormous floating outdoor stage in front of a pop-up grandstand for 3,000 spectators. But it’s now become a signature Sydney spectacle, attracting audiences somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 to 50,000 each year, many of whom have never attended an opera before. Some purists may gripe, but there’s a decent amount of artistic integrity each year, and it ticks every box imaginable for a Great Night Out. But translating material written for indoor theatres to a larger outdoor space is a significant challenge, both artistic and logistically. Plus, there are only so many operas that are beloved enough to attract a major crowd that also lend themselves to this kind of spectacle. Opera Australia is now reaching a point where it’s ticked off most of the biggies, and will have to be cunning with programming decisions in the next few years. This year’s choice is Puccini’s enduring masterpiece La boheme, the story of Rodolfo (Ho-Yoon Chung), a poor writer who falls deeply in love with the frail but beautiful seamstress, Mimi (Iulia Maria Dan). At the same time his best friend and roommate, the artist Marcello (Samuel Dundas) reunites with a former flame, the fiery and capricious singer, Musetta (Julie Lea Goodwin). The two pairs of lovers struggle with just about
In 2010, then-Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott was a guest panellist on Q&A. When asked what Jesus would do about asylum seekers, he replied with near-cartoon villainy: “Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. Jesus knew there was a place for everything, and it’s not everyone’s place to come to Australia.” Playwright Mary Anne Butler never forgot that comment. It’s the direct inspiration for her new play The Sound of Waiting, which has been shortlisted for the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Playwriting. It tackles the life-and-death scale of the refugee crisis and asks: who gets to decide where a person belongs and if they are allowed a better life – or any life at all? Written in Butler’s lyrical, world-summoning prose, and running for only 60 minutes, The Sound of Waiting is a plea for empathy from a broken heart. We meet Hamed (Reza Momenzada, who himself arrived in Australia by boat from Afghanistan in 2000), a man whose life unravels when his wife and son are killed by a bomb blast. He survives, and so does his young daughter. All that matters now to Hamed is getting her to safety. And then there’s another figure – no less than the Angel of Death (Gabrielle Scawthorn). She is one of many such Angels and her duty is not unlike that of a footsoldier in a warzone: to execute an order. She must extinguish Hamed’s life at the appointed time and place. This isn’t her first assignment; her wings are fully grown, her humanity and her ability to feel long gone – extracted
A blueberry stands alone onstage. See, Jono is throwing a party, and our Girl (Contessa Treffone) is excited-nervous to go. The theme is ‘childhood memories’ and she wants to look like Violet Beauregarde, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Only, of course, sluttier. Hence the blueberry. She could really do with a party, and not just because Jono recently kissed her near the toilet blocks. Her home life has been complicated recently; her dad has bipolar and prostate cancer, and it can be a lot to deal with sometimes. This is Blueberry Play, Ang Collins’ one-woman-show about the cusp of adolescence and adulthood, family, and chronic mental and physical illness. Sydney audiences might recognise the work from its earlier form – as part of ATYP’s monologue series Intersection in 2017 – but here it's longer, more ambitious, and in possession of a distinct, wry style. Sheridan Harbridge, best known as an actor with sharp comedy skills and strong musical theatre chops, directs Blueberry Play with an eye firmly on the ridiculousness of the mundane, bringing Collins’ natural humour to the fore and using it to set a mostly buouyant rhythm. Clever projections (designed by Nicholas Fry) reinforce and strengthen her vision, adding an extra layer of fun to the script. Treffone makes much of the small moments – her face is a playground of comic expressions – but she brings the pathos gracefully and movingly when required. The show feels stretched out and overlong, and its jumps
There’s been plenty written recently about the value of satire in effecting political change, asking whether the form has lost its bite. One question seems to hang above it all: if satire were enough to bring down a leader, would a Cheetos-coloured man still be sitting in the White House? There’s no shortage of mockery of the current leader of the free world, but little seems to stick. Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui tells the story of a small-time gangster who heavies his way to a position of absolute power within the vegetable trade and city politics, using evasion and violently ruthless coercion. It’s a gripping piece of crime fiction with plenty of bloodshed, betrayal, corruption, twists and turns. But it’s also a meticulously crafted allegory for the rise of Adolf Hitler, and a satire made of more incisive stuff than anything you’ll see on Saturday Night Live. Of course, it wasn’t Brecht’s play that brought down the Nazi regime, but by transporting the rise of Hitler to the capitalist world of Chicago, he was able to explain the inexplicable. This Sydney Theatre Company production directed by artistic director Kip Williams, with Hugo Weaving in the title role and a new adaptation by Tom Wright, isn’t so much concerned with explaining how Hitler came to power, but explaining how democratic systems can be quickly compromised and fascism can flourish. Weaving is nothing short of astonishing in the central role. He’s a ruthlessly driven figur