It’s predecessor was the quaintly titled Waratah Festival which ran for a few days in October. In 1977 Stephen Hall, given the job of changing it, moved the festival dates to January, previously unimaginable because of the heat but suitable now venues were air conditioned. For a number of years the newly named Festival of Sydney began with fireworks on New Year’s Eve and also incorporated Australia Day. Now called Sydney Festival, it leaves NYE and fireworks to others, and in 2018 runs 5-28 January in over 26 venues from the Opera House to Parramatta Park. Amazingly, the old stalwarts are still there; Opera in the Domain (13 January)and Symphony Under the Stars (Parramatta 20 January) but most of the Festival program is edgy and challenging. The top-billed attraction is Tree of Codes with dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and other collaborators from the Manchester International Festival via the 2016 Melbourne Festival (6-10 Jan at the new ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour Theatre). A very interesting inclusion by David Morton, is The Wider Earth from Queensland Theatre Company and Dead Puppet Society of which Morton is Creative Director. A reimagining of Charles Darwin’s five year voyage of the HMS Beagle, it blends actors with 30 puppets representing the wildlife that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. At the SOH Drama Theatre (17-27 Jan), it has been extravagantly praised by the Oz as ‘astonishingly original and moving, no praise can be too high’.
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