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Sydney Festival 2018

"a night out on Oxford Street before the lock-out laws"

Wesley Enoch's Sydney Festival is "political, inventive and inherently queer" says Maeve Marsden and here are the shows you should see.

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Company: Sydney Festival
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The Queer Sydney Festival Shows You Must See

Date: 8 Jan 2018

This year may mark the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras but gay Christmas has come a month early.

Wesley Enoch’s programming is political, inventive and inherently queer, so LGBTQI Sydneysiders should be having a field day with his reign as Sydney Festival Artistic Director.

As a Big Lesbian™ and a creator and lover of queer art, here are a few of my picks from the 2018 program.

Briefs: Close Encounters

Sydney loves the Briefs boys and once again they’ve taken over the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in the Meriton Festival Village, their season squeezed in between lengthy tours of Europe, the UK and other Australian festivals.

Glamourous, skilled and invariably gorgeous, the cast have taken boylesque – and indeed burlesque – to new heights, since they launched onto the scene nearly 10 years ago. Drawing on drag, circus, acrobatics, physical theatre and debauchery, Briefs is delivered with flashy professionalism while retaining the grit of its queer underground beginnings. The website listing for the latest show warns of “nudity, coarse language, strobe lighting and haze,” so it’s basically a night out on Oxford Street before the lock-out laws.

Mission Songs Project

Jessie Lloyd’s Mission Songs Project explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songs and stories from missions and camps, many never heard before.

Jessie shared the story of the creation of Mission Songs Project at my monthly LGBTQIA storytelling night, Queerstories, in April 2017 (podcast) and I’ve been waiting to see the show since then. I am really excited by the combination of music and history, Jessie’s research into her own family, and engaging with parts of Australian Indigenous history I don’t know a lot about. Campbelltown Arts Centre puts on some amazing work and it’s great to get out of the CBD during the festival.

Queer artists and venues in Western Sydney are making particularly inventive and exciting work at the moment, and shouldn’t be dismissed in people’s rush to label the region homophobic after the high ‘no’ vote last year.

Wild Bore

I am seeing Wild Bore for a second time after catching it in Edinburgh last year. It’s utterly mad and totally brilliant. Zoë Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott are all great performers individually, and the combination is fantastic. Zoe, the Australian among the trio, is known for her comedy work as ‘Dave’, a character she has been playing to great acclaim for a few years, winning the coveted Barry Award for her show, Trigger Warning, at Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2016. She also made headlines when she married fellow queer comedian Rhys Nicholson to protest Australia’s marriage laws.

The show delivers a queer and feminist reading of arts criticism, with a script created with verbatim quotes from the three artists’ worst reviews. The result – complete with bare bottoms and absurd antics – is so much more than a one trick pony and the places it goes by the end of the show … well … you should just go see it.

The Town Hall Affair

After a year marked by prominent debate about misogyny and abuse in the arts The Town Hall Affair feels timely despite being set more than four decades ago.

Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, co-founder of experimental theatre troupe The Wooster Group, The Town Hall Affair reimagines the 1971 film Town Bloody Hall, a documentary focused on a debate between author Norman Mailer and a number of prominent feminists, including Germaine Greer and Jil Johnston.

These days, Germaine Greer (played by Maura Tierney in this production) is a divisive figure in the LGBTQI community due to her repeated transphobic commentary. That said, an insight into this period in her activism, and into the women’s liberation movement back when lesbian separatism was a more prominent practice, can only be informative for contemporary activists.

Lady Rizo: Red, White and Indigo

I first saw Lady Rizo performing in the UK in 2012 and was totally inspired by her fearlessness and command of the stage.

A staple of the New York cabaret scene with a bunch of international tours under her belt and a huge voice – literally and metaphorically – people of all genders and persuasions should get their hands on a ticket to Red White and Indigo, which plays in the Meriton Festival Village this week. While the feminism in her work is fairly overt, her queerness can be subtle, and performing in fabulous high-femme cabaret get-up she may not always be read as queer based on our community’s androgynous stereotypes. But queer she is (she tells me she prefers “queerdo”), not just in her diva delivery, but in her politics and the ways she interacts with men and women in the audience. Covering songs by Marvin Gaye, Portishead and Leonard Cohen among others, this new show is a tribute to its star’s love-hate relationship with her home country, the USA.

Love is Love: Wedding Reception

It’s a free event and it’ll probably be incredibly silly, but any LGBTQI folk who want to celebrate the passage of marriage equality legislation again can head to the Meriton Festival Village on January 9 for cake (courtesy of Black Star Pastry and My Little Panda Kitchen), Piper-Heidsieck champagne and a whole lot of rainbow tinted revelry.

The Village’s free attractions are always worth a visit, with this year’s offerings including a Karaoke Carousel, a virtual reality ghost train, the Glitterbox, 10 Minute Dance Parties and shipping container swimming pools (tinted pink for the occasion).

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