Now more than ever, the world feels as though it’s being engulfed in flame – but for the French artists’ collective Compagnie Carabosse, the world was long ago set ablaze. For decades, members of the multidisciplinary group have taken a torch to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks – Stonehenge and The Kremlin amongst them – and, come October, they’ll turn their attention to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens as part of Fire Gardens, a four night spectacular taking place as part of the 2018 Melbourne Festival.

Announced today, Melbourne Festival’s exhaustive program of events (many of them free) encompasses dance, theatre, visual arts, architecture, contemporary and classical music, with diverse and dynamic practitioners from around the globe descending on the city for three weeks of immersive and interactive performances. International heavyweights from the world of music – Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and experimental electronic artist Alva Noto; pianist Nils Frahm; post-punk royalty Matt Johnson and his band The The – feature alongside those from the field of contemporary dance and theatre in performances that engage audiences and invite participation through unexpected mediums like virtual reality. There’s also a strong visual arts contingent, with singular Australians like Polly Borland and Ronnie van Hout presenting new works; Melbourne Festival will also occasion the return of the Melbourne Art Trams, with seven artists commissioned with creating new works to sit alongside the original work produced by the late David Larwill for the Transporting Art Project of 1986.

To help navigate the fray, Melbourne International Arts Festival Artistic Director, Jonathan Holloway, gives GRAZIA his picks for six Melbourne Festival highlights that are not to be missed from the extensive program of events, performances and exhibitions.

“Astonishing British circus folk, dealing extraordinary feats [and] gravitational hoopla. I just know lucky Melburnians need outstanding performance. Quality rich, spaceship tent undulating. Veritable wizardry [and] youthful zestiness equals an A-Z of circus.”

Fire Gardens
“The Royal Botanic Gardens is already close to perfect, but we will try and improve on that by embracing all the elements, taking the air, earth and water that make the place, and adding the fire. More than 6,000 firepots over just four nights, rivers of burning charcoal and sculptures of living flame will enflame all the senses, transforming our memories of a Melbourne icon.”

A Quiet Evening of Dance
“It is incredibly rare to see the work of one of the dance world’s greatest choreographers, William Forsythe, and now four come along at once. By turns surprising and intimate, this is stripped back dance with the brilliant Rauf Yasit (aka RubberLegz) at the centre, blending hip-bop, ballet and street dance. Go find him on YouTube now. Seriously, go.”

“From the designer of the stage production of Harry Potter comes one of the most surprising, moving and ingenious experiences I’ve ever had at a festival. Entering one at a time, the audience is invited into a 3D graphic novel, following two young boys travelling by truck, boat, train and bus on a journey to safety from Kabul to London.”

Layla and Majnun
“Three of the world’s greatest artists (cellist Yo-Yo Ma with his Silkroad Ensemble, choreographer Mark Morris and artist Howard Hodgkin) unite to tell the original story of star-crossed lovers, a story written 1,000 years before Romeo and Juliet. The result is a dance and music work of incredible beauty and joy.”

Re-Member Me
“By turns high-camp and deeply analytical, one of the world’s great lip-sync artists Dickie Beau come to Australia for the first time to take on Hamlet. Taking the words and voices of Sir Ian McKellen, Sir John Gielgud, John Barrymore, Peter O’Toole and Kenneth Branagh, this show is part celebration, part 21st century séance.”

Melbourne Festival takes place from October 3-21, 2018. More information is available here.

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Melbourne International Arts Festival