Moses Sumney will perform as part of Sydney Festival 2017Credit: Micaiah Carter, courtesy of the artist

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, the first major exhibition of work by the late Myuran Sukumaran and a monochromatic ball pit created by New York-based art and architecture collaborative Snarkitecture are three of the drawcard events joining PJ Harvey on Sydney Festival’s eclectic 2017 lineup.

Sydney Festival director Wesley Enoch’s inaugural program, his first as part of a three year tenure, boasts a renewed focus on both theatre and dance bolstered by a commitment to leverage new Australian works (namely those created by Indigenous and local Australian artists), including 14 national exclusives, 16 world premieres and 9 Australian premieres.

The program itself is as diverse and far reaching as the city itself, and takes its cues from the enhancement and deprivation of the senses across the mediums of art, music and performance.  

The Beach by Snarkitecture was commissioned in 2015 by the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. and will travel to Barangaroo Reserve as part of Sydney Festival 2017
Credit: Noah Kalina

Immersive installations sure to draw crowds foremost include Snarkitecture’s The Beach, an installation of 1.1 million recyclable polyethylene balls staged at the Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve. Similarly in Hyde Park, House of Mirrors is sure to provide ample Instagram fodder thanks to a labyrinth of mirrors magnified beyond measure. 

Scent of Sydney, another free immersive exhibition has been created by conceptual and olfactory artist, Cat Jones, and will interrogate the power of smell to question our relationship with the city. Bayala – Let’s Speak Sydney Language will celebrate the city’s Indigenous heritage through a series of classes, talks, an installation and a mass choral performance with the intention of reawakening the local languages of Sydney’s Eora and Darug communities, with the help of community leaders and language experts.

In the city’s west, the Campbelltown Arts Centre and Sydney Festival will present the first major exhibition of the late Myuran Sukumaran’s work in Another Day in Paradise, a show staged in close collaboration with Sukumaran’s close friend and mentor, the artist Ben Quilty. The exhibition will showcase the powerful portraits Sukumaran painted throughout his incarceration at Bali’s Kerobokan jail and on Nusa Kambangan Island.

You can view the art program in full here

Prolific multi-instrumentalist PJ Harvey will perform her critically-acclaimed ninth studio album The Hope Demolition Project at Sydney Festival
Credit: Maria Mochnacz

Headlining the festival’s dynamic music program is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, who will perform their critically-acclaimed 16th studio album Skeleton Tree at Sydney Festival.

Cave and his band join multiple Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey on the festival’s music program. Harvey, who will be performing for the first time since 2012, will tour her most recent album The Hope Demolition Project accompanied by a full 10-piece band. Sugar Mountain and MONA FOMA acts Moses Sumney and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith will also perform as part of the St Stephen’s music fortnight, alongside UK-Australian experimental trio Szun Waves, composer Yann Tiersen (a coup for fans of Amelie’s hypnotic score) and ascendent Australian act, Wafia.

You can view the full music lineup here.

UK theatre company Cheek by Jowl will present a piercing production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with Pushkin Theatre Moscow at Sydney Festival
Credit: Johann Persson

Perhaps the festival’s most politically charged component, the theatre, circus, dance and cabaret offerings are vast and varying, with highlights including a straight-from-Broadway Australian premiere of Simon McBurney’s ground-breaking work The Encounter. The fascinating award-winning production utilises binaural technology to directly transmit the story of a National Geographic journalist lost in the Amazon through headphones. Another international offering from renowned UK theatre company Cheek by Jowl is sure to prove both apt and topical for Australian audiences with a retelling of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with Pushkin Theatre Moscow probing the nature of government, love and justice in a contemporary setting. 

Sydney Festival will also stage the world premiere of The Season, written by Aboriginal playwright Nathan Maynard and performed by an all-Indigenous cast. Performed at the Sydney Opera House in occasion of the 50th anniversary of Australia’s 1967 Indigenous rights referendum, 1967 Music in the Key of Yes will honour those who fought in the name of civil rights – an event that will also be remembered through the work of Australian visual artist Vernon Ah Kee, whose exhibition Vernon Ah Kee – Not An Animal Or A Plant will interrogate similar themes of black and white political issues, attitudes and ideologies.

The destruction of coral reefs as the result of climate change and overfishing will also be the focus of two companion pieces created by Indonesia’s EkosDance Company, Cry Jailolo and Balabala. Indigenous artist Jacob Boehme’s Blood on the Dance Floor will also explore his reaction to being diagnosed as HIV positive, after which he turned to his ancestors for answers, and a collaboration between the Sydney Dance Company and the Art Gallery of New South Wales will see the Sydney International Art Series blockbuster exhibition Nude: Art from the Tate collection come to life in a series of performances exploring the power of the unadorned form. 

You can view the full theatre lineup here. 

Sydney Festival will run from January 7-29, 2017. Festival Multipacks go on sale at 9am on Thursday October 27. Single tickets will go on sale at 9am Monday October 31. You can find out more information here.

Tile image: Kerry Brown, courtesy of the artist
Cover image: Noah Kalina, courtesy of Sydney Festival