Highlights: OzAsia Festival 2014
The scope of this year’s OzAsia Festival is immense. Peter Burdon dips his toe in the water.
Now firmly established as Australia’s preeminent arts festival focusing on our engagement with the Asian region, OzAsia 2014 once again raises the bar. A staggering number of events over the best part of three weeks, with not an art-form untouched, it’s a feast for every sense.
The focus in 2014 is on China’s Shandong Province, which by happy coincidence has a long-standing partnership with the state of South Australia. And at the top of this particular cultural tree is Red Sorghum, the Nobel prize-winning 1986 novel by Mo Yan, popularised in filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s 1987 film of the same name. Adelaide will see the Australian premiere of a new adaptation by Qingdao Song and Dance Theatre, which opened to rave reviews in China in mid 2013. Red Sorghum is a story about triumph over adversity, always a great theme for dance, and is imbued with the unique customs and strong character of the people in whose community it is set. It promises to be a corker.
Another major international event is 6 and 7 from the acclaimed Tao Dance Theatre. Artistic director Tao Ye continues a series of pieces titled for the number of dancers. 6 premiered in Sweden in 2013 to ecstatic reviews, but 7 will be the pick for Adelaide, being the world premiere of a work that within a few weeks of its performance in Adelaide will be on stage at Sadler’s Wells in London.
[Image] Dream of the Ghost Story
Also in the big league is Dream of the Ghost Story from the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe, arguably the best of its kind in the world with a history stretching back 65 years. In this production, more than 50 performers will take to the stage in an unforgettable spectacle.
For the brave, or the plain-old inquisitive, experimental theatre will be on offer in Ibsen in One Take by the very edgy Théatre du Rêve Expérimental (Beijing-based in spite of the name). Here the audience experiences the making of a film that melds characters and lines from Ibsen’s works in telling the story of a dying man’s reflections on his life and his attempts to make peace with himself in his last days. It’s toured all over the world, and now receives its Australian premiere.
The beauty of calligraphy has long held audiences rapt with attention, and there’s a very special one-off performance by visual artist Hiroko Watanabe and the Japanese band Above the Clouds, which will improvise an electronic soundscape to Watanabe’s art as it’s being created. Another musical highlight will be composer and conductor Tan Dun with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in the Australian premiere of his new work Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women in a program that also includes his Symphonic Poem on Three Notes – inspired by the name of Placido Domingo, if you say it with a Chinese accent! – and Bartok’s splendid The Miraculous Mandarin suite.
Those are just a few highlights from the performance program; there’s also visual art, talks at the University of Adelaide’s Confucius Institute and UniSA’s Hawke Centre, a film festival at the Mercury (including the original Red Sorghum), and the usual culinary delights.
Check out the program at ozasiafestival.com.au. Bookings for ticketed events at Bass.
[Top Image]: Red Sorghum.Photo: OzAsia Festival 2014