Trepidation as to what may follow on from the rare, lengthy David Sefton era of the Adelaide Festival of Arts was quite a reasonable feeling ahead of the 2017 program announcement.
No other Artistic Director in its history has served so long, No other Artistic Director has so strongly championed new work created by local South Australian artists for the entirety of his tenure. No other Artistic Director looked so powerfully to the future, as did Sefton, without losing sight of foundations of time past.
With a budget stripped of $1 million and the loss of key staff who powered the Adelaide Festival of Arts most successful regeneration after a series of lacklustre years, there was a very great deal to be worried about.
Could Neil Armfield, that much lionised Australian director responsible for some of the most important developments and creations of the Australian theatrical canon, with his equally capable management side kick Rachel Healey who supported his greatest achievements, salve any worries one might have?
Their imaginings, fuelling the first of three programs, finds its real strength in the creative reasoning behind the recreation of 1920s Adelaide nightlife glamour venue, The Floating Palais, to be known as The Riverbank Palais. Resurrecting the magic and mystery of the past, its stories anew is something Healey has spoken publicly of, something she, born of Adelaide and Armfield, a much loved honorary son are both keen to explore. This club anchors that for the next three years.
This balance of past and future manages to find expression in much of the program, be it a production or the inclusion of a company. Most powerfully with the the big ticket Saul which was universally celebrated on announcement earlier this year given everyone wanted a Kosky return to Adelaide, to the inclusion of local companies Restless Dance Theatre’s Intimate Space and Gravity and Other Myth’s Backbone.
Especially of note are works from Sydney Theatre Company/State Theatre Company of SA, The Secret River, Neil Armfield’s award winning work based on Kate Grenville’s novel, Israeli dance company L-E-V’s OCD Love which surges forward to the future in its smashing together of poetry, techno and indie band The Knife’s work, and a blazing production of Richard III by Schaubühne Berlin.
Take your pick of the music and visual arts content and this same reflection on things past in context with the present and with future tonalities will be found. It’s a grand program. Sefton’s shoes were huge ones to fill. So far, challenge met.
Full details and program available on the Adelaide Festival website.
When: 3 to 19 Mar 2017
Where: Adelaide Festival Centre and surrounds