Shakespeare and 19th century German madness, with more music than ever before.
It’s Sydney Festival‘s 40th anniversary this year and to celebrate, the team are bringing us two masterful works — a special season of Shakespeare’s Desdemona and festival centrepiece, Georg Büchner’s eponymous Woyzeck reinterpreted as a dark musical. Both performances have critics frothing at the mouth and audiences champing at the bit and everyone in general acting like very sick horses (in a good way).
For the first time in its long history, the festivities will extend beyond the summertime. Showing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in October is Desdemona, the spinoff that posthumously reanalyses Shakespeare’s Othello and the character of Desdemona. The play was written by the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning American author Toni Morrison, scored by Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traore and directed by Peter Sellars. Working in tandem, the three have created an original perspective of the fiery character Desdemona; part-play, part-concert. The LA Times says of it, “In a ritual of spellbinding beauty, staged by Sellars, these two women, of different generations and continents, stand up to Shakespeare.”
The official piece headlining the festival, Büchner’s Woyzeck, will show in January. The stage play, originally written and left unfinished in 1837, has been completed and interpreted by a multitude of writers; dealing with the universally empathetic themes of obsession madness and murder. This iteration has been penned by musicians Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan as a 21st century musical. The basic plot goes something like this: Woyzeck, the archetypal outsider and solider, agrees to allow a questionable doctor to perform bizarre medical experiments on him and when the girl he loves starts to have feelings for another, he starts to spiral quickly in violent madness. The intrigue of Woyzeck is in the interpretation of the writers and they seem to have done something original with this one because critics are raving. “So beautiful, so devastating, so visually striking and of such visionary power, that we barely dare to breathe,” says Die Welt.
These world-class offerings are just the first taste of what Sydney Festival will bring, with the whole 2015/16 program set to be announced soon.
The 40th Anniversary Sydney Festival presents Desdemona, showing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay from October 23-24 at 8pm and October 25 at 2pm. To book, call Sydney Festival on 1300 856 876. Woyzeck is showing at Carriageworks Bay 17 from January 7-12, 8pm (no performance on Sunday). To book, call Sydney Festival on 1300 856 87.
If you get in early, you can book tickets to both Desdemona and Woyzeck for $170 at sydneyfestival.org.au/early.