The 2012 Melbourne Festival, Brett Sheehy’s fourth and final year at the helm, was a triumphant success, with a program boasting 77 events, 18 world premieres, 34 Australian premieres, 207 performances, 33 film screenings, 414 international artists and 599 local artists.
 
 

Antony and the Johnsons' Swanlights – photo credit Sean Fennessy

 

While final figures are yet to be confirmed, the Festival looks set to achieve a box office of $2.8 million, equalling last year’s record, and continuing the trend of strong box office and attendance figures at the past four Festivals.

“I’m delighted with the way Melbourne has engaged with this year’s Festival,” said Sheehy. “Over the past four years we have seen a trend of sustained growth for the Festival’s reach, attendances and box office. This is thanks to the diversity of the programs we’ve been able to present – this year from productions that significantly pushed artistic boundaries, to glorious entertainments, to a raft of works for and by young people, even babies. And in the Foxtel Festival Hub, in our contemporary music program, and in La Soiree, to name just a few, we were able to build even further on our passionate commitment to a demographic that is traditionally the most difficult for the performing arts – the sometimes-elusive 18 to 35 year olds.

“I leave Melbourne Festival having had the time of my life, working with a team of people in whom we can have the utmost confidence for the future of truly great art-making and presentation in our extraordinary city.”

The Festival presented a vast array of international artists and performances with magical moments including New York’s Antony and the Johnsons, transcending all audio and visual boundaries with the awe-inspiring Swanlights; subversive and political Spanish artist Santiago Sierra completed the final destruction of his global art phenomenon, Destroyed Word, a project spanning two years, ten countries and numerous demolitions ended in a fiery finale on the ACCA forecourt; and Germany’s legendary Forsythe Company made an unforgettable return to the Australian stage for the first time in over a decade with I don’t believe in outer space, a stunning and enigmatic masterwork from William Forsythe, a man who has deeply influenced the very trajectory of contemporary dance.

 

Santiago Sierra's Destroyed Word – photo credit Sean Fennessy

 

Also championing local talent, the Festival showcased stunning new works including Lucy Guerin Inc’s Weather, The Rabble’s Orlando, Yandell Walton’s Human Effect and Chunky Move’s An Act of Now.

Melbourne Festival proudly presented a number of commissioned productions in 2012 including a ground-breaking co-commission with the Avignon Festival and Germany’s prestigious Schaubühne Berlin – a startling take on Henrik Ibsen’s acerbic classic, An Enemy of the People; an international collaboration between China, Australia and New Zealand featuring China’s renowned Leshan Song & Dance Troupe and Christchurch-born choreographer Sara Brodie crafting an intimate, personal response to an overwhelming catastrophe in Fault Lines; and Melbourne’s Arena Theatre Company with an interactive work that took children aged 5 to 8 and their families on an immersive journey in The House of Dreaming.

Over 17 delirious days, the beating heart of Melbourne’s festival life was the stand-alone, specifically-created pop-up venue, the Foxtel Festival Hub. The first of its kind in the Festival’s history, thousands of festival hungry revellers made their way through the doors of the rainbow structure to enjoy a roster of outstanding talent, including a memorable opening weekend performance from iconic 80s Culture Club frontman Boy George, internationally acclaimed Belgian clowning duo Okidok and country/blues diva Lanie Lane.

 

Festival Hub – photo credit Sarah Anderson

 

A world-class free program of events featured 4-piece robot band The Trons, Melbourne’s much loved Bollywood, funk orchestra Bombay Royale; and operatic bombshell Simone Page Jones and multi-instrumentalist Miles O’Neil serenaded Sunday strollers with soulful guitar and banjo pluckin’.

The much loved Artists in Conversation series was also held in the Hub, and proved an enormously popular and unique opportunity for audiences to witness some of the globe’s premier talents sparring on ideas and creativity.

Another first for Melbourne Festival was the inaugural film program curated by Richard Moore, director of the Brisbane International Film Festival and former director of the Melbourne International Film Festival. Thousands of people embraced the Art Matters…on Film program, a radiant collection of 19 films that showcased the best new films on art and artists from around the world.

Sold out and acclaimed shows included Antony and the Johnsons’ Swanlights, Billy Bragg, Bermuda Float, HAHN-BIN’s Til Dawn Sunday, Shellac, Pierrot Lunaire, Text of Light, How High the Sky, Orlando, THEESatisfaction, Big Freedia & the Divas, Future Fusion and Quasi Una Fantasia.

Sold out performances were also enjoyed by DESH, The House of Dreaming, About Face, Diana Vreeland – The Eye Has To Travel, Hail the New Puritan, La Soiree, No Child…, An Act of Now, Conversations with Ghosts, The Minotaur Trilogy and Dance Territories.

Anouk Van Dijk’s debut production as Artistic Director of Chunky Move, An Act Of Now, won the Age Critics’ Award, just pipping The Rabble’s Orlando and Polyglot Theatre’s How High The Sky.

 

Chunky Move's An Act of Now – photo credit Jeff Busby

 

As the curtain comes down on Brett Sheehy’s adventurous and spectacular final Festival, audiences can look forward to 2013 where successor Josephine Ridge will present her first Festival as Creative Director and continue the Festival’s tradition of challenging, surprising and inspiring Melbourne.
 

The 2013 Melbourne Festival will run from Thursday 10 – Sunday 27 October.

 

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