Saturday, January 16, 2016



Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016 – February 26 – March 14 2016

An interview with outgoing Adelaide Festival Director – David Sefton

By Peter Wilkins

Group F's A Fleur de Peau. Photograph by  Daniel Roblin
Epic is the word that springs to mind when describing the 2016 Adelaide Festival Programme. Unlike its companion, the open access Adelaide Fringe with its smorgasbord of tasty theatrical morsels, the2016 Adelaide Festival, envisioned by departing Artistic Director, David Sefton, offers a sumptuous banquet of carefully curated theatre, music, dance, spectacular events and the Adelaide Writers Week.  For three weeks visitors to the Festival State will be treated to local and international  world class performances.
Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal in NELKEN
Photograph by Oliver Look
“It’s taken me four to five years to pull off the likes of getting Pina Bausch back and bringing Romeo Castellucci back to Australia. These have all been conversations that virtually started the moment I walked in the door. These are very much things that I wanted to have associated with my watch.” This is Sefton’s fourth and final Adelaide Festival before he hands over the reins to acclaimed theatre director, Neil Armfield and renowned arts administrator Rachel Healey. For the first time in the festival’s history, the Adelaide Festival will be led by two Artistic Directors, which is a reflection of the great work done by Sefton and his predecessors and the stature of this internationally acclaimed festival.

“Bausch and Castelluci are names that you really want for your festival’, Sefton says. “These are the best names out there. Pina Bausch’s company will be presenting  NELKEN ( Carnations), from the famous Tanztheater Wuppertal. Created before her death in 2011, NELKEN will have its exclusive Australian premiere in Adelaide. “A stage carpeted in a spectacular field of silk carnations is the stunning playground  for twenty of the world’s best dancers and spliced with theatre, plenty of humour and trademark bold imagery.”
GO DOWN, MOSES  by Romeo Castellucci
 Societas Raffaello Sanzio. Photo: Guido Mencari
Romeo Castelluci’s GO DOWN MOSES from his Societas Raffaello Sanzio explores existential doubtsoand uncertainties from the Old Testament Book of Exodus. “Castellucci is absolutely unmissable. He is the master of contemporary theatre. He can upset people because he has a very uncompromising stance to what he’s saying. It is profoundly intellectual, profoundly challenging. This guy is a very big deal. He is one of the greats and makes work just like nobody else.”
The James Plays from the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre
of Great Britain. Andrew Rothney as James ll. Photo Manuel Harlan
“I very consciously set out to return to the epic” Sefton tells me. Last year Adelaide audiences were treated to the six hour long Roman Tragedies, by Dutch company Toneelgroep Amsterdam. This year the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre of Great Britain will collaborate on THE JAMES PLAYS, first performed at the Edinburgh International Festival and stretching over ten hours with a dinner break. Rona Munro’s new historical trilogy of the reigns of James l, ll and lll of Scotland will also be an Adelaide Festival exclusive. “The James Plays are more than seven hours of gripping, historical, political intrigue, full of playful wit and boisterous theatricality.”
Photo: Manuel Harlan 
“I keep urging people, including my dentist, to see it on the same day, because there is nothing like it to engage with the plays over one session.”
“I’m a very firm believer that a festival has to provide things that aren’t there for the rest of the year.” Sefton says. “For example, the Adelaide Festival is very well known for opera in the 1960s when Adelaide didn’t have a State Opera. If I did opera, it wouldn’t be a conventional opera. There are people who would have liked me to do a Traviata, and will be sorely disappointed because I had no intention of doing one.”
He has worked with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, but that has been on entirely new projects, and this year they will be playing with TECTONICS who will be making a return to the festival  and curated and conducted by Ilan Volkov. This will be a spectacular two day programme, showcasing new theatrical work with a stunning array of collaborators including The Necks and Phil Niblock.

TECTONICS. Curated and conducted by Ilan Volkov
“The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra would never in a million years be able to programme TECTONICS in one solid block and have an audience come to that because it’s just not in the realm of a standard orchestra to take those risks. So the festival has been able to step in and do that, and that is one of my great successes.”

Slingsby's production of Oscar Wilde's THE YOUNG KING
Image: Andy Ellis 
Leading local exponents of their art form have also been included in the programme. Slingsby, under the direction of Andy Packer will be presenting Oscar Wilde’s THE YOUNG KING for young audiences and State Theatre of South Australia, Belvoir and Malthouse Theatre will present David Greig’s award winning play, THE EVENTS, featuring Catherine McClements. Garry Stewart’s Australian Dance Theatre will present HABITUS, using sofas, ironing boards, kitchen drawers and an avalanche of books to comment on the complexity of a living ecosystem.
“I always like to think that the presence of a festival here is because of so many local companies. I do feel that the festival is partly responsible for that. The education is good here and the training is good. I feel that I can shine a light on that going out of the door and say ‘Look what is going on here’. This is work that deserves to be seen in  a major festival.”
Catherine McClement's in THE EVENTS
State Theatre of South Australia, Belvoir and
Malthouse Theatre.
Photo: Kris Washusen

Garry Stewart's Australian Dance Theatre
in HABITUS.  Photo: Chris Herzfeld 
I ask David Sefton the impossible – to name the highlights. He pauses and then offers a couple of tips.
GOLEM from London's The Young Vic
Photo: Bernhard Mueller
GOLEM is a real winner. It’s not a family show by any means. It is the most successful show by The Young Vic from Great Britain. The have a completely original take on the use of the stage. You have to see it to understand it. It looks kind of low tech and a bit jokey but actually it takes a great amount of artistry, dedication and skill to look like that. They have this stage aesthetic, which is a little punk rock and a little bit tongue in cheek but when you unpick it it’s incredibly sophisticated. And very, very clever. I love what they do and this is by far the very best thing that they have done. It’s absolutely to be see. You won’t see anything like it.”
And the most epic event in this epic festival? The tone of a festival is always set by its opening, and this time Sefton has secured the return of Group F from France to stage their pyrotechnic extravaganza,  A FLEUR DE PEAU, for the first time on Adelaide’s recently modernized oval. “The company has evolved so much since they were first here in the 80s”, Sefton says. “It was more a straight fireworks show. Now it’s a massive multimedia and pyrotechnic show, so far removed from where they started and it’s great to be going into the oval. It’s the best and fastest selling show in the festival.”

“One of the great things about the Adelaide Festival is that it does have an audience that does understand what a festival does. And it’s an audience that always asks ‘What’s the challenging gig? What must I see that will confront me?’ and I love the fact that the city embraces the festival so heartily. It makes the job so much easier and a pleasure to do.”

Adelaide 2016 Biennial
Audiences to Sefton’s fourth and final festival will have 30 theatre, music, dance and visual arts events to choose from alongside Adelaide Writers’ Week. The line-up includes seven world premieres, 21 Australian premieres and 20 events excusive to Adelaide over 18 days from February 26 to March 14 2016. I ask Sefton what it will be that he leaves with after his fourth largest and most epic festival.

Adelaide Writers' Week 2016
“I’m leaving with a sense of what a proper festival feels like. I’ve worked in very large cities, and I’ve done Festival type programming before, but this is the first time I’ve run a festival that has a relationship with the city that is a kind of ideal one. You can’t miss the festival and everyone knows about it. I take away what that feels like. It’s what a proper festival should feel like.”
Adelaide Festival 2016
February 26 – March 14 2016
For further information and bookings go to: