Friday, August 9, 2019



 Artistic Director Joseph Mitchell. Adelaide Festival Centre. Ocober 17 – November 3 2019. BOOKINGS: BASS 131 246 or at

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Joseph Mitchell. OzAsia Festival Artistic Director
“I’m very self-deprecating.” Joseph Mitchell tells me, “but I think that this is our strongest programme ever.” “It takes a lot for me to say that.” The Artistic Director of Adelaide’s  OzAsia Festival laughs apologetically. This year’s festival will be Mitchell’s fifth year at the helm, and if past festivals are anything to go by, he has every right to make the claim. His infectious enthusiasm, passion for all arts Asian and keen eye for exciting, challenging and groundbreaking art forms has been the hallmark of his directorship over recent years. OzAsia, which will be staged at the Adelaide Festival Centre and various locations throughout Adelaide’s CBD from October 17-November 3 promises a feast of unique and fascinating performances, visual arts displays and installations as well as the return of the Jaipur Literature Festival, a host of  community events, the Moon Lantern Parade and the popular Dumpling Market.
Moon Lantern Parade

After having directed four highly successful festivals and having expanded the involvement  beyond the immediate geographical locations like South East Asia, India, Japan and China, Mitchell is keen to expose audiences to the work of artists in Western Asia, with companies coming from as far away as Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. I wanted to go in different directions and start looking at different things” Mitchell says. “I want to wipe the slate clean”.
Mitchell has steered away from the origins of the festival when one major country would be featured each year. However, he does concede that there is a large Japanese component with five major projects included in the 2019 programme. In the spirit of collaboration which has been a hallmark of Mitchell’s artistic directorship, audiences will be treated to collaborations between Japan and artists from Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, There will be further collaborations between Western rim nations such as Morocco, Iran, Syria and Algiers,
Musician Nitin Sawhney - Beyond The Skin

In this spirit of collaboration, the festival will feature such performances as  LIES, written in the currency symbols of the pound, the yen, the Euro and the dollar. Acclaimed company Ontroerend Goed will return to Adelaide with Belgium/Hong Kong interactive theatre experience that sucks audiences into the world of global markets, banks and deals to be had. French/Algerian choreographer Herve Koubi will work with twelve male dancers from across the Mediterranean Basin in a remarkable dance piece titled, WHAT THE DAY OWES THE NIGHT. This deeply personal exploration of human migration combines  strength,  form and athleticism in fluid patterns of Sufi whirling, breakdancing, ballet and gravity defying gymnastics. It will be accompanied by a fascinating score mixing Bach, Sufi rhythms and Egyptian influences, conjuring images of an ancient desert ritual. Audiences are in for a very special treat when renowned international dancer Akram Kahn brings his latest dance work to Adelaide at the start of a new phase in his phenomenal career. OUTWITTING THE DEVIL is inspired by the newly discovered fragment of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. A superb ensemble of dancers from Taiwan, Philippines, US and France collaborate to recount the story of six characters who trade their remaining wealth and stories, seeking to make whole the fragments of lost and forgotten ancient knowledge.
Akram Kahn's Outwitting the Devil

Audiences who were privileged to attend The Dark Inn at a previous festival will be delighted to discover the return of Niwa Gekidan Penino from Japan  with THE DARK MASTER written and directed by Kuro Tanino. Described as a captivating and slightly twisted piece of theatre with a stunning set design, THE DARK MASTER is about a young hiker who stumbles into a dark and timeworn restaurant in Osaka and is asked by the misanthropic chef to take over, despite having no cooking experience. This is another production from Tanino to stimulate the senses.
Closer to home for Adelaidians is LIGHT, one of the festival’s commissioned works. Mitchell proudly tells me that since he took over the reins in 2015, OzAsia has commissioned twenty seven or twenty nine works.
LIGHT is the story of the accession – some may claim theft – of Malaysian property in the name of the British Empire by Francis Light in 1786. Fifty years later his son William created a vision for the newly founded city of Adelaide. This revisionist exploration of possession and the might of the British Empire will resonate in a modern society confronting the dark consequences of forceful occupation . The drama of colonization and foreign occupation is a tale of guns, drugs, love, war, freedom, racism and free market capitalism, certain to provoke and question who we believe ourselves to be as a result of the history we choose to accept.
This world premiere of an Australian and Malaysia collaboration is written and directed by Thomas Henning of Black Lung  and features radical Malaysian theatre makers Terry and The Cuz. Together they bring to OzAsia the untold story of the irreversible impact of the actions of two generations of adventurers  which continue to resonate today.
Generational influence is another theme introduced by Mitchell. “There is an important idea of generations playing out here” says Mitchell. “The first generation of artists that came from an Asian heritage kicked off in the late Nineties. -  artists like Akram Kahn and multi award winning musician Nitin Sawhney and legendary director Stan Lai. Sawhney, who composed the music for the film Mowgli, will stage BEYOND SKIN, “ a wonderful fusion of Massive Attack and traditional Indian influences.  Drawing on the political upheavals and nuclear testing of twenty years ago, BEYOND SKIN will open the festival. Many of the younger generation who have been influenced by artists such as Kahn, Sawhney, choreographer Anne Nguyen and Lai will appear at the festival. 
Stan Lai's The Village - A play about Chinese refugees

Among them is Anne Nguyen’s dance company with French dancers from par Terre. Theri performance KATA combines edgy hip hop and high octane breakdance. Nguyen seeks to promote the virtuosity of street dance and launch it into the modern dance world. With influences ranging from b-boy style to capoeira and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and backed by powerful percussion KATA is a highlight of the festival.
Canberra and Queanbeyan’s own Omar Musa will present his acclaimed show, SINCE ALI DIED, inspired by the life of his hero,  Muhammed Ali. Audiences will be electrified by Musa’s alternative view of the Australian experience, using rap, poetry and personal stories to confront suburban violence, heartbreak, his Malaysian roots and the reality of a Muslim, brown-skinned boy growing up in country Queanbyan.
Omar Musa in Since Ali Died
In SYMBIOSIS,rapper, drummer, proud Aboriginal and speaker DOBBY will be joined by folk artist Naomi Keye to explore the territory where hip-hop meets heartfelt harmony. They will be accompanied by five members of Didler Kumalo, led by guitarist Dylan Marshall , founding member of Adelaide’s own Shaolin Afronauts. Rhythms and harmonies of Guinea and classic African Jazz   will kick off the evening and bring you to your feet.
And for something entirely different, audiences will be able to experience for one night only on October 18 South East Asia’s biggest pop star, Malaysian number one singer Siti Nurhaliza, who offers a dynamic fusion of modern pop and ethnic traditional melodies.
“What I think is great about this year’s festival,” Mitchell says, “is the two generations co-existing  in the same programme. That’s a big part of this festival that I’m really excited about.”
“The 2019 OzAsia Festival will be our largest, most adventurous and fun –filled festival to date” says Mitchell.  During the eighteen days of the festival, audiences will be treated to screenings, exhibitions and free events as well as stunning works of theatre, dance and music from as near as Adelaide and as far away as Morocco and beyond. 850 artists from more than 20 countries will present boundary- pushing works across wide range of art forms.
Malaysian pop singer Siti Nurhaliza

As well, Adelaide will play host to the inaugural Asia-Pacific Creative Cities Conference, the first ever meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities of the Asia-pacific region with participation by government, world leading thinkers and artists.
 CEO and Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival Centre, Douglas Gautier AM says “There is simply nothing like our OzAsia Festival.” His words are echoed by the festival’s patron and Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, who arrived in Australia in 1977 as a Vietnamese refugee boat arrival. “I am delighted to see OzAsia Festival continue to flourish as a celebration of our cultural diversity and the exciting ways in which artists from Asia are exploring contemporary performance. This year’s program has so much to offer”

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