Sunday, December 12, 2021


2022 Adelaide Festival

 Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy. Adelaide Festival Centre, the University of Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Elder Park and various city locations.March 4-20 2022.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy
Photo by Tony Lewis

It is impossible to discuss the programming of the 2022 Adelaide Festival without considering the devastating impact of Covid 19 on the arts industry. I suggest to co-artistic director Rachel Healy  that she and Neil Armfield AO  have managed to dodge the bullet for the past two festivals. “We’ve been incredibly lucky.” Healy agrees. The lock down in 2019 came just two hours after the final performance of the festival. This year every other festival in our little corner of the country had some sort of lock down or cancellation.. Mercifully we were untouched. Every day we would wake up and say ‘At least we did one day. At least we did two days, and we actually did seventeen, so we were really fortunate. But there are no guarantees. We are still in a pandemic!”

Hopes are high for the 2022 festival of music, theatre, dance, visual arts, WOMAD and Writers’ Week. “We have come back from Europe full of optimism.” Healy and Armfield write in their introduction to the 2022 Festival programme. “We have witnessed audiences return with gusto to theatres, fully masked, double vaxed and filling every seat, but we’re all too aware that this sunny ideal has as its dark twin inevitable illness, anxiety and super-human demands on health workers. In the face of all this, our commitment to deliver a festival that energises, comforts and reasserts the necessity of human creative imagination remains.”

“It felt strange returning to a country where everyone seemed in utter despair.” Both artistic directors felt that they were prophets in their own land. They kept saying that in six months people would be learning to live with Covid, the arts would revive and double vaxed audiences would fill the theatres. “We felt like Cassandra from Ancient Greece.” Healy said. “We kept saying these things and no-one would believe us. It was a really peculiar experience. People were treating us as though we were mad.”

The world in a grip of a pandemic provided a vision for their fourth festival. They were aware of   so many millions across the globe still fighting this illness, so many women caged with monstrous partners, so many young people facing despair and loneliness, and they’ve seen ill-directed explosions of rage. “Let the 2022 Adelaide Festival unleash those feelings,” Armfield and Healy write; “ with a positive defiance: a feisty festival that won’t lie down and shrink; that gathers a community of artists from across Australia and overeas.”

Gravity and Other Myths. 

Healy’s feisty enthusiasm and determined vision, shared with her co-artistic director Armfield is powerful and palpable. I am eager to learn more about the programme and especially, though not exclusively, the theatre offerings. And what better place to start than the amazing opening ceremony and the phenomenal young physical theatre company, Gravity and Other Myths with their production of Macro that will be performed as a free spectacle on the Village Green of the Adelaide Oval on March 5th. Onlookers will be blown away by the 30 strong young troupe of acrobats with a mass choir and Celtic rhythmns , composed and played by a Scottish musician while fireworks light up the night sky and Djuki Mala (Chooky dancers) from the Northern Territory will join this mass celebration. Gravity and Other Myths has been a massive international success story for Adelaide and Macro promises to be a celebration not to be missed.

Iva Davies of Icehouse
There are so many exceptional highlights in this festival and I have neither the time nor the space to list them all in detail. Healey once again proves to be the most generous and articulate advocate of Australia’s leading arts festival, and I am hesitant to interrupt her ebullient explanation of the festival offerings. Just a mention of some of the highlights is enough to make a visit to the 2022 Adelaide Festival in March irresistible. The opening weekend concert features none other than Icehouse’s legendary anthem to Australia The Great Southern Land. Songwriter and the group’s frontman, Iva Davies will be joined by yidaki (didgeridoo) master William Barton on the Village Green of the Adelaide Oval on Sunday 6th. Australia’s own internationally renowned opera director, Barrie Kosky returns to Adelaide with his production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, under the baton of  Arvo Volmer. Described by one reviewer as “dark wit, spiced by surreal burlesuq” The Golden Cockerel is sure to sell out as did Kosky’s previous Festival highlights,Handel’s Saul and Mozart’sThe Magic Flute.

Falling victim to closed borders in 2021, Healy and Armfield have been able to next year secure the work of German choreographer the late Pina Bausch and African contemporary choreographers Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo. Rite of Spring/common ground[s] is a co-commissioned work featuring thirty eight dancers from fourteen nations across Africa. “It was meant to be in the 2021 programme.” Healey tells me. “The show was fully rehearsed and it was meant to open in Wuppertal in Germany. They did a final dress rehearsal in Senegal in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and then it was cancelled. It’s all good today. We just have to cross our fingers and toes and hope.”

Rite of Spring/common ground{s}
Photo by Maarten Vanden Abeele

In 1972, recently arrived University lecturer, Dr. David Duncan, was allegedly thrown into the River Torrens by policemen prowling a gay beat near the University footbridge. In memory of that tragic event and the subsequent reforms that were introduced following the conviction of three police officers, the fiftieth anniversary will be marked by the inclusion of an oratorio, Watershed:The Death of Dr. Duncan. “This will be amazing.” Healy says. “It has a crack team of librettists Alana Valentine and Christos Tsiolkas, director Neil Armfield AO, a fantastic young composer Joseph Twist and conducter Christie Anderson” The Adelaide Chamber Singers and a dancer under the choreography of Lewis Major, will perform the oratorio.

Three very different works deserve special mention before I reluctantly draw the interview to a close. There is so much to excite in Armfield and Healy’s festival and three works deserve mention for theatre lovers who may wish to seek out more intimate performances.

Juliet and Romeo. Photo: Tristram Kenton
“It’s fabulous. Such a beautiful work.” Healey says of Juliet and Romeo. “It’s funny. It’s moving. In this acclaimed dance theatre piece from the U.K. the two star-crossed lovers do not die. They’ve had enough of being Shakespeare’s  poster couple for romantic love . They’ve got a child and a mortgage and they’re kind of over it. “Would Shakespeare have approved?” I ask. “I know he would.” Healy replies. After all, Shakespeare was a man of the theatre. “Make up your own mind” Healy suggests.

I cannot mention the dance works that will be performed at the festival without mentioning Wudjang:Not the Past. A major festival such as the Adelaide Festival would not be complete without a work by Bangarra Dance Theatre, especially given Stephen Page’s announcement that he will be retiring and handing the reins to Frances Ring. Created in collaboration with playwright Alana Valentine Wudjang:Not the Past tells the story of an ancestor whose bones are unearthed during construction for a new dam. She longs to be reburied in the proper way, but needs to lead a Yugambeh workman and his young niece on a spiritual quest to a place of hidden significance and power: to teach a new generation how to listen, learn and carry their ancestral energy into the future. Wudjang:Not the Past will have its world premiere season at the 2022 Adelaide Festival.

Wudjang: Not the Past
Photo Daniel Boud

Healy and Armfield have always sought out the new, the innovative and the challenging. Sex and Death and the Internet is such a show devised by intergenerational participatory Melbourne theatremaker Samara Hersch in collaboration with Bec Reid and Poncho Hawkes. The intergenerational participatory one on one show is one of a wave of performer free experiences sweeping the globe. The idea is that you and somebody come together in a one on one experience. The artist has constructed a set of rules for a scenario and a context that you participate in almost as a game but it’s not a game. Healy was lured into similar participatory experiences, one with an eighty year old woman, in Sweden, Holland and Darwin” I thought, ‘My God, this is a trend.” Healy says. “Artists were removing themselves from being the focus of participation, but they were creating an environment in which you could have an experience that was almost as unique and compelling and enlightening as a great live experience. There is a get out of jail free card if one finds it too discomforting, but this forty minute conversation with a very different total stranger is definitely something to seek out somewhere in the University of Adelaide grounds.

Another very unique and personal theatre experience is Emma Beech’s The Photo Box. “It’s about a town in regional South Australia where everyone knows you, and a girl is left to make her own mistakes and grow herself up. It bexplores family, choices, memory and myth-making, and how the baby of a big Catholic brood became devoted to the search for unsentimental truths. Borrowing from cinematic installation, “The Photo Box is a funny and heartfelt new work from one of our most gifted performers” “ I think it’s going to be a really fascinating show as she kind of tells us about her own experience of growing up in a regional town, the youngest of ten siblings.” The Photo Box is a way of uncovering who she is and where she’s from.” Beech has a great sense of humour and a laconic dry wit. “It’s a newly commissioned work, so I am really excited to see what Emma comes up with.”

Eryn Jean Norvill in The Picture of Dorian Gray
Photo by Daniel Boud

Other theatrical highlights to choose from include  Sydney Theatre Company’s stunning production of The Picture of Dorian Gray with Eryn Jean Norvill in Kip Williams’ production that surpasses all superlatives and Blindness from the Donmar Warehouse in London and featuring the voice of Juliet Stevenson who thrilled audiences with her performance of The Doctor in 2020. There is also the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s offering of Daniel Kelly’s Girls and Boys, a one woman show about a sizzling love affair that leads to devastation with Justine Clarke in the role of the woman whose life gradually falls apart.

I ask Healy if there is any other show that I really should mention. Without a moment’s hesitation Healy responded - The Nightline. A series of phones are set up in a large open space. At the end of the line could be any of the people who work from dark to dawn. It could be a truckie, a nurse on shift duty, a petrol station attendant, a 7/11 shopkeeper or new Mums kept awake by a crying baby. Audiences are invited to engage with a number of party lines and experience the unfamiliar stories of people who work through the night. “I think it’s a really exciting kind of event” Healy tells me. “It’s what festivals are really set up to do and in an environment that is really unexpected and with a creative imagination that gives us an insight into our days. ”This is a work that fully encapsulates the aims in our introductory comments. It looks at the world we are in at the moment because it was created during Covid, but it is also a work of joy, delight and beauty”

The Nightline Photo by Sarah Walker

Healy and Armfield promise to deliver a festival “ that energises, comforts and reasserts the necessity of human creative imagination.” To do this they have gathered a community of artists from all art forms across Australia and the globe in a celebration of joy and anticipation, rather than anxiety and pessimism. Join them in March as they progress society towards hope for a better future.


2022 Adelaide Festival

March 4 – 20 2022

BOOK YOUR TICKETS at,  1300 393 404 or Ticketek 131 246