Monday, December 11, 2023



Robert Le Page directs Igor Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Other Fables
Adelaide Festival 24. Photo by Michael Cooper

Adelaide Festival 2024. 

Artistic Director. Ruth Mackeenzie CBE. General Manager Kath M Mainland CBE. Associate Director Wouter Van Ransbeek. March 1-17 2024. Bookings:, Adelaide Festival 1300393404. Ticketek 131246.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins


Artistic Director  Ruth Mackenzie
Photo by Claudio Raschella

Adelaide’s prestigious flagship festival has a new captain at the helm. Ruth Mackenzie CBE comes to Australia’s premier arts festival with a most impressive record as the artistic director of world leading arts festivals in Manchester, London ,Nottingham, Chichester, Amsterdam, Paris and Vienna. Last year she arrived to navigate the 2023 festival that included a program initiated by Neil Armfield and Rachel Healey before their highly successful term came to an end. This year Mackenzie will be steering her visionary program and making her indelible stamp on the 2024 Adelaide Festival. In recognition of the past and with an eye to the future, Mackenzie quotes in her introduction to the Festival brochure “We are inspired by the history of our festival and ask everyone to help reinvent the Festival for the 21st. Century.” I ask her how she proposes to do this.

“A major role of any festival is to inspire”, Mackenzie tells me. As well as welcoming back to Adelaide world class artists like Robert Le Page, Stephen Page and Barrie Kosky to name just three legends of previous festivals, Mackenzie is thrilled to announce the return of Laurie Anderson with I’ll Be Your Mirror, which incorporates AI in an exhibition of the work of Anderson and her late husband Lou Reed. Using ground-breaking technology this promises a glimpse towards a new horizon of artistic creativity.

Stephen Page's  Baleen Moondjan  Photo Daniel Boud

In her quest to introduce new artists to the Adelaide Festival, Mackenzie cites  Albanian theatre maker Mario Banushi’s Goodbye Lidita a wordless work about a family through death and new birth. This production from Athens has been hailed as a work of  astonishing visual and symbolic power. “There are a lot of brilliant names that are equally new and that is really important”, Mackenzie says “because the festival is finding hits of tomorrow and not just hits of today. I am prepared to bet that Mario (Banushi) is going to be a hit of today and a hit of tomorrow.” “It is important to show new names. I hope that everybody trusts us to try some of those new names”

Mackenzie’s festival is not just a showcase of familiar and new world class artists from Australia and internationally with new works that open our hearts and minds to the human condition now and into the future. Mackenzie comes to the Adelaide Festival with a passionate commitment to community engagement. To this extent she has introduced two initiatives that mark a new phase in festival programming. Create4Adelaide is a concept borrowed from Glasgow’s COP 26 where power lies entirely with young people who decide what the theme for the year should be. The Festival with cultural partners who have an investment in youth arts approached schools to participate in the project and submit works of art on the theme of climate change. Workshops were held in the  schools throughout the state and over a thousand works of art were submitted in three categories: extinction of animals and plants, extreme weather events and pollution of our waterways. The young people will then vote on which works of art will represent them in the Adelaide Festival and these will be exhibited in the Bicentennial Observatory of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Mackenzie plans for this to become an annual event in the Festival calendar and audiences will be asked to vote on a topic for the following year.

Create4Adelaide with Grade 4 students

The other free community centred event and Mackenzie’s unique contribution to a fresh approach to programming is Floods of Fire. This is a two day festival within the Festival that confronts the challenge of climate change. The event has been conceived and directed by artistic director Airan Berg from Linz in Austria and led by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Presented in the University of Adelaide Floods of Fire will celebrate the university’s 150th anniversary with over 100 South Australian partner organizations. The first part, Our Voices, Our Dreams will invite communities, cultural leaders, artists, scientists, researchers, activists and artivists to present short artistic interventions responding to the theme of Floods of Fire.  Part 2 will feature Our Citizen’s Orchestra, which proved a huge success at the opening of the 2023 Adelaide Festival. The intercultural and intergenerational orchestra and chorus will work with musical director Tim Steiner from the UK and Ricardo Baptista from Portugal to reflect South Australian experiences and the climate reality we all face. Akram Khan returns to Adelaide with a remade interpretation of Kipling’s The Jungle Book set in suburbia. It reflects his continuing concern with climate change. It is set in the future where wild animals have taken over our cities and where Mowgli is stranded not in the jungle but in the city as a climate refugee. It’s something that comes from his passion first!”

Our Citizen's Orchestra in Floods of Fire. Photo Andrew Beveridge 

            Adelaide’s North Terrace will be the magnet for free events including Create4Adelaide, Floods of Fire, Jose Da Silva’s Inner Sanctum at the 2024 Adelaide Bicentennial of Art at the Art Gallery and Festival Community where artists and audiences can mingle and meet. At the State Library of South Australia audiences will be able to see Laurie Anderson’s I’ll Be Your Mirror. The various sites along Adelaide’s elegant and stylish North Terrace emanate an energy and invention that sets Mackenzie’s festival apart from many of its predecessors and gives audiences license to participate freely.  We are trying to introduce a kind of new element of enabling anyone in the community” Mackenzie says. “You start from what community members want to say about their lives and their futures and the burning issues that they notice about them. Politics is integral to the way you live your life. ”

In the wake of the result of the referendum of a voice to parliament enshrined in the constitution nowhere is politics more relevant than in the commissioned and programmed works of the indigenous community of artists. “The major role of a festival is to give voice to artists. Mackenzie says. “If ever there were a section of the arts community whose voice needs to be heard in the current circumstances it is the First Nations artists. It is extremely timely that we are able to give a platform to Stephen Page’s Baleen Moondjan, the opening event on Glenelg Beach, to Jacob Boehme’s Guuranda, and Daniel Riley’s Marrow. They are all making new works that are being workshopped now.  That is incredibly important. There has never been a more urgent time to be insuring that they have a voice Ngapa William Cooper which was a highlight of the ’23 festival returns with Dr. Lou Emmett, Lior and Nigel Westlake. It will be performed with Lior and Westlake’s first song cycle, Compassion.

Barrie Kosky's production of   The Threepenny Opera

       In  a programme as rich and diverse as the 2024 Adelaide Festival, I ask the impossible question. If audiences were coming from intestate and could only afford to choose a selection of events, what would Mackenzie recommend? “You are so mean to ask that” Mackenzie retorts. The starting point might be the festival programme on the Adelaide Festival website which also includes Writer’s Week and WOMADelaide. There is a pause before Mackenzie offers some insight into the unmissable. “You won’t get another chance to see Igor Stravinsky’s first opera The Nightingale and Other Fables directed by Robert Le Page with such theatrical magic. It is such an outstanding opera, rarely done and you’ll never see it done in Australia and I doubt that it will ever be done again in our lifetime. I would also say that in that first weekend Jacob Boehme’s Guuranda is going to go down in festival history as is Stephen Page’s Baleen Moondjan. Another unmissable production in that first week is Barrie Kosky’s astounding production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Victorian satire The Threepenny Opera, direct from the legendary Berliner Ensemble. Also the third world premier event that weekend is Restless Theatre’s Private View, giving voice to people with disabilities who do not always get the chance to talk about love and romance and sex. They are approaching this with their impeccable standard. I love Restless ‘s work”

Lovers of performance art will be intrigued by Takeover, a global participatory project from the Marina Abramovic Institute. Aficionados of world music will be enthralled by the performances at WOMADelaide and literature lovers and those with a passion for ideas will again flock to Writers’ Week. Mackenzie has created a festival for everyone . She pauses to reflect on her program for the 2024 Adelaide Festival. “I’m living my dream” It is a dream that she is excited to share with artists and audiences when the festival opens with Stephen Page’s Baleen Moondjan on the beach at the seaside suburb of Glenelg on March 1st.

Adelaide Festival

March 1-17 2024

Bookings and Festival Program on

Phone: Adelaide Festival 1300 393 404024

Ticketek 131 246