December 03, 2020
The 2021 Adelaide Festival gives life support of the best kind
The 2021 Adelaide Festival program, prepared over this past turbulent year under ever-changing circumstances, may just turn out to be one of the most necessary – and memorable.
Launched on Thursday 3 December at the Adelaide Festival Theatre, the 36th Adelaide Festival offers a total of 70 events in theatre, music, opera, dance, film, food and visual arts – including uniquely local programs Adelaide Writers’ Week, Chamber Landscapes at UKARIA and WOMADelaide – over 17 days from 26 February to 14 March.
10 world premieres, 14 Australian premieres, 18 events exclusive to Adelaide will reaffirm the Festival as the benchmark for Southern-hemisphere cultural celebrations, while developing technologies and new program delivery methods will offer unique and unprecedented audience experiences.
Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield explain why their fifth program is so special:
“For us the ‘old normal’ was spending a third of our lives in an utterly abnormal way: racing from airport to airport, from theatre or concert hall to hotel, from hotel to airport, on repeat. A period of enforced stillness has caused us to reflect on how easy it is to take for granted those precious tenets of arts festivals: that bringing people together to experience something new – whether beautiful, troubling, funny or challenging – is essential nourishment for society. The connection forged between performer and audience, and indeed audiences witnessing human creativity together, is a primal experience. We are longing to bring it back to everyone’s lives.
Since March, the question we have been consistently asked is ‘how do you plan a festival in a pandemic?’ Admittedly, it has not been easy: an enforced hiatus for companies across the world; artists and performers losing months of employment overnight and some leaving the industry in order to secure jobs in other fields; mental health impacts among art workers; a reduction in the number of new productions being created; insurance cover all but disappearing, border closures, reduced flight routes, quarantining requirements; new costs of developing and implementing specialised COVID-management plans, and the severe reduction in venue capacities and therefore box office income and ticket stock.
So we focused on finding solutions. We wanted to ensure Adelaide Festival remained true to a 60-year tradition of bringing great international artists and events to our city while simultaneously supporting Adelaide companies and others from throughout Australia. We have always had a very strong presence of local work but in 2021 we supported a number of artists and companies to use this year of enforced isolation to develop new work at a scale and ambition that hadn’t been possible before. The 2021 Adelaide Festival has a record number of Australian premieres and we also backed new creative collaborations and made early investments in artists and projects that will bear fruit in 2022 and beyond.
We’ve also found ways of giving Adelaide audiences ‘international’ experiences so they remain connected to the thrilling and urgent creative voices of artists beyond our shores. Some of the works in our program were first created in other parts of the world with artists from the USA, UK and Europe, and these will be will be staged live in Adelaide featuring leading Australian artists and ensembles. These events include our major opera presentation, a significant theatre event, and a series of fine-music recitals. There will also be three live international events at the 2021 Adelaide Festival, including two extraordinary new installations from the US and UK – both free to the public – and a classical music concert.
Finally, we’re particularly excited by the potential of the four-part Live from Europe program, which will enable Adelaide audiences to attend live international performances in theatre, music and dance, from Russia, UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The only difference is that they are all happening, in real time, on the other side of the world. Just like in any other Adelaide Festival, the artists and audience can see and hear each other but the difference is that this time the audience-performer connection is mediated through high resolution cameras and the latest in streaming technology. And a beautiful thing about streaming is that performances, even our centrepiece opera, can be simultaneously appreciated throughout regional SA, from the South-east through the Riverland to the Iron Triangle. Coronavirus or not, we feel this is a very special innovation.
It feels like the Festivals in 2020 and 2021 could be the bookends of the COVID-era. The first round of lockdowns started just two hours after our final 2020 event finished and with the expectation of a vaccine in the first quarter of 2021, we are seeing this period as a time when the indispensable aspects of our lives fell into sharp focus. We know that people will look back on the 2021 Festival as one to remember; we hope that it will also offer opportunities for renewal and restoration and a boost of energy, optimism and joy that comes with each Adelaide Festival’s abundance of creative imagination.”