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Perth Festival to return in 2022 with events celebrating ocean themes

Perth Festival to return in 2022 with events celebrating ocean themes
November 16, 2021

Perth Festival 2022 will celebrate the theme of Wardan (Ocean) this summer through dockside escapades in Fremantle and dancing on the sand at City Beach, to oceanic orchestral concerts and surfing the swell of contemporary music, to heart-pumping theatre and a magical lighthouse set to captivate the young-at-heart.

After the success of the all-Western Australian program themed around Bilya (River) 2021, the Festival is venturing further in 2022 with world-premieres, new local commissions and works coming to Perth for the first time.

The Festival opens on 11th-12th February with the anarchic joyride of Escape. This massive, free multi-site family adventure is inspired by the legendary Catalpa convict escape and is created by the team behind the blockbuster 2017 and 2019 opening event Boorna Waanginy.

Escape celebrates the diverse stories, voyages, cultures and experiences of life on the west coast. Over two unforgettable nights Fremantle’s wharves, warehouses, beachfront and streets will be transformed into a vast arena of stunning light installations, music, dance, mass community events, feasts and a madcap Catalpa re-enactment – by a troupe of outlandish cyclists.

To close the Festival on the March long weekend, Perry Lakes will light up with the immersive, multisensory futurism of Noongar Wonderland. This dynamic expression of Noongar culture unfolds in circles of technicolour lighting, dance and song between the two lakes and is co-created by many of the artists behind recent Festival hits Hecate and Fist of Fury Noongar Daa.

From the beginning to the end of the three-week Festival, artists will summon up new worlds and new moods across music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film and writing events.

Perth Festival Artistic Director Iain Grandage notes ‘‘This is a Festival to immerse yourself in. We are thrilled that it includes many new commissions that promise to reach across horizons and go on to travel the world.

“In our city between the desert and the sea, we are transfixed by the ocean and the worlds of wonder out there in the west. Join us to celebrate the ocean’s many faces within Perth Festival 2022. The program is designed to be as expansive as that broad western horizon and as cleansing as the sea.”

Indigenous-led works include Yirra Yaakin’s joyous world premiere of David Milroy’s rollicking 1960s-inspired musical Panawathi Girl at His Majesty’s Theatre, the Black Swan State Theatre Company-Sydney Theatre Company co-production of Meyne Wyatt’s acclaimed play City of Gold and the sugar-coated thrill-pill of Daddy, from dancer Joel Bray. 

The landmark theatrical event Mary Stuart will bring to magnificent life one of history’s great rivalries; Elizabeth I’s battle royale with Mary, Queen of Scots. Acclaimed WA playwright Kate Mulvany has adapted Schiller’s epic tale into a sumptuous costume drama with an outstanding WA cast led by colossal acting talents Kate Walsh as Elizabeth and Caroline Brazier as Mary at the Heath Ledger Theatre.

Theatre-lovers also will be swept along by charismatic Rwandan-born comedian Oliver Twist’s captivating survival tale JALI. The world-premiere of Kim Crotty’s The Smallest Stage beautifully reveals how a jailed father uses stories as a bridge to connect to his kids – and invites parents to share the stage with their own 9-to-12-year-olds. Participation also beckons audiences in Body of Knowledge, an intimate cross-generational look at the body, age and change by Samara Hersch with the WA Youth Theatre Company.

The sensational family show Patch’s Lighthouse will delight audiences of all ages as they take a thrilling journey of discovery through a series of connected rooms and theatres in the heart of the UWA campus, each full of performances and hands-on experiences of light and its magical effects.

Emerging from the darkness of the theatre and an expanse of undulating black silk, dancers and musicians will reveal the stunning beauty of Rachel Arianne Ogle’s deeply ritualised And The Earth Will Swallow Them Whole. Other dance highlights include The Ninth Wave, an apocalyptic dance party at the edge of the world, with The Farm and Co3 Contemporary Dance kicking up the City Beach sand to an original score by Ben Ely of Regurgitator. And WA Ballet celebrates its 70th birthday nearby at Quarry Amphitheatre, bringing together life, love, lust and loss for another glorious year of Ballet at the Quarry.

A strong contemporary music program makes a welcome return for 2022 to reveal exciting new possibilities in unusual spaces across the city. These include WA-based international beatmaker Ta-Ku’s Songs to Experience, a room-by-room journey through his new album inside the old Karrakatta Club women’s club, a takeover of the European Foods warehouse in Northbridge, the return of RTRFM’s WA Mixtape and much-anticipated gigs by Pond, Methyl Ethyl and Stella Donnelly. Even more treats will be revealed in January.

Contemporary and classical music go cheek to cheek when Katie Noonan joins string musicians for an evening of chamber music and song at the Art Gallery of WA. Fine music lovers also will be energised by powerful oceanic motifs in Sea Pictures, when Australia’s most acclaimed soprano Emma Matthews shares the stage with WA’s finest chamber musicians beneath the museum’s famous blue whale. At Perth Concert Hall, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Western Australian Youth Orchestra combined to present the Australian premiere of John Luther Adams’ monumental Become Ocean alongside a newly commissioned work from local composer Olivia Davies. In Rockingham and Yanchep, Perth Symphony Orchestra performs free concerts in coastal parks, presented by the Cities of Rockingham and Wanneroo. On an even grander scale, the contemporary coliseum of the WACA Ground will be transformed into southern Spain as Perth nights set the scene for Bizet’s magnificent Carmen to be brought to life by more than 150 singers and musicians from West Australian Opera, WAO Chorus, WAO Children's Chorus and WASO.

The Perth Festival 2022 also embrace outdoor lifestyle as the ever-popular Lotterywest Films returns under the stars and pines of UWA Somerville to showcase the world’s finest films from 22nd November. Highlights include Cannes Film Festival award-winners Memoria, Murina and opening night romantic comedy The Worst Person in the World, plus the world-premiere of Renée Webster’s WA-made How to Please a Woman.

The Literature and Ideas program returns to inspire, entertain, and challenge across two weekends. Sisonke Msimang curates a mix of conversations, panels and storytelling in A Day of Ideas: At Sea at Subiaco Arts Centre on 19th February. Over the following Writers Weekend of 26th-27th February, Gillian O’Shaughnessy brings back Family Day for youngsters to experience the magic of literature in the lush grounds of Fremantle Arts Centre. In this tranquil setting, the turbulence of the human heart is navigated with such esteemed storytellers as Lisa Taddeo, Helen Garner, Michael Robotham, Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, Hannah Kent and many more to be announced on 20th January.

Wardan, the ocean, also engulfs visual artists’ imaginations as a reservoir for metaphor and dreams in galleries across the city. Major exhibitions include acclaimed British film and installation artist Isaac Julien at John Curtin Gallery, the dynamic group show Undertow at Fremantle Arts Centre, the epic majesty of Kimberley artist Sonia Kurarra at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, the undersea dreamscapes of Tarryn Gill, Benjamin Barretto and Nemo Gandossini-Poirier in The Sunset Lounge inside the Alex Hotel and Shadow Wine Bar, and Amrita Hepi’s dance-video installation Monumental at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. The whole family can enjoy a day of workshops, food, dance and storytelling as part of AGWA’s Ever Present: First People’s Art of Australia.

As ever, the Connect program goes from strength to strength, playing its role as a vital bridge between Festival artists, the local arts sector and the broader community. This year, the Festival will reach out from the city and around Western Australia with the new Touring WA program putting on shows and workshops in Bunbury, Albany and Karratha.

Perth Festival runs 11th February – 6th March 2022.
Lotterywest Films runs from 22nd November 2021 – 3rd April 2022.
Tickets go on sale to Friends of the Festival at 12pm noon WST on Monday 15th November and to the general public at 9am WST on Monday 22nd November.
For bookings and further information go to

Image top: Emerging from the darkness of the theatre and an expanse of undulating black silk, dancers and musicians will reveal the stunning beauty of Rachel Arianne Ogle’s deeply ritualised And The Earth Will Swallow Them Whole Credit Peter Cheng Acid Flix; image centre: Perth Festival 2022 Panawathi Girl Credit Daniel Carson; image above: Perth Festival Dreams of Place Credit WASO

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