Perth International Arts Festival Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza announces her third program.

Death-defying acrobatics, big ideas, intimate performances for two, moments of artistic grace and splendour – the 2010 Perth International Arts Festival program delivers something for arts lovers of every age, welcoming back old friends and inviting new audiences to join us for Western Australia’s premier cultural event and biggest party.

Last week, Perth Festival Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza announced the 2010 program, featuring international stars like France’s Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu, Russia’s Maly Drama Theatre and the UK’s Antony and the Johnsons who are among 1000 artists from Australia and abroad making Perth the cultural capital of Australia for nearly four weeks.

From the Lotterywest Festival Celebration, in which Spain’s La Fura Dels Baus work with 60 West Australians to create a jaw-dropping show 70 metres in the air, to a packed program of free and family events including free Haircuts by Children and a Children’s Jury, many people from WA and beyond will discover the treasures the 2010 program has to offer.

The new program is the third of four under Shelagh Magadza’s stewardship. Her term has so far seen unprecedented growth in audience numbers with more than 330,000 West Australians attending Festival events last year. This confirms the success of the Perth Festival, which engages the largest audience per capita of any festival in Australia.

Shelagh Magadza said: “This year we invite the WA public to connect with us as never before as we bring some of the most exciting artists of our era to Perth, many for the first time.”

“This is a chance to see some of the best work from around the world, along with uniquely Australian stories.

“Only at Festival time can audiences experience so many enriching events.”

The $13.8 million 2010 Festival renews the commitment to a celebration of international contemporary art practice as the core of the Festival program; to provide a platform for Western Australia’s own artists; to represent Australia’s Indigenous cultures and to explore the city landscape by turning our urban environment into a playground of possibilities.

The Perth Festival is Australia’s longest-running multi-arts festival and offers the largest program in terms of scope, covering all genres from the performing arts to including theatre, dance, music, visual arts, literature and film. Ms Magadza acknowledges the Perth Festival team who work closely with her to not only program the entire Festival but also to produce it and communicate it to the wider community.

The Festival starts with a spectacular creation that promises designed especially for Perth. Spanish masters of large-scale outdoor theatre, La Fura dels Baus will have you awe-struck with their visual spectacle 70 metres above the ground. They will work with 60 brave souls from the West Australian community to present an event combining breathtaking acrobatics, music and light to delight audiences.

This Lotterywest Festival Celebration has been created especially for Perth and kicks off almost four weeks during which the city’s heart will beat to the rhythm of performers at Beck’s Music Box, to visual artists transforming our urban spaces into living works of art, to children and families enjoying the buzz of Perth at Festival time.

Highlights abound in Festival 10 and include a packed theatre program, with no less than 12 productions, including two world premieres and four Australian premieres.

Exclusive to the Perth Festival is the world renowned Maly Drama Theatre’s powerful production Life and Fate. Adapted by Maly director Lev Dodin from Vassily Grossman’s 20th Century classic Russian novel, this play depicts the life of a Jewish physicist, Viktor Shtrum, who must balance personal morality with aiding Stalin’s pursuit of the atomic bomb. Long banned in Russia for its portrayal of communism, the themes of Grossman’s novel are beautifully brought to the stage in the celebrated Maly style.

Another giant of 20th Century literature is Luigi Pirandello, whose classic play Six Characters in Search of an Author is given a contemporary turn by exciting young British director Rupert Goold in its Australian premiere season. The six characters of the title appear unannounced during the editing of a docu-drama, demanding their story be told. Tony-winning actor Ian McDiarmid and Olivier Award-nominated Catherine McCormack lead the cast of this unmissable show that will leave you wondering if anyone is who they seem in our media-wired age.

Highly original Norwegian company Jo StrØmgren Kompani bring us a tempest in a teacup The Society. When a collective of sworn coffee drinkers is infiltrated by a tea-drinking traitor, all hell breaks loose. This masterful blend of physical comedy, impromptu dance and music is performed in a nonsensical language and satirises much of what society holds dear while obliterating political correctness.

Perth Festival is proud to support two world premieres by three WA companies in our ongoing commitment to encouraging local talent in an exciting and strengthening theatre environment. Director Matthew Lutton premieres one of Australia’s most audacious new plays, Tom Holloway’s Love Me Tender; Deckchair Theatre premieres Humphrey Bower’s adaptation of Robert Drewe’s celebrated novel Grace. From Black Swan comes a new production of Tony Briggs’ exuberant and highly successful The Sapphires. The three plays sweep from Sydney to the Kimberley, from rural NSW to Vietnam, from Ancient Greece to the Australian backyard in their explorations of Australian identity.

And for those who wish to really become immersed in the theatre, what better experience than to become the play? Innovative company Rotozaza’s Etiquette gives you everything you need. Seated at a café in the city, you and a fellow festival-goer are given a script and a few props. Using headphones, you follow instructions and act out the play. The results will surprise you!

This year’s dance program features a high-octane blend of hip-hop, live singing, contemporary and classical dance against a video backdrop in the effervescent Good Morning, Mr Gershwin. Sure to appeal to a wide audience, this lively tribute to the joyful music of Gershwin comes from highly sought-after French troupe, Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu.

In its world premiere season, Shaun Parker and Company brings us a special Festival co-commission, Happy As Larry. Nine amazing performers take on the personality types of the Enneagram in this buoyant exploration of human happiness via the language of contemporary dance.

A massive Festival music program is bookended by two very special events. The Festival opens with the spellbinding Mercury Prize-winners Antony and the Johnsons in two exquisite evenings of song with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. We close the Festival with a magic night under the stars at Kings Park with Sing the Truth: The Music of Nina Simone. This very special celebration of the legacy of the “high priestess of soul” Nina Simone, is performed by four of today’s biggest soul and jazz stars, Patti Austin, Dianne Reeves, Nina’s daughter Simone and Lizz Wright, accompanied by Nina Simone’s original band featuring Al Schackman.

Perth Festival helps breathe new life into the recently refurbished iconic Astor Theatre with a specially curated program melding the best of contemporary live music with compelling film to offer audiences a unique Festival experience. Among the shows are British Sea Power providing the live soundtrack to Robert J Flaherty’s 1934 pseudo-documentary Man of Aran and 13 Most Beautiful … Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, featuring Dean & Britta’s music played before a backdrop short films of some of the most beautiful people shot by pop icon Warhol at The Factory in the 1960s.

The centrepiece of this year’s fine music program is another special Festival co-production, Peter Grimes, performed for the first time in WA. Benjamin Britten’s powerful work unites international and national stars with the talents of West Australian Opera and the Australian Youth Orchestra for three fully staged performances of one of the 20th century’s greatest operas. Featuring an epic tenor role (American Anthony Dean Griffey stars as Grimes) and breathtaking orchestral score, Neil Armfield directs this masterful new Peter Grimes, perfectly capturing one man’s struggle against cruel fate and a crueler society.

The Festival would not be complete without Perth’s hottest meeting place for music lovers, party-goers and artists, the Beck’s Music Box. The 2010 season kicks off with a night of funk, soul and jazz fever with James Brown’s spiritual children, LA legends Breakestra. The fun doesn’t let up over each night of the Festival, with a musical smorgasbord from around the world: 23 nights of bands, world music, jazz and comedy plus some big names and special events, including iconic rocker Marianne Faithfull, and iconic Australian trio

Dirty Three in a Don’t Look Back gig, performing their seminal album Ocean Sounds in its entirety. And finally, the Perth Writers Festival is the heart of Festival discussion and discourse. Save the long weekend in March (Feb 26 – Mar 1) to join other readers and writers in this celebration of the written word The Writers precinct at the University of WA includes extended cafe facilities, areas for picnicking, a Festival bookshop and exhibition spaces. Esteemed British philosopher AC Grayling presents the opening address entitled Ideas that Matter while American essayist and fiction writer Barry Lopez provides the closing address, Turning Darkness into Light: the Literature of Hope. Between these two thought-provoking sessions join William Dalrymple, Irvine Welsh, Patrick Gale, Salley Vickers, Jasper Fforde, Thomas Kenneally and Alex Miller to name but a few. The full program of events will be announced on January 28, 2010.

Shelagh Magadza sees the Festival as time to celebrate our community and our place in the world through the work of great artists.

“I encourage you to immerse yourself in the 2010 Perth Festival program which truly offers something for everyone. You will be surprised and inspired by what you find,” she said.

The Perth International Arts Festival runs from February 5 to March 1, 2010.

Visit: perthfestival.com.au

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