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The Adelaide Festival kicks off tomorrow

Words: Jane Llewellyn. 

Image credit: Shane Reid, Barrio 2012

Balancing a festival program is tricky business but something that director David Sefton has managed to achieve with the line up at this year’s Adelaide Festival. Kicking off this Friday with a free concert at Elder Park – featuring Paul Kelly and Neil Finn – the program will not disappoint.

Sefton who made a name for himself as the brains behind London’s Meltdown Festival has spent the last 10 years making his mark in LA with UCLA live and now it’s Adelaide’s turn. Sefton likes to present artists in their wider context an approach he describes as “deboxing” because as he points out “artists don’t work in boxes”.

Putting together the festival line up Sefton says, “I try and think across the artforms in the same way. I approach the music programme in the same way that I would approach the theatre and dance programme.”

Getting bands like Severed Heads to reform for one night for the festival and bringing out mini festivals like Unsound, is what Sefton says is the exciting stuff for him. Unsound is a massive showcase of new electronic music that usually happens in Krakow and New York but this year it will be Krakow and Adelaide.

The programme will feature works that regular festival goers have come to expect like Sylvie Guillem and Nosferatu, but Sefton has mixed it up particularly with the music programme in the hope of broadening the Festival’s appeal. “With the inclusion of events like Unsound you get a response from two almost completely different generations,” says Sefton.

It’s the first time Polish theatre company, TR Warszawa (Nosferatu) and Belgian dance company, Ultima Vez (What the Body Does Not Remember) have performed in Australia and their shows are exclusive to Adelaide. “Being able to bring them over are huge coups because it’s a long way to come for people from Belgium and Poland,” says Sefton. “It means you have to come to Adelaide to see these things.”

Deciding what to include in the festival line up is no easy feat. Sefton travels widely and sees a lot of shows. “I start with the most exciting things I’ve seen but also try to take a perspective to represent what’s going on.”

For instance one of the things happening at the moment is “very intimate interactive responsive theatre. It’s a huge movement on the festival circuit and the Belgians were amongst the first to be out there doing it.” This is represented in the Trilogy from Belgium, The Smile Off Your Face, Internal and A Game of You, performed to small intimate audiences promising a theatre experience like no other.

This year’s Festival is also its first year as an annual event. Sefton, who prefers this structure, jokes “The office has to get used to working at twice the speed.” From a programming perspective “there were quite a few things that I wanted to get in to 2013 but it was too late and I was saying to them ‘can you do next year’ which is harder to do if it’s two years until the next festival,” says Sefton.

Other shows to look out for are Erth’s Murder, Inspired by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' Murder Ballads, Van Dyke Parks with special guests Daniel Johns and Kimbra plus performances by the National’s Aaron & Bryce Dessner under their Brassland label. No festival experience is complete without a visit to the late night festival bar and this year sees the return of Barrio featuring local and interstate/international musical talent as well as cocktail bars and delicious street food.

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