Set to arouse all the senses through 230 music, theatre, dance, literature, film and visual art events, the 65th annual Perth Festival in 2018 will be nothing short of spellbinding. Artistic director Wendy Martin tells us more.
Tell us about the 2018 rebrand from Perth International Arts Festival to its original name of Perth Festival.
For 65 years, Perth Festival has been at the heart of our city. At the edge of Australia, at the edge of the world, our lifestyle, our environment and our history gives us a distinctive way of celebrating culture. Our name change from Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) to Perth Festival re-asserts our core identity as a Festival for the people of Perth. The new name and branding focuses on the ‘Perthness’ of the festival, and shows that Perth Festival isn’t just about international work, but how it intersects with the work of our own amazing local artists and in about providing a summer of extraordinary experiences for the people of our city.
What about the inspiration behind the theme of changing light?
Our look and feel is inspired by the extraordinary changing colour that we experience everyday here on the edge of Australia overlooking the Indian Ocean. Our festival is bright, bold and has something for everyone. Here in Perth we really do see art in a different light. It is a quality that will be celebrated in the most beautiful way with our free opening event Siren Song. For 10 days at dawn and dusk, Siren Song will broadcast the unadorned voices of women singing from loudspeakers atop city buildings in the CBD. It lasts around seven minutes – the time it takes for the sun to fully clear the horizon – and bring a rich, new experience of the changing hues of our city governed by the rituals of sunrise and sunset. I love that the canyon of commerce that is St George’s Terrace will be taken over by the voices of women who represent our diverse multicultural community.
The 2018 official Festival scent is Damask Rose. How was this chosen?
Iranian migrant Mahin Nowbakht has inspired this year’s scent with her precious donation of a bottle of rosewater to our Museum of Water. Mahin arrived with rosewater and Damask Rose petals when she migrated to Perth 14 years ago and it speaks profoundly of the connection that this ancient flower gives to her homeland and culture. “Rosewater is like holy water to me,” she said. “Its scent makes me feel calm and at peace.” Look out for a very special event as part of our Museum of Water public programs at Fremantle Arts Centre that will celebrate the sounds and tastes of Persia.
Having hints of the scent in food and drinks in the Festival’s partnering restaurants and bars is a great way of tying the event together. How did your decision to do this for each Festival come about?
Scent is a particular obsession of mine, from childhood scent evokes such strong memories. It takes you back to places and people. In my first Festival here in 2016, I chose sandalwood because it is hugely important to Western Australia and a major export. In 2017, I opted for lemon myrtle because it could readily be used as an ingredient in food and drinks, so we could take the scent of the festival that step further. As our 2018 Festival Scent, Damask Rose tells a story of our multicultural community and is a gift between cultures that will be infused in venues, food and drinks across the city with our partners. Scent creates a memory of the festival experience, and so will the taste of Persian love cake and our rosewater cocktails.
At the risk of favouritism, can you tell us your top five picks for those new to Perth Festival?
Perth Festival is your Festival, we want everyone to relax and enjoy it. We encourage all new festival-goers to be bold and go with it. Remember, you’re about to see brilliant humans doing amazing things. So take a leap and join in a trance odyssey with Attractor, sit on the edge of your seat as 22 acrobats catapult through the sky in Il n’est pas encore minuit, laugh out loud to the barbed banter of secret men’s business in Barber Shop Chronicles, experience another world in Beyond Time and explore the best in international cinema under a perfect Western Australian night sky at Lotterywest Films.
And your top five picks for Perth Festival veterans?
Hold your breath, these are this year’s trailblazers, set to give Festival-goers a genre-busting, binge-inducing and totally unforgettable experience.
British dance wild child Michael Clark brings to a simple rock ‘n’ roll… song to Perth with a triple bill of gorgeously arresting choreography and iconic music. On it’s first international outing, Vessel is unlike anything seen before where sculpted bodies pulsate to haunting music from Ryuchi Sakamoto. White Spirit combines the sacred and profane, music and visual art in a powerful sensorial and spiritual experience. The award winning pianist, Jean – Efflam Bavouzet takes audiences on a three-part adventure of Claude Dubussy’s music. Join in a powerful trance odyssey in Attractor as audiences are invited to take part in the performance.