Over 18 gloriously tropical days and nights, Darwin Festival 2022 will excite and entice with a rich program of events spanning music, theatre, comedy, dance, cabaret, visual arts and family fun.

Running from 4-21 August, Australia’s hottest winter arts festival has this week unveiled its full program, brimming with Top End talent, some of the hottest interstate and international artists, and an eclectic mix of performances guaranteed to thrill Territorians and visitors alike.

Epic live music gigs will light up the Territory’s favourite open-air venue, the INPEX Sunset Stage in Festival Park, with the likes of Emma Donovan and The Putbacks, Arlo Parks, Jaguar Jonze, Alex The Astronaut, Confidence Man, Elsy Wameyo, Tropical F Storm and Ngaiire taking to the stage. Comic virtuoso and musical genius Tim Minchin will also make his Darwin debut at the Darwin Amphitheatre as part of this year’s Festival.

Theatre works featured in the program include the layered and compelling Meremere, an autobiographical multimedia dance work from New Zealand that follows the inspirational life of critically acclaimed dancer and performer Rodney Bell, Maureen: Harbinger of Death, a celebration of the wisdom of female elders, and smash-hit queer thriller DIRT.

Festival audiences love a good chuckle and there’s no shortage of stand-up in the 2022 program, with Dilruk Jayasinha, Vidya Rajan, Dane Simpson, Nath Valvo, Scout Boxall, Zoë Coombs Marr, Tripod and Barnie Duncan delivering the laughs.

Life is a cabaret old friend, and each year Darwin Festival serves up a smorgasbord of devilish delights. With a wild new show that celebrates and subverts cultural icons, YUMMY ICONIC promises to deliver drag variety at its best. Self-proclaimed “Cabaret du Sex Clown” Betty Grumble is back with her latest offering, Enemies of Grooviness Eat Sh!t, as is larger-than-life cabaret star Sarah Ward (aka Yana Alana) with her queer sci-fi rock extravaganza, The Legend of Queen Kong.

Mini Festival fans will be spoilt for choice with a range of events catering to families. Take advantage of the stunning dry season weather with two epic picnics, as the much-loved City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic returns to the Esplanade for a day of fun, while the lawns of the Museum and Art Gallery of NT transform for a Prehistoric Picnic, where ancient megafauna roam. The creators of The Bookbinder return with their darkly comic and inventive one-man show Tröll, while shadow puppetry, swinging Irish music and stunning physical performance bring to life the story of The Boy Who Talked to Dogs.

On the final weekend of the Festival, a truly unique spectacle will illuminate the waters off Jervois Park as 160 drones take flight for balarr inyiny. This breathtaking, choreographed sky show, led by Larrakia artist Jenna Lee, will transform the coastline with ancient stories of place and Larrakia culture, brought to life through LED drone lighting, 3D animation and a cinematic soundscape. This free, immersive light performance will be held over three nights and is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for audiences young and old.

Darwin Festival Artistic Director Felix Preval said, “There is so much to celebrate in this year’s program, with over 150 performances and 80 events spread across 20 venues and featuring more than 400 artists from the NT, Australia and overseas.”

“Some of the incredible projects in this year’s Darwin Festival program have been in the works for years – delayed, postponed or imprisoned by the pandemic. Others are spilling hot from the lips of artists, responding to the present moment. Some bring stories thousands of years in the telling to Festival audiences for the very first time. All are as bold and urgent as anything we’ve ever presented.”

Minister for Major Events, Paul Kirby said, “It’s fantastic to see the Darwin Festival reveal an amazing program that especially features local artists, along with national and international performers.

“After a challenging few years, it’s great to see interstate and international acts returning.

“From the beloved Teddy Bear’s Picnic through to the Australian Ballet; from Tim Minchin to a drone light show by local Larrakia Artist Jenna Lee; there is such a wide variety of events.

“There’s never been a better time to get involved and enjoy everything our beautiful city has to offer during the Darwin Festival.

“As an event that boosts visitor numbers, supports local businesses and puts the Top End on the map, the Northern Territory Government couldn’t more proud to support the Darwin Festival.”

Darwin Festival’s full program of events is on sale from 9am Monday 20 June. Friends of the Festival members can get first dibs on tickets from 9am Friday 17 June with an exclusive three-day presale period. Tickets and Friends of the Festival memberships are available from darwinfestival.org.au and the Tourism Top End Visitor Information Centre (6 Bennett St, Darwin City).

Darwin Festival is proudly supported by the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin.

Check out the full program:

FIRST NATIONS OPENING WEEKEND

Experience the ancient songlines that inspired Gurrumul’s album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) at the Santos Opening Night Concert, Buŋgul (4 Aug). This free, open-air event will see Darwin Amphitheatre at George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens transformed into a meeting place of dance, song and ritual in a live performance by Yolŋu dancers, songmen and the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. Created on country in North East Arnhem Land with the Yunupiŋu family, Buŋgul is a ceremonial celebration of Gurrumul’s seminal final album, a landmark in Australian music.

The 16th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is welcoming people back in person to experience the rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, design and culture at the Darwin Convention Centre (5-7 Aug), with visitors having the chance to take home a contemporary creation from the oldest continuous living cultures in the world.

The National Indigenous Music Awards, one of Australia’s most important music events, returns to celebrate some of the biggest names in the Australian music scene and discover up and coming talent in one mega night of music under the stars. With Thelma Plum and King Stingray just the tip of the live performance iceberg, the night is set to be a true celebration of what has been a huge year for First Nations music (6 Aug at Darwin Amphitheatre).

Experience the diversity of contemporary Indigenous artistic practice when the richest art prize pool in Australia returns to MAGNT. Opening with a vibrant free awards ceremony on Friday 5 August, the annual Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs) feature stunning new works across a variety of art forms and media by emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from around the country (6 Aug 2022 – 15 Jan 2023).

Even before the Festival officially starts, two special events will celebrate Indigenous fashion and textiles. The National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA, 3 Aug) recognise innovation, diversity and ethical practices in First Nations’ fashion, while the hugely popular Country to Couture puts that all on show in a colourful runway showcase of wearable art (2 Aug).

SPECIAL EVENTS

One of the world’s most popular Aussie live acts, comic virtuoso Tim Minchin has been selling out award-winning gigs in the UK, US and Australia for over a decade. The satirist, provocateur and musical genius will make his Darwin debut in a stunning open-air performance with his band at the Darwin Amphitheatre (13 Aug).

Led by Larrakia artist Jenna Lee, balarr inyiny is an epic spectacle of light, movement and sound that will transform the night skies over Darwin for 3 evenings (19-21 Aug), with 160 drones synchronized in a breathtaking choreographed sky show set to an original soundtrack by Kuya James and featuring Lena Kellie. balarr inyiny, meaning “light dreaming”, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Following the inaugural Transmitter: Darwin x Delhi 2021 artist lab, Transmutation is a work-in-progress showing that presents content from a large-scale interactive installation being developed by the collective, as well as a Q & A exploring the collective’s digital and creative processes. The project draws on the diverse practices of multidisciplinary artists of Indian heritage from Australia and India (13 Aug).

MUSIC

Settle in for a soulful start to musical nights in Festival Park with Australia’s Queen of Soul, Emma Donovan, and Melbourne rhythm combo The Putbacks, as they promise a night of banging tunes and masterful lyricism (5 Aug).

With a name perfectly suited to these turbulent times, Tropical F Storm are set to rain down on the INPEX Sunset Stage with their brain-melting apocalyptic art punk (6 Aug).

British indie pop sensation Arlo Parks is making Darwin Festival the very first stop on her first Australian tour this August. Having won the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize and earned triple j Feature Album status, the 21-year-old also recently nabbed herself two Grammy Nominations. Arlo Parks is fast becoming the voice of a generation (7 Aug).

With a sound that oscillates between torch songs inspired by Angelo Badalamenti and dystopian avant-rock reminiscent of The Birthday Party, Carla Lippis brings her rich and melancholic voice to the Festival with Carla Lippis Mondo Psycho (11 Aug).

Experience “cinema for your ears” with the enigmatic electro-indie-pop group Telenova when they present a night of music that evokes the feminine power of Lana Del Ray and the sophistication of Portishead (11 Aug).

Taiwanese-Australian multimedia artist Jaguar Jonze is bringing her iconic style and dynamic presence to the tropics with an electrifying live show. Expect a night of dark, inventive music delivered with defiant ferocity through smoky vocals (12 Aug).

Alex The Astronaut is an unforgettably original lyricist who imbues her songs with equal parts self-awareness and sensitivity, imagination and idiosyncratic humour. Catch her on the INPEX Sunset Stage as she tours the country with her latest album, How to Grow a Sunflower Underwater (13 Aug).

My Sunburnt Soundtrack sees Alice Springs songwriter and producer Resin Moon (aka Dave Crowe) bring together a group of the NT’s finest musicians to explore what it means to be a Territorian. This live show will bring the unique landscapes of the NT to life with shimmering synths, ambient guitars and deep beats (14 Aug).

Portable party ensemble Confidence Man, arguably one of the hottest live acts in Australian music today, are making a return to Darwin on the final Thursday of the Festival (18 Aug) as part of their national album tour. Unstoppable, unquenchable and undeniable, Confidence Man promise a night of outlandish costumes, choreographed routines and bossy lyrics.

Tipped to be the next big thing in Australian music, Adelaide singer, rapper and producer Elsy Wameyo will deliver a trailblazing mix of RnB, gospel and afrobeats to the Top End (19 Aug).

Expect a show full of sequins, glitter, face paint and dance classics when Sunshine and Disco Faith Choir take to the INPEX Sunset Stage (20 Aug); the signature house and techno sound of Melbourne DJ Sunshine unites with the uplifting soul and gospel vocals of a live choir in this joyful performance.

Darwin Festival 2022 will close with the futuristic RnB and soul sounds of a musical force of nature – Ngaiire (21 Aug).

Stay on after the 9pm INPEX Sunset Stage shows every Friday and Saturday night for the Festival’s iconic late-night hot spot, Club Awi. This year, Club Awi steps it up to a whole new level with DJs from around the country (and some returning from overseas) spinning tunes alongside a host of local greats and special guest performances. From the ingenious hip-hop of Dexter (ex-The Avalanches) to one of the country’s most in-demand selectors, dameeeela, and from the bone-rattling bass music and hyperactive dance tunes of Teriyaki Mami to Sydney party starter DJ Charlie Villas, this year’s Club Awi line-up is set to make dance floor legends of everyone!

Darwin’s favourite year-round music venue, The Railway Club, will once again feature a feast of live music talent every Friday and Saturday night of the Festival. Head out to the Rails to experience sets from the likes of cult favourites The Lazy Eyes (5 Aug), cross-cultural powerhouse Parvyn (6 Aug), timeless genre-hopping genius Gabriella Cohen (12 Aug), no-holds-barred instrumental tour-de-force Crooked Fiddle Band (13 Aug) and tense rock’n’roll trio Cable Ties (20 Aug).

CABARET

The Legend of Queen Kong is a fully accessible, queer, sci-fi extravaganza of meteoric proportions from cabaret darling Sarah Ward (Yana Alana). Equal parts rock concert and high-concept cabaret of interstellar discovery, Queen Kong’s long-awaited Darwin debut is not to be missed (5-6 Aug).

With a wild new show that celebrates and subverts cultural icons, legends and superstars, YUMMY ICONIC is drag variety at its very best. From its humble beginnings as a club night in Melbourne, to now being loved and adored internationally, YUMMY promises to deliver side-splitting comedy, breathtaking burlesque, sensational circus and outrageous drag acts for this year’s Festival (19-21 Aug).

Guaranteed to get you laughing, thinking and shimmying in your seat, Steven Oliver graces Darwin Festival with the cabaret comedy Bigger and Blacker for one fabulous night (10 Aug).

Join the “Cabaret du Sex Clown” that is Betty Grumble as she brings her latest offering Enemies of Grooviness Eat Sh!t to Darwin. Expect a show that is poetry, tribute, rock ‘n’ roll performance art collision, love scene and revenge fantasy all rolled into one (16-20 Aug).

The legendary three-man guitar-based singing jokester group Tripod have been going strong for 25 years and will perform a mix of new and favourite material in a couple of special live concerts (17-18 Aug).

Multi-award-winning comedian Lou Wall takes audiences down a rabbit hole into the darkest and strangest corners of the internet in a combination of stand-up and deranged PowerPoint presentation, That One Time I Joined the Illuminati (12-14 Aug).

Internationally renowned for their arresting mix of provocation and entertainment, Finucane & Smith return to Darwin with their Travelling Dance Hall. Featuring local luminaries alongside global talent, irresistible music, torch songs and hot moves, festoons and fan-dancing, Travelling Dance Hall celebrates the beauty in us all, under a starry sky and the twinkling lights of Darwin Festival’s INPEX Sunset Stage (12-13 Aug).

COMEDY

Innovative and sharply hilarious alt-comedy queen Vidya Rajan brings her show Respawn to the Festival, presenting a giddy mix of stand-up, sketch and passive-aggressive PowerPoint (5-7 Aug).

From antelope meat in the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here jungle to fine dining cooking in the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen, Dilruk Jayasinha has tasted the full spectrum of reality TV cuisine. His show Dil’icious will serve up a brand-new hour of tasty stand-up (9-10 Aug).

Join Dane Simpson, star of the hit show Aborigi-LOL, for Didgeridoozy, a night of gut-bustingly funny stories, fun facts and big laughs (9 Aug).

Festival favourite and complete show off Nath Valvo arrives in Darwin with his new show, Back in the Habit (16 Aug).

Buck Wild is an immersive hour of carefully organised cerebral chaos by manically energetic, neurodivergent stand-up comedian Scout Boxall (16-18 Aug).

A lesbian comedian plays a hack male comedian who has just come out of a long-term coma and is trying to process the modern world – such is the premise behind The Opener, a gag-filled pants wetter by comedy mastermind Zoë Coombs Marr (14 Aug).

A love letter to clubbing that is also an exploration of grief, Bunny is an hour of physical theatre, stand-up comedy and musical highs set to trigger the release of endorphins, from multi-award-winning New Zealand comedian and theatre maker Barnie Duncan (9-12 Aug).

THEATRE

Layered and compelling, Meremere is an autobiographical multimedia dance work from New Zealand that follows the inspirational life of critically acclaimed dancer and performer Rodney Bell. For three nights (18-20 Aug), Meremere will weave a tapestry of light, colour and sound, integrating documentary footage and imagery into one extraordinary theatrical experience.

The Playhouse at Darwin Entertainment Centre is transformed into a tennis court for the heart-warming story of Wiradjuri Australian tennis legend Evonne Goolagong, in the theatrical work Sunshine Super Girl (12-13 Aug). In a unique theatre-going experience, audiences can get up close to the action with exclusive on-stage courtside seats.

In Maureen: Harbinger of Death, writer and performer Jonny Hawkins transforms into Maureen, a razor-tongued “working class glamour queen”, inviting audiences into her living room for a journey into transcendent storytelling as he celebrates the wisdom of female elders (9-14 Aug).

Written by Angus Cameron and directed by Bronwen Coleman, DIRT is a smash-hit queer thriller that traverses one night where two people meet, drink and party in modern-day Moscow. Starring Patrick Livesy and Wil King, DIRT is a thrilling and alluring portrayal of sexuality, solidarity and persecution (19-21 Aug).

Punchy and passionate, The Cold Record is a time travel through punk, performed with insightful wit and inventiveness by American theatre maker Kirk Lynn. Audiences will leave with a mixtape of memories and a promise never to speak about what was witnessed – or else (10-14 Aug).

FAMILY

It’s been 65 million years since Darwin echoed with the footsteps of dinosaurs. Now, thanks to Erth, Sydney’s world-famous dino-recreationists, these majestic creatures will once again walk the land. The picturesque lawns of the Museum and Art Gallery of NT will transform into a Prehistoric Picnic, giving the whole family the opportunity to get up close to some life-like ancient creatures (11-14 Aug)

A rough and tumble theatre work starring acclaimed Irish actor Bryan Burroughs, The Boy Who Talked to Dogs is a magical and cheeky story of transformation and redemption based on the best-selling memoir by Martin McKenna (11-13 Aug).

Tröll explores the digital world with magic, humour and nostalgia that’s reminiscent of Stranger Things. From the creators of The Bookbinder, this combination of storytelling, projection and puppetry is sure to be a family favourite (18-21 Aug).

Darwin’s favourite family fun day is back! Bring the family (and Teddy) down to The Esplanade for the City of Darwin Teddy Bears’ Picnic and a jam-packed morning of free activities designed for youngsters (7 Aug).

CIRCUS / PHYSICAL THEATRE

AutoCannibal is a gruesomely funny work by circus firebrand Mitch Jones (aka Captain Ruin) that explores environmental destruction through the metaphor of an individual body. Mesmerising, poignant and terrifyingly hilarious, this unnerving merger of circus, performance art and physical theatre will have audiences on the edge of their seats (5-7 Aug).

DANCE

A testament to friendship, respect and profound exchange, TWO is a joyful celebration of trust, as two friends test the power hierarchy inherent in the Indian Kathak tradition through dance and dialogue. An intergenerational and interdisciplinary bromance between a dynamic dancer and a maestro Tabla musician, TWO is performed by creator and choreographer Raghav Handa and musician Maharshi Raval (5-7 Aug).

Waŋa sees NT Dance Company fuse traditional lore with contemporary movement to create an evocative new dance work. Accompanied by Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s string quartet, Waŋa (Spirit) showcases choreographer Gary Lang’s unique style of contemporary ‘Indigenous ballet’ in a moving, epic production (5-6 Aug).

The Australian Ballet’s Regional Tour Ballet Gala will bring the joy of classical dance to the Top End in a dazzling display of ballet. A highlight of the program will be Swan Lake Variations, a tribute to the beauty of the best-loved composer of ballet music, Tchaikovsky. This never-before-seen piece has been especially choreographed for the Regional Tour Ballet Gala by former Artistic Director David McAllister (18-19 Aug).

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Inspired by the Australian landscape and the power of connection to place, Heartland offers a unique sound world that blends the talents of internationally acclaimed didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton and violinist Véronique Serret for a powerful, yet ethereal, musical experience (7 Aug).

Witness the exciting world premiere of a new song cycle by celebrated Australian composer Emma Jayakumar. Echoing this new commission by Darwin Symphony Orchestra, Four Lost Songs celebrates the unique stories told by four talented NT Indigenous poets and also features work by Vaughan Williams and Igor Stravinsky (20 Aug).

Celebrated for her uninhibited, boundary crossing drumming, Korean percussionist Kim So Ra is bringing her energetic trio to Darwin to showcase her second album, Landscape (16 Aug).

Traversing continents and cultures, and fusing the ancient with the contemporary, Hand to Earth is a largely improvised collaboration by the Australian Art Orchestra that pushes the boundaries of musical forms. Join Peter Knight, David Yipininy Wilfred, Aviva Endean, Daniel Wilfred and Sunny Kim as they weave their voices into a minimalist soundscape (21 Aug).

Join Whistling Kite New Music for Bell Birds, a captivating series of concerts inspired by birdsong, featuring a beautiful string quartet accompanied by ethereal clarinets and flutes (16-17 Aug).

Lie back on a mat, close your eyes and be taken away to an otherworldly, intercultural sonic space with SonicDrift. This musical experience, presented by Arafura Music Collective, promises to take audiences on an immersive and transportive adventure (10-11 Aug).

WORDS & IDEAS

Presented by CDU, a series of Artists in Conversation talks will take place following select shows, giving audiences an insight into the creative processes of Festival artists. Shows included in the Artists in Conversation program include TWO (6 Aug), Sunshine Super Girl (13 Aug), The Boy Who Talked to Dogs (13 Aug) and Meremere (20 Aug).

FILM

From Australia’s internationally acclaimed Back to Back Theatre, a professional theatre company with an ensemble of actors with disabilities at its core, comes a darkly humorous film, screening at Darwin’s beloved Deckchair Cinema. SHADOW uses a combination of dramatic and documentary-style elements to tell the story of a group of activists who hold a public meeting, desperate to save the world. Directed by Bruce Gladwin, SHADOW is based on Back to Back Theatre’s extraordinary, award-winning stage play The Shadow Whose Prey The Hunter Becomes (8 Aug).

VISUAL ARTS

Ten years ago, the first Salon des Refusés burst onto gallery walls, confirming the place of the phenomenal artwork submitted, but not accepted into, the NATSIAAs. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this now must-see exhibition, Salon Art Projects is echoing the very first event by hosting it in an abandoned ice-making factory on the outskirts of Darwin’s CBD (3-7 Aug).

FESTIVAL PARK

There is simply no better place to soak up those festive vibes than at Darwin Festival’s beating heart, Festival Park, where the lights sparkle, long communal tables invite you to linger, and excited crowds gather as the sun sets on another day. Plan to kick back in a tropical wonderland and feast under the stars this August. The mood is chilled, the air is balmy, and the array of food will have you coming back night after night.

Just like the cuisine of Darwin, Festival Park offers a melting pot of foodie delights, with the Territory’s finest food purveyors and restaurateurs dishing up Darwin-style street food but at restaurant quality. Expect tropical flavours, traditional family recipes, native bush foods and revered local delicacies with Syrian, Italian, Filipino, South East Asian and more on the menu. Delicious antipasto style picnic boxes prepared by Pony & Sid Catering also make the perfect pre- or post-show snack for you and your mates – plan-ahead and order online before you arrive at the Festival!

Be sure to stop by one of the Festival bars to sample the perfect pre-show aperitif. Showcased boutique beverages include Darwin’s own Willing Distillery Festival Edition Gin (featuring Top End botanicals), and One Mile Brewery Cider on tap. A fun collaboration with Coopers will also see a Darwin Festival Lager on the menu.

An eclectic line-up of the best local music acts adds to the ambience, performing free gigs on the Power and Water Bamboo Bandstand every night that Festival Park is open (5-21 August; closed on Mondays).

THE DETAILS
What: Darwin Festival 2022
When: 4-21 August 2022
More info: www.darwinfestival.org.au

Save the dates! Darwin Festival 2023 will run from 10-27 August 2023.

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