Melbourne’s RISING festival is something of a fever dream at this point, having been delayed from 2020 and then running for just one night in 2021 before again being impeded by lockdowns. This year’s festival, then, is even more symbolic, as art, music and performance invigorate the city from the first day of winter. With over 200 events by more than 800 artists, it may be a little tricky deciding what to see—here are our top picks for what not to miss.
Last year, The Wilds was on for one glorious night before the city shut down. It’s a dazzling display of light and colour as Sidney Myer Music Bowl is transformed into a wonderland, including an ice-skating rink accompanied a choir performing 80s and 90s music along with projections, soundscapes and strange otherworldly sculptures. Navigate around such ethereal installations while feasting on food from local favourites like 1800 Lasagne and Smith and Daughters. This family-friendly event is one of RISING’s centrepieces and while it may seem like an obvious pick, it’s a special, distinctively Melbourne experience.
Blending light and colour with 700 square metres of glass, steel and mirrors, this new, large-scale work from installation artist Keith Courtney—one of the minds behind the popular House of Mirrors and 1000 Doors projects—is an immersive experience. Courtney collaborated with visual artist Ash Keating, composer Tamil Rogeon and artist Samantha Slicer to bring Kaleidoscope to life. The revolving installation activates multiple senses to distort the viewer’s perception of time and space. It’s an artwork to interact with and get lost in.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
This acclaimed one-person show, written and directed by Sydney Theatre Company’s Kip Williams, makes its Melbourne debut for RISING. Eryn Jean Norvill shapeshifts across 26 characters to tell Oscar Wilde’s meditative story of beauty, morality and selfishness. Combining theatre design, period drama and live video, the production reanimates a literary classic and pushes the boundaries of the form to suggest new possibilities for theatre.
Spanning over three storeys in a Chinatown car park, Golden Square is a maze of art, performance and entertainment. Cultures, religion, mythology and folklore all collide across the swirl of works on offer, from pyramids to an abandoned fast-food restaurant to a mega-church. Look out especially for Paul Yore’s bonkers funhouse Seeing is Believing but Feeling is the Truth, which tackles capitalism, globalisation and nostalgia; and Parade for the Moon, a 30-person parade combining music, symbolism and locally made costumes to pay tribute to the lunar gods.
Australia’s colonial history and treatment of First Nations people is put on confronting display in The Return. Focusing on the stolen bodily remains of Indigenous people being displayed in private collections and museums around the world, The Return speaks to the importance of repatriation, and the gruesome practices excused by colonialism and white supremacy. Based on Yorta Yorta director Jason Tamiru’s experiences as a repatriation worker, Torres Strait Islander writer John Harvey weaves together three intersecting stories in a sweeping 250-year narrative. A must-see production.
Chai and Buffalo Daughter
RISING’s Japan in Focus program brings together two of Japan’s most original and innovative bands. Four-woman band Chai, last seen in Australia as a part of MONA FOMA 2020, blend punk, pop, EDM and other genres to create their distinctive sound. Combined with their energetic live performances, Chai are one of the most fun live shows you’re likely to see. Combine this with Buffalo Daughter, who have been making waves since 1993 with their esoteric and electronic underground sounds, and it’s a feast for the ears.
The Goon Sax and EXEK
There are plenty of Australian acts performing for RISING, but this is one double bill to catch. The Goon Sax has evolved in the last half-decade from a trio of teenagers playing scrappy pop-punk songs to mature and fascinating purveyors of atmospheric, textured post-punk. Their latest album, Mirror II, is their first for indie giants Matador Records, with rich gothic soundscapes to get lost in. They’re joined by EXEK, whose trippy, multi-genre music has beguiled listeners over five records. These two home-grown acts showcase some of the country’s finest music—ideal for the dark, mysterious universe of RISING.
Various Melbourne Locations