If you have already seen Madama Butterfly, don’t think you can be excused for skipping this show. This Olivier Award-winning production is Madama Butterfly as you’ve never seen it. Truly. “I saw this work three or four days after the director Anthony Minghella passed away, and it was the most charged performance I’ve ever been to,” says Jonathan. “At the time I didn’t know if it was because of his death or because of the work itself, but it was the work – it has stayed with me. I remember images from this show like I can remember nothing else.” Minghella, famed for directing films like the Oscar-winning The English Patient, has lent his eye for stunning theatrics and cinematic imagery to Puccini’s classic opera – imagine sumptuous staging with flowing red silks, Japanese lanterns and a curtain of flowers. Minghella’s original Madama Butterfly, the peerless soprano Mary Plazas, will be reprising her role in Perth. When she performed a preview aria at the PIAF launch, the audience was so hushed you could have heard a petal drop.
His Majesty’s Theatre, February 24-March 7.
Three years ago, Jonathan staged a spectacle that declared, without a shred of doubt, the enchantment and impact of the festival. The sight of two tonnes of ‘angel’ feathers floating down St Georges Terrace has been preserved in Perth’s collective memory. So we were not in the least bit surprised to hear he’s signing off from PIAF in a similarly spectacular fashion. The Giants (which reportedly fetched a fee as big as its name) are massive mechanical marionettes, puppeteered by French street theatre company Royal de Luxe. But that curt description doesn’t do justice to the startling subtlety the Giants convey as they act out an ANZAC-inspired narrative, or the child-like joy of the audience
as the colossal creatures tread the cityscape. “To now work with great artists to explore the West Australian role in the ANZAC story during the centenary year is an incredible honour,” says Jonathan. “This is the biggest free public arts event Australia has ever seen.”
Streets and parks of Perth City, February 13-15.
NOT I, FOOTFALLS, ROCKABY
This dark experiential production featuring a trilogy of Samuel Beckett’s masterpieces is “Beckett as Beckett would’ve wanted it,” according to Jonathan. A diehard fan of the avant-garde playwright, he would know. “No one seems to have encapsulated the human condition like Samuel Beckett,” he says. “This had the best reviews of anything ever, everywhere it’s gone. It’s just
a remarkable tour de force and is utterly beautiful.” Irish actress Lisa Dwan (above) is technically flawless in the one-woman performance, beginning with only her lips visible on stage – it’s as arresting as it is strange. Described by the Wall Street Journal as an “experience of a lifetime,” and selling out performances at London’s Royal Court Theatre and New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, this 60-minute performance is a must-see.
Studio Underground, February 14-20.
TOP PIAF EVENTS FOR KIDS
1. The Rabbits
It’s Barking Gecko Theatre working in collaboration with Opera Australia to create an opera staging of Shaun Tan and John Marsden’s book The Rabbits. Kate Miller-Heidke has done the music, Lally Katz has done the libretto. It’s just really, really beautiful and a really familiar story that families will know – I mean, Shaun Tan’s books are popular all over the world but especially in Perth, his hometown. Heath Ledger Theatre, February 12-16.
This is our second year we’ve partnered with Cinekids, the premiere children’s film and media festival from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. We’ve created a program of short animated films for children from all over Europe, so there are films from Slovenia, from Spain… It gives that international film festival experience – but for kids. We recommend the first program for 4-8 year olds, and the second program for 8-12 year olds. Studio Underground, February 28-March 2.
3. The Future Postal Service (Free)
A Perth-born, Melbourne-based artist called Alex Desebrock created this game. Kids are encouraged to think about something they’d like to thank grownups for, or how to make a connection with them. Then, they write a message on a card and deliver it to a passer-by. It happens in a public space normally dominated by adults, so it lets the kids infiltrate that world and get some ownership over that space for a moment in time. And the adult gets that lovely moment of getting a gift from a child. It’s gorgeous. Rokeby Road, Subiaco, February 21; Perth Writers Festival Precinct, February 22; Perth Cultural Centre, February 28-March 2.
4. Family Day at Writers Festival (Free)
The kids who come along to the Family Day this year get a passport, which is about activating their day. It gives them a map of the Writers Festival Precinct,
and a pass for what to do during the day to help them engage as much as possible. There will be international writers in town, like A. F. Harrold and Sarah Crossan, as well as local artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers, who will be making a live mural on site. Perth Writers Festival Precinct, February 22.