Interactivity big on the Perth International Arts Festival program

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A life-size bouncy castle that simulates Stonehenge… Eleven deaf and blind and artists inviting you to dine in a pitch black restaurant with them… An entire ‘live’ performance viewed on the go and via iPad… These could only be part of one of the world’s most innovative and eclectic seasons in the arts – the Perth International Arts Festival.

The longest running festival of its kind in Australia, celebrating its 62nd anniversary this year, PIAF was launched last night at the Perth Concert Hall to a theatre packed with 800 guests including patrons of the arts, members of the media, even some of the artists themselves.

Artistic director Jonathan Holloway ran through the extensive program, delivering enough detail about each of the productions that guests could pretty much make up their minds then and there what they were going to slot into their diaries for most of February.

While there is only a small number of free events in the program – including the aforementioned inflatable Stonehenge in the Supreme Court Gardens (conceived by UK Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Dellar) and the opening nights (three of them!) spectacular in Langley Park featuring Spanish pyrotechnics troupe Xarxa Teatre, the free events themselves are huge.

An interesting thing to note is the huge amount of interactivity included in the theatre program this year. ‘You Once Said Yes’, for example, is an interactive, site-specific piece of theatre where you are the main character. Part theatrical experience, part real life, part city journey, seemingly random characters – though actors really – will come up to you and ask questions, and so long as you continue saying ‘yes’, you’ll be taken on a mad, unpredictable journey – a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole.

In another interesting slice of theatre, ‘Not By Bread Alone’, 11 deaf and blind artists will be baking bread on stage, using limited senses to communicate with one other. The group – Israel’s Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theatre – will also be inviting visitors to enter a restaurant where they will be greeted, seated, served and expected to eat a meal, all completely in the dark.

Technology, too, is a big part of this year’s Festival, with the video multiplayer maze that is ‘Situation Rooms’ sure to be a hit with a modern generation used mostly to interacting via digital devices (you get to follow scenes on the move via an iPad but feel like you’re really there).

Beyond theatre, there’s plenty of dance, circus and cinema, while on the music front, hip-hop heroes Public Enemy will lead the charge in the Festival Gardens live music line-up.

 

The Perth International Arts Festival runs from February 7 to March 1, 2014.

For more information, visit www.perthfestival.com.au.

(Pictured: ‘You Once Said Yes’, part theatrical experience, part city journey).