Passion for fashion at Brisbane Festival? Bling it on!

This year’s Brisbane Festival offers more razzle dazzle than usual with Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show at the heart of it all.

Jun 05, 2024, updated Jun 05, 2024
Jean Paul Gaultier's Fashion Freak Show is going to be the centrepiece of this year's Brisbane Festival which is on from August 30 to September 21

Jean Paul Gaultier's Fashion Freak Show is going to be the centrepiece of this year's Brisbane Festival which is on from August 30 to September 21

Talk about razzle dazzle – Brisbane Festival’s centerpiece this year is a theatrical extravaganza from the King of Bling. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show is the big-ticket item this year.

The eclectic and electrifying toast of Europe, Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show, is a collision of fashion, music, pop culture, cabaret and art, strutting down the runway in South Bank Piazza for its exclusive Australian premiere season for two weeks from August 30.

Adding local flair to the revue-style party is Queensland Indigenous artist Grace Lillian Lee who travelled to Paris at the request of the international fashion icon to collaborate on a bespoke couture piece to debut in the show.

Lee, the creative force behind 2021’s debut First Nations Fashion: Walking In Two Worlds, will spearhead another world premiere, her debut solo exhibition in 2024, The Dream Weaver: Guardians of Grace at Brisbane powerhouse.

Sitting down to chat with Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina before the festival launch the last three words one expected to hear in relation to the festival’s big show were – John Paul Gaultier. Isn’t he the dude famous for the flamboyant TV show Eurotrash?

“Drum roll please,” Bezzina says, smiling as she reveals her next masterstroke.

It makes sense in a Bizzarro World way and Louise Bezzina is always pushing the envelope.

Last year’s centerpiece was the incredible dystopian sci-fi dance epic Salamander which was presented in a vast warehouse at Northshore Hamilton.

With that area being a bit of a construction site this year it was decided to move Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show into the South Bank Piazza which has quite the party atmosphere.

“This show is so big there aren’t many venues outside the Lyric Theatre that could take it,” Bezzina explains. “This show is the Salamander of this year’s festival and it’s a Brisbane exclusive.

“Simon Phillips will be directing the show here. I saw it in Osaka last year and I have been following this show … and now we have it! In Osaka they had a local performer do a cameo and I thought we could do something similar.

“I had breakfast with the producer and showed them her work and we flew Grace Lillian Lee to Paris and she had a week with Jean Paul Gaultier at his atelier.”

Bezzina describes her next festival, which runs from August 30 to September 21, as “poppy … big, bold and shiny”.

“I’m trying to make a festival that is very much about joy and energy and inspiration and connectivity,” she says. “I want to feel that Brisbane is radiating this enormous amount of energy.”

Hell, the way she is going you will be able to see it from space!

We’ve known about some shows for a while with early releases to get us excited such as the two world premieres of local fare – Trent Dalton’s Love Stories at QPAC’s Playhouse and Rachel Burke’s  Fancy Long Legs at La Boite Theatre.

Both are based on books by Brisbane authors – Dalton’s acclaimed anthology of true tales of love and a children’s book about inclusion, acceptance and belonging by tinsel and craft queen Rachel Burke who could give Jean Paul Gaultier a run for his money in the bling department.

Queensland premieres include Eucalyptus, a new opera based on Murray Bail’s Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Eucalyptus; Gurr Era Op, a celebration of Torres Strait Islander culture and a climate call-to-action; Restless Dance Theatre’s Private View, a raw and revelatory exploration of sexuality and disability; Kitchen Studio, artist Elizabeth Winning’s recipe of food and art and Queensland Theatre Company’s Dear Brother.

Big Name, No Blankets is a rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza, a celebration of Warumpi Band, the first Australian rock band to sing in Aboriginal languages.

Volcano is a never-before-seen hybrid production that plays out over four, 45-minute episodes and combines theatre and dance with a television sci-fi thriller. With intermissions between each episode, Brisbane Powerhouse audiences are invited to “binge-watch” the Australian-first production that blurs the line between fact and fantasy.

The remarkable true story of Torres Strait Islander workers laying an astonishing 7km of railway track in a single day in 1968 is told in Straight from the Strait, a world premiere opera co-produced with Opera Queensland and playing QPAC’s Playhouse.

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Queensland-based Dancenorth Australia stages the global debut of its new work, Lighting the Dark, developed in collaboration with Chris Dyke, a dancer and emerging choreographer with Down Syndrome

But wait, there’s more! On opening weekend, Meanjin Songlinez invites everyone to celebrate and honour local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities and the extraordinary talent of Queensland’s First Nations artists.

Following the tremendous success of 2023’s Nieergoo: Spirit of the Whale, Brisbane Festival will partner with Nova Sky Stories and Tribal Experiences to develop a dazzling drone show over the city’s iconic skyline, with Skylore – The Rainbow Serpent, a show also sponsored by The Star and with Queen’s Wharf Brisbane as a backdrop.

More than 400 drones will animate a spectacular First Nations story in a 3D multicolour show that celebrates culture and place across the Festival’s closing weekend, September 19-21.

All eyes will be on the sky on Saturday August 31 when the festival starts with a bang when Riverfire by Australian Retirement Trust returns to light up Brisbane in the city’s biggest and most-loved fireworks spectacular.

Also returning to light up the city is 2023’s smash-hit Lightscape with a completely reimagined illuminated trail of neon lights, technicolour installations and choreographed soundscapes through Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens.

And in more good news the Art Boat is back. Louise Bezzina must have been watching reruns of Jaws. You know the scene  … “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Hell, she has gone out and got one, from Sydney, and 400 people will party on this baby being entertained all the way as it chugs along the Brisbane River.

Brisbane Serenades returns with a program of free min festivals and musical experiences across Brisbane suburbs and all your community favorites are still in place.

There will be more than 1000 performances featuring 1215 Queensland-based artists and arts workers. Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner reckons it will be an economic boon to Brisbane.

“We know each year the Festival provides fantastic economic return to local business, filling our hotels, booking out our restaurants and flooding our entertainment precincts with residents and visitors experiencing the best of Brisbane,” he says. “I look forward to seeing Brisbane transform into Australia’s arts capital throughout the 2024 event.”

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch sees the festival as a pathway to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games “when our arts and cultures will be showcased on the global stage”. Meanwhile … party on Brisbane! Soonish.

Brisbane Festival is on at multiple venues across Brisbane from August 30 to September 21.

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