23 things you must see at Brisbane Festival (plus some)
September is going to be bigger and better than ever with Brisbane Festival 2019 turning the city 50 shades of pink with its three-week program of everything arts and culture - from comedy and cabaret to visual arts, theatre and music. Head to Treasury Brisbane Arcadia at South Bank to be in the centre of it all as the festival opens on 6 September, before the fun goes out with a big bang at Sunsuper Riverfire and Closing Night: City and Colour at Riverstage on 28 September.
With more than 80 events happening all over the city, it can be hard to decide what to see. We’ve dissected the program and compiled a list of the must-see events happening throughout the festival, but head to the Brisbane Festival website for a full itinerary.
Bring the kids
No need to find a babysitter this year – the festival overlaps with the September school holidays, and this year’s program features shows that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
1. Brat Kids Carnival | 14 - 15 September, Playhouse QPAC
Calling all tots, teenagers and parents. Put on your party outfit and experience the thrill of high-speed hula hoops, acrobatics and clowning at the Brat Kids Carnival. There will be plenty of clowning around and a guaranteed good time.
Get ready to revel in the majesty of renowned 90s Brisbane rock/electro/punk musicians Regurgitator with their new album for kids. The Really Really Really Really Boring Album is anything but, and as part of Brisbane Festival, you can head to The Tivoli for a live performance of this sugar-high extravaganza. Come and see Regurgitator trio Ben Ely, Quan Yeomans and Pete Kostic joined by the effervescent Koko direct from Planet Rainbow, as they bring the album and the Tivoli to life. Trust us; you’ll 'like it like that'.
3. Fire Gardens | 11 - 14 September, City Botanic Gardens
Come and see the City Botanic Gardens as you have never seen them before. Transformed into a magical glowing dreamscape with huge spheres of leaping flames, sculptures that flicker and dance perfect for the family and that Instagram moment. Spark your imagination as you wander through a maze-like garden of fiery delight.
4. Trash Test Dummies | 21 – 24 September, The Courier Mail Spiegeltent
Bin there done that? Check out the award-winning circus routine by the Trash Test Dummies. Get ready to experience a dump-trucks worth of hilarity as these slapstick comedy performers take the simple wheelie bin to new heights. Winners of Best Children’s Presentation at the Adelaide Fringe 2015 and 2016, the Trash Test Dummies are as full of laughs as their bins are full of surprises.
Also catch Dan Sultan's Nali and Friends, Game Show-off: Family Edition, A Not So Traditional Story and Smashhdown!
Have a little giggle
Laughter is the best medicine to help shake off the winter blues and embrace spring with a chuckle. From comic musings, to side splitting stories and real-life humour observations that connect us to each other you will find a lot on offer with this year’s program.
Drawn to conflict, John Safran has made a career out of sleuthing, asking questions of extremists and getting to the bottom of serious issues in a funny and irreverent way. John Safran, Jew Detective, investigates tension - immigrant against immigrant, opposing religions, activists and radical opinions. Join him as he spills the beans on his career as a writer, comedian and natural-born troublemaker.
Cal says a gifted underachiever is “just a beautiful way of saying your average”. This hilarious show looks at all the things in life that she still hasn’t quite nailed. Come along for the comical ride as Cal explores important questions like does anyone eat brussel sprouts by choice? Has she done enough with her life? And does she have imposter syndrome or is she just faking it? Cal has questions about everything and through these musings, she uncovers some fun and unexpected observations.
What’s wrong with me? Nah. What’s wrong with you? Anne Edmonds of Have You Been Paying Attention? fame is one hilarious, quick-witted comic with a cracker of a stand-up set. Make sure you check out her surprising, on point show, which will have you cackling out loud days later.
For more hilarious highlights check out Sam Simmons.
More hilarious highlights include Sam Simmons: 26 Things You've Been Doing Wrong With Sam Simmons, Pawn Again Christian, Cassie Workman: Giantess, Tyrone and Lesley In A Spot and Daddy.
Free, free, FREE
Everyone loves a freebie. The Treasury Brisbane Arcadia has free entry throughout the festival where you can go and lose yourself or find a bunch of free shows and events in Bowen Hills, Brisbane City and throughout South Bank.
Wrap up your Brisbane Festival 2019 with a bang at Queensland’s pyrotechnic extravaganza. This year join the crowds at Riverstage from 7pm for an electrifying firework display launched from multiple barges, bridges and rooftops with aerobatics by the Australian Defence Force. Grab your swimming trunks and watch the spectacular from the Streets Beach pool or head to other vantage points including Kangaroo Point Cliffs, City Riverwalk, Eagle Street Pier and Victoria Bridge.
Brisbane Festival centres around Treasury Brisbane Arcadia where people can lose themselves in the place-to-be bar, revel in free performances by the Revellers and indulge in several different food delicacies. The top of the Courier-Mail Spiegeltent will be blown off with a variety of music acts, floor shows, circus bravery and family fun – find something for everyone in the mysteries of Treasury Brisbane Arcadia.
10. River of Light |6 - 28 September, Treasury Brisbane Arcadia
This water fountain, light and laser spectacular will light up the Brisbane River each night throughout the festival with a local Indigenous story told by Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dance Company working with Oracle Liquid. The show features dynamic jets, giant spirals of water, full-colour lighting and lasers, making it a must-see event.
Other free events include Symphony For Me, Lord Mayor’s City Hall Concerts, Connecting with Local Stories, Smashhdown! and Evening Lights by Elisa Jane Carmichael.
All the world's a stage
You could be seeing the next Liza Minnelli perform when these talented entertainers take the stage and give it their all. Experience all the sass, sensuality and sizzle of cabaret at Brisbane Festival this month.
11. Blanc de Blanc Encore | 5 - 28 September, The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent
Brisfest’s ultimate night out returns with this outrageously funny, high-energy, Parisienne-inspired fantasy cabaret show. Watch as Blanc de Blanc serves up an intoxicating blend of burlesque, acrobatic feats and flashes of flesh that will transport you to an otherworldly, champagne-filled plane. Encore? Yes, please.
Sassy, sexy mayhem is coming your way with Briefs: Close Encounters as they take over the Playhouse with their trademark brand of circus, drag, burlesque and comedy. Expect interstellar aerials, incredible artistry, sharp social commentary and warp-speed strippers from outer space.
A member of the entertainment scene for over two decades, Trevor Ashley presents a not-to-be-missed concert as he recounts some of his favourite career moments with style, humour and sequins. This intimate show boasts a ten-piece band performing songs and stories from Les Misérables, Hairspray, and Priscilla, plus special appearances by several well-known divas.
Also worth checking out Swing On This.
Music makes the world go round
Feel the beat in your feet. Come and see people with enough talent to sing outside of the shower or car – heaps of them may or may not have some award-winning records, right? The line-up this year is so epic that already a bunch of Brisbane Festival music gigs are selling fast, so don’t delay getting tickets to see the hottest acts coming to town.
Picture this: an outdoor gig on a beautiful September night with some of Australia's finest musical acts filling the air. Love it. Exclusive to Brisbane Festival, City and Colour performs his only Australian show and is joined on stage by acclaimed performers The Jezabels and Asha Jeffereies. More special guests will be announced shortly so get ready for an exciting line-up that will finish the festival with a bang.
15. Jazz on Sundays | Sunday 8, 15 & 22 September, The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent
Disover a superb line-up of Brisbane's finest jazz singers and musicians on your Sunday afternoon in the Courier-Mail Spiegeltent. Unwind before your working week begins with some cool-cats, sexy sax and whole lot of good vibes.
16. Tivoli in the Round | 17-20 September, The Tivoli
Back and better than ever is Tivoli in the Round. Not to be missed, these intimate performances offer a unique way to experience and interact with some fantastic performers. Get up close and personal over four consecutive evenings with Emma Louise, No Mono, Paul Dempsey and Husky in these rare immersive performances. This style of show removes the barrier between audience and artist, creating an entirely new experience altogether.
17. Kate Miller-Heidke | 27 September, Concert Hall - QPAC
Experience this reimagination of award-winning singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke’s music for this special festival performance. Her dreamy and ‘zero gravity’ vocals blend contemporary pop, folk and opera styles. Representing Australia in Eurovision this year she has gone from strength to strength in the music scene. So, come along for a chance to hear her stunning vocals
18. Bruno Major | 19 September, The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent
With super chilled out vocals, Bruno’s blissful, soulful music is made up of R&B and alternative sounds with some killer storytelling lyrics. Don’t miss his debut Australian tour hot on the heel of his first album ‘A Song For Every Moon’ and his sold-out North American tour and UK arena tour with Sam Smith. Amassing over 250 million streams online, don’t miss the chance to see him live in Brisbane.
Calling all club kids - heaven awaits for house music and 90’s dance music fans! Multi-ARIA Award nominee and dance music royalty, Groove Terminator will reimagine his cult HOUSE 5 DJ mix live on stage, accompanied by the Gospo Collective choir with support from Paul Mac and Josh Abrahams. Following sell-out performances in Adelaide, Brisbanites now have the chance to dance the night away to some stellar tracks.
Kicking off the Riverstage's 30th birthday shenanigans is Hot Dub Time Machine. With sold-out shows all over the world and a stellar performance at Coachella, this is one not to be missed. Get pumped with a banging Brisbane line-up for an epic night out.
Discover other musical acts including Jacob Collier, Holy Holy, An Evening With The Middle East, Carmouflage Rose, Tia Gostelow, Mzaza, Lydia Fairhall And The Black She Oaks and Romance Revolution.
Head to the theatre, darling
You’re spoilt for choice as there are over 20 fantastic theatre events at this year’s festival.
21. Fangirls | 7 September – 5 October, Billie Brown Theatre - Queensland Theatre
This one will hit you with all the feels. Gifted young comedian, singer and playwright Yve Blake has created Fangirls, a new musical comedy about a poorly understood force of nature. This world premiere performance will take you straight back to your first crush while also making the audience understand the danger of underestimating teenage girls.
22. From Darkness | 7 - 28 September, La Boite Roundhouse Theatre
A gripping, darkly funny drama about a spiritual force and a family’s need to connect with it. Steven Oliver’s (Black Comedy, Black Queen Black King) deeply moving new play deep-dives into contemporary family politics and the connection between culture, grief and our humanity. Isaac Drandic directs this gripping new Australian work with a stellar Indigenous cast.
This powerful and moving celebration of life at the moment of death retells the tragic story of the SS Mendi sinking in 1917, where more than 600 South African men died. Poignantly beautiful and darkly funny, this extraordinary work follows the story of a dozen characters and how their lives, cultures and tribes differ under the forced banner of the Empire. Combining masterful songs, dance and drama, this is a startling story of hope and courage.
Finish off your festival with some of the many other theatre productions that are unmissable: Invisible Cities, The Cold Record, TRUTHMACHINE, LOVE +, Bitch on Heat, A Hundred Different Words For Love, Bighouse Dreaming and Bedtime Stories.