22 things you must see at Brisbane Festival (plus some)

September is going to be bigger and better than ever with Brisbane Festival 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 the Arcadia hub at South Bank to be in the centre of it all as the festival opens on 9 September, before the fun goes out with a big bang at Riverfire on 30 September. 

Brisbane festival

With more than 70 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. Kaleidoscope | 26 - 30 September, QPAC


Ethan Hugh was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age four and as such perceives the world around him differently compared to you and I. This has not stopped him from doing what he loves, so today he takes the stage with five circus performers to give you a glimpse of his colourful, chaotic and incredibly beautiful world through acrobatics, slapstick, music, movement and vibrant video projections.

2. The I Hate Children Children’s Show | 26 September, Spiegeltent

Brisbane Festival

Children over eight will love being the stars of the show as they are all invited on stage to help the world-class child hater and magician perform his magic tricks. Don’t expect Paul Dabek to like your little rascals but this cruel comedy for cool kids will certainly win you all over. 

3. The Chipolatas: Gentlemen of the Road |28 & 29 September, Spiegeltent

To celebrate 25 years on the road, The Chipolatas are bringing their legendary family show to Brisbane for the first time. Kids and kidults will love the combination of circus skills, music, theatre and dance which come together to produce a hilarious show suitable for all ages. 

Also catch Justine Clarke – Look! Look! It’s a gobbledygook, Driftwood, Grug and the rainbow, Oliver up a tree, The Mudcakes in concert, Fantastic Planet and Brisbane Airport Music Runway

Have a little giggle

Laughter is the best medicine, so shake off the winter blues and embrace spring with a chuckle. From a woman playing a mouthy male standup comedian to a regular male performing standup, parts of the program will leave you in stitches.

4. Chef: Come Dine with Us |9 - 16 September, Brisbane Powerhouse

CHEF Come Dine With Us

Attention: this performance revolves around culinary delights and all foodoholics should therefore attend at own risk. Two rival sous chefs will be competing in the ultimate cooking show to see who can cook the best bibimbap and stay in the kitchen. To do this, each chef will be using a mixture of beatboxing, breakdancing and astounding acrobatic displays as only these can help in creating this popular Korean dish. 

5. Two Guys in a Box |26 - 30 September, The Block, Kelvin Grove

Ever wanted to live inside a box? Well Mathias and Benny are living this dream in the middle of a field somewhere. One day, the phone on the wall rings and “we are coming” is all that is heard. What follows is the weirdest day of their lives. 

6. Onstage Dating |26 - 30 September, La Boite Studio

In a world where dating on the internet is as common as vegemite on toast, Bron Batten decided to do an experiment where she went on more than 50 online dates in Paris, London and Lithuania. Pop along to see Bron facilitate, interrogate and gleefully destroy the rituals of contemporary romance. 

More hilarious highlights include an Octoroon, Zoe Coombs Marr: Trigger Warning, Greg Fleet: We Are Idiots, Betty Grumble: Sex Clown Saves the World, Madame Tululah’s Magnificent Box and Demi Lardner: Look What You Made Me Do.

Free, free, FREE

Everyone's a sucker for a freebie. The Arcadia hub has free entry throughout the festival where you can go and lose yourself. Wander the city and run into the giant humanoids that will be living with us throughout South Bank Parklands, Brisbane International Airport Terminal and QPAC for the duration of the festival before wrapping up your Brisbane Festival experience with a bang.

7. Sunsuper Riverfire |30 September, South Bank


Wrap up your Brisbane Festival 2017 with a bang at Queensland’s ultimate fireworks display. To commemorate 20 years of Riverfire, musical memories from the past 20 years and aerobatics by the Australian Defence Force will accompany the show. Grab your swimming trunks and watch the spectacular from the Streets Beach and pool or head to other vantage points including Kangaroo Point Cliffs, City Riverwalk, Eagle Street Pier and Victoria Bridge

8. Treasury Brisbane Arcadia | 8 - 30 September, South Bank

Arcadia Brisbane Festival

Brisbane Festival centres around the Arcadia where people can lose themselves in a femme fatale wine bar, revel in a buzzy bar with craft beer and free performances and indulge in a number of different food delicacies. The top of the Courier-Mail Magic Mirrors 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 the Arcadia. 

9. Fantastic Planet |9 - 30 September, various locations

Check out the five giant humanoids that will live along the South Bank Parklands, Brisbane International Airport Terminal and QPAC for the duration of the festival. Coming from a distant planet, they are here to quietly observe and gently explore our planet, but you may spot them along your way as these forms are 40-feet tall. 

Other free events include Laser Beak Man – Tim Sharp Exhibition, Art from the Margins & Little Creatures Live.

All the world's a stage

You could be seeing the next Liza Minnelli perform when the talented entertainers take the stage and give it their all. The sass, sensuality and sizzle of cabaret is best seen from inside a mirrored speigeltent – and Brisbane Festival is bringing one to town for the month.

10. Orpheus | 12 - 16 September, The Tivoli


Legendary musician Django Reinhardt has been cast as the lead in a musical reimagining of Orpheus in the romantic setting of 1930s Paris. Make the evening even more special and invite your partner to join you in the Rendezvous for Two where you can soak up the atmosphere in the intimate balcony setting with French cuisine and wine by candlelight – a fine romance indeed.

11. Limbo Unhinged |8 - 30 September, Spiegeltent

New, world-renowned circus performers have been brought in to join your favourite LIMBO characters as they delve deeper into the lively and exhilarating party that is award-winning international sensation LIMBO. You can still expect all the sexiness and sizzle but expect to be transported to an even grittier place as circus and cabaret once again join forces for this edge of the seat spectacular. 

12. Starman |12 - 13 September, Spiegeltent


If '70s glam-rock is your thing, David Bowie fans can witness the music, the life and the multiple personas of the rock legend who had a major impact on the world of music. Sven Ratzke takes you into his world and allows you to re-discover the classic songs as he takes you on a crazy rock 'n’ roll ride. 

Also worth checking out are Erotic Intelligence for Dummies & Betty Grumble: Sex Clown Saves the World

Music makes the world go round

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 sell-outs, so don’t delay getting tickets to see the hottest acts coming to town.

13. London Grammar, James Vincent McMorrow + special guests | 23 September, Riverstage

London Grammar

We challenge you to find better value for money anywhere else during the festival. British band London Grammar will hypnotise the audience at Riverstage with their eerie voices and will be joined by James Vincent McMorrow and Australian acts The Kite String Tangle, Manionair and Wafia. Picture this: an outdoor gig on a beautiful September night with haunting voices filling the air. Love it.

14. Little Creatures Live |Thursday - Sunday from 10 - 30 September, Arcadia 

Come and relive the '80s with Throwback Thursday, have a boogie on Friday Fun Night, party with your girls on Sorority Saturday and finish your weekend on a high with Sunset Sundays. Happening in the Arcadia for the duration of the festival, you can enjoy the likes of Shag Rock, The Chipolatas, Lisa La Celle, Charlotte Mclean, Ellen Reed, The Foxy Morons, Lizzie Moore and Michael Tuahine – most importantly, it's free! Choose your night of fun or come to them all to hear an eclectic line-up of vocalists, musicians and comedians as you revel in the beer and buzz of the events. 

15. Megan Washington & QSO | 28 September, QPAC

Indie-pop and alternative rock is better known in the name Megan Washington who burst onto the music scene in 2008 and has been making significant tracks in the Australian music industry ever since. Washington and her band are joined by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra to perform her forthcoming album as well as hits from her past three in an evening that is sure to excite. 

16. The Preatures |14 September, Spiegeltent

This beloved Sydney band is gracing Brisbane Festival with its presence and is bringing along a soon-to-be released album Girlhood. After shooting to stardom in 2013 with breakthrough hit Is This How You Feel, The Preatures have played on the world stage at Glastonbury, Coachella and Bonnaroo so Brisbane fans better get ready for a lively performance.

Head to any of the performances at the Tivoli to officially be in a century-old structure as the Tivoli celebrates 100 years as a building. Otherwise other musical acts include Diamonds are for Trevor, Young Hearts Run Free, Jazz on Sunday, Starman, The Singing Politician, Charlie Lim & the Mothership, Regurgitator performs the velvet underground & Nico, QSO plays the romantics, Twilight Notes: Debussy quartet, Ali Barter, AJ Tracey, High Tension, The Aints play the Saints ’73-’78, Altstaedt & Madzar, Ngaiire, Thelma Plum, Sultan of the Disco with special guests & UV Boi.

Life beyond film 

No IMAX can give you the film experience that Brisbane Festival is promising.

17. Battleship Potemkin – Music Live by Camerata |24 September , Old Museum

Brisbane Festival

Revel in the stunning new score that Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra is performing to the silent masterpiece Battleship Potemkin (1925). Often cited as one of the greatest films of all time, you can now view it with the backing of a magnificent score that will heighten the intense nature of the film. 

18. Blind Cinema |19 - 23 September, GOMA

Step into someone else’s world where eyesight would not be taken for granted. Blind Cinema is a reality as you are blindfolded throughout the film's entirety while a child whispers the description of a film they’re seeing for the first time. 

19. Gothic, Giallo, Gore: Master of Italian Horror |8 September - 1 October, GOMA

1960s Italian horror is coming back to life in Gothic, Giallo, Gore: Masters of Italian Horror. Head to GOMA to explore the works of the three directors who popularised this genre – you might want to leave the kids at home for this one. 

Also don’t miss Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin play Suspiria.

Head to the theatre, darling

You’re spoilt for choice as there are over 20 fantastic theatre events at this year’s festival. 

20. Oliver up a tree |10 September, Spiegeltent 

Oliver Up A Tree

Join Josh Earl (Spicks and Specks) as he delivers his brand new show about a small town, a big problem and a creative young boy. Bright young minds and slightly older ones will both enjoy following Oliver as he weaves a tale of storytelling, song and a hundred teddy bears. 

21. Terror |19 - 23 September, QPAC

For those that haven’t had the pleasure of attending jury duty, then you can see what it’s like while the people who have can be involved in a much more exciting jury experience. In this interactive performance, you must decide the fate of a fighter pilot who is on trial for making a split-second decision that saved thousands of people but killed some. 

22. I just came to say goodbye |12 - 23 September, The Block, Kelvin Grove 

I Just Came To Say Goodbye

Offering the public experimental and wacky theatre performances, Theatre Republic has not stopped this year with 14 interesting productions including I just came to say goodbye. The performers will be crashing into the foggy terrain of forgiveness to share hundreds of stories of guilt, grudges, remorse and revenge while you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for more. 

Finish off your festival with some of the many other theatre productions that are undoubtedly unmissable: Per Te, Under Siege, History History History, A Prudent Man, Driftwood, Bitch: The Origin of the Female Species, Hawa, Signifying Nothing & Laser Beak Man.

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