A Kaleidoscope of Culture and Tropical Rhapsody: Darwin Festival Reveals 2023 Program

Spanning 18 balmy days and nights, the 2023 Darwin Festival is set to captivate with a diverse array of music, theatre, comedy, dance, cabaret, visual arts, and family-oriented events.  

From 10-27 August, Australia’s hottest winter arts festival plays host to an expansive program filled with local talent, renowned national and international performers, and an assorted blend of shows destined to enchant both locals and tourists alike. 

This year’s program is jam-packed with over 80 events, including 280 performances spread across 28 venues and featuring more than 850 artists from the NT, Australia and overseas. 

The opening night of Darwin Festival dazzles in a new location, staged across the newly expanded Festival Park Precinct with a host of free events and experiences including a Welcome to Country ceremony; the World Premiere of Life/Time, an acrobatic collaboration between Gravity & Other Myths, Jimblah and Corrugated Iron Youth Arts; interactive installations in Kolsen Twilight Playground and live music on the Power and Water Bamboo Bandstand.

Opening night also features the previously announced much-anticipated return of a Spiegeltent with spectacular show, Blanc de Blanc Encore, as well as the debut of the dazzling Maho Magic Bar, which conjures a neon Tokyo night of magic and mystery.  Both shows operate throughout the Festival from the new Festival Lawn location.

The Festival program embraces the unique fusion of culture and entertainment with special events like the Milpirri Sensorium, where the Warlpiri kinship from the Tanami Desert makes its debut on Larrakia country; or the artist-led Market Market where audiences can explore Rapid Creek Markets.

World premieres take the spotlight, including The Farm’s Stunt Double, a jaw-dropping interactive experience exploring the power dynamics of the film industry, and Kingadong, narrating elder Frank Spry’s life through music and imagery with his son David Spry. The Other Side of Me, a UK and NT Dance Company collaboration, is choreographed by local Gary Lang and explores cultural identity through dance. 

The Territory’s cherished open-air venue, the INPEX Sunset Stage in Festival Park, hosts a vibrant line-up of live music. Performances to note include Aboriginal women from Groote Eylandt and Dr. Shellie Morris’s Yarnumamalya Ayangkidarrba-langwa, ’90s rock legends Regurgitator, ARIA-winner Budjerah, dance-pop mavericks Haiku Hands, Unearthed High winner Jacoténe, Arnhem Land’s rising star Yirrmal, and History of House, a musical journey through disco, pop, and house, with DJ Groove Terminator and Soweto Gospel Choir. 

Festivalgoers relish hearty laughter, and the 2023 line-up promises chuckles aplenty, with Merrick Watts, Mel Buttle, Sammy J, Dave Thornton, Karen From Finance, Lloyd Langford, Lizzy Hoo, Alex Ward and local laugh factory Amy Hetherington delivering stellar punchlines. 

The theatre and cabaret program promises a tapestry of experiences that will challenge, entertain, and enthral. Highlights include Robyn Archer’s celebration of 150 years of Australian music, Briefs‘ audacious cabaret Dirty Laundry, and Reckōning, a concert celebrating Indigenous culture. I’m With Her stages stories of resilience against sexism, while Batshit sees psycho siren Leah Shelton challenge the ‘crazy’ label often given to women.  

Families are invited to join the Festival fun with a selection of all-ages experiences. Enjoy Camp Culture, an interactive circus show championing underrepresented voices, and embark on a luminous journey with Patch Theatre’s interactive installation Sea Of Light. City of Darwin Teddy Bear’s Picnic also returns to The Esplanade for a day filled with artistic activities, performances, face painting and fun. 

The closing weekend of the Festival unfolds at the iconic Darwin Ski Club, featuring a mesmerising waterfront concert by Queensland virtuoso Katie Noonan performing Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and a musical journey led by The Whitlams Black Stump Band, revisiting cherished hits and debuting new originals. 

Darwin Festival Artistic Director Kate Fell said “Darwin Festival 2023 is an invitation to immerse in a unique, tropical winter play-space, rich with magical moments and deep Territory narratives.”  

“Once more, the Festival offers a spectrum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, thrilling performances, and intriguing discussions, taking place across the cityscape of Darwin, and transforming familiar places into sites of discovery. We can’t wait to welcome audiences to this year’s Festival,” she said. 

Minister for Major Events, Paul Kirby said, “The iconic Darwin Festival is looking set for another great year, providing an amazing platform for our local creatives to perform, and drawing visitors from across the country who immerse themselves in our unique Top End lifestyle, art and culture. 

“Last year’s festival drew a record 170,000 attendances, and delivered a huge economic boost to the Territory, with an economic impact of around $32.5 million. That is massive news for a number of industries, especially our tourism and hospitality sectors.” 

Darwin Festival’s full program of events is on sale from 9am Friday 2 June, with tickets available from darwinfestival.org.au and the Top End Visitor Information Centre (6 Bennett St, Darwin City). Friends of the Festival members can get first dibs on tickets online from 9am Wednesday 31 May with an exclusive two-day presale period.  

Darwin Festival is proudly supported by the Northern Territory Government and City of Darwin.