Like its host city, Sydney Festival is expanding ever westward. In 2016, Parramatta will hold 13 Sydney Festival events, making it an important cultural precinct. Here is Broadsheet’s pick of Sydney Festival’s Parramatta program.
Prince Alfred Square
Parramatta’s historic park, Prince Alfred Square, comes to life during Sydney Festival. The Summer Nights program makes the most of balmy evenings, offering free live music and al fresco dining options on Friday and Saturday nights. Also in Prince Alfred Square is Arquitectura de Feria, a fantastical fairground created by Jordà Ferré and Oscar de Paz from Catalan theatre company Antigua i Barbuda. Inspired by traditional fairs, Arquitectura de Feria is a space for adults to play alongside children. The rides, including a hand-cranked Ferris wheel that finds a novel use for old toilet seats, are made from recycled materials and powered by visitors at this free event.
Swing by Riverside Theatre to see La Verità, a surreal Dali-inspired performance by Swiss troupe Compagnia Finzi Pasca. Billed as an imaginative and comic mix of circus, clowning, acrobatics, dance and music, La Verità is the creation of writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca, whose impressive list of credits includes the opening and closing ceremonies at the Sochi Paralympics in 2014 and Torino Winter Olympics in 2016, and Cirque du Soleil’s 2005 show, Corteo.
Matthew E. White
Country-soul singer Matthew E. White returns to Australia to the delight of fans who were smitten with his breakthrough 2012 record, Big Inner and its 2015 follow-up, Fresh Blood. The gospel-inspired musician and his band, known for their high-energy live performance, play one show at Lennox Theatre in Parramatta.
Psychedelic rock meets a Phnom Penh karaoke bar at The Cambodian Space Project’s show, Cosmic Cambodia. CSP is the unlikely pairing of Australian musician and producer Julien Poulson and Cambodian singer Channthy Kak. This energetic rock’n’roll outfit is a vibrant Aussie-Asian hybrid, recalling the golden age of Cambodian pop before it was wiped out by the rise of the Khmer Rouge in the late ‘70s.
Birdman was one of the best films released in 2014. Its impact was due to the highly original vision of director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who shot it to look like it was made in a single take, and who recruited jazz luminary and fellow Mexican Antonio Sanchez to compose the film’s score. The drummer and composer performs live his largely improvised percussive score at this screening of Birdman.
A short trip away from Parramatta is Granville Town Hall, where Catherine McClements stars in The Events ahead of the play’s 2016 season at Belvoir Theatre. Local community choirs take the stage with McClements, who plays a minister in this exploration of community, trauma and what living together means when the threat of violence is never far away.
EAT AND DRINK
It’s one of Parramatta’s newest venues. Brunch, lunch and a modern-Australian dinner menu are served at the grand two-storey restaurant, which also houses a coffee roaster.
The fragrant laksa at Temasek has been called the best in Sydney, which explains the unpretentious restaurant’s cult following. Book ahead to secure a table, or if you want to try the Singapore chilli crab, which needs at least one day’s notice.
The spacious beer garden at the Albion Hotel makes it an ideal spot for dinner and a pre-show drink. On the bistro menu are burgers, pizzas and pub classics. Sharing options include hummus and flat bread, popcorn chicken and chilli salt and pepper calamari.
Rose Crown Hotel
The Rose Crown Hotel is a traditional pub popular among Parramatta locals. It’s also one of Sydney’s oldest – a hotel has operated on the site since 1823. Draught and boutique beers are on offer, as well as an extensive wine list.
Gelato Messina opened its Parramatta store in 2014, to the great joy of residents in Sydney’s west. Gelato is an unbeatable summer nightcap: finish your Sydney Festival night with flavours such as poached figs in marsala; tiramisu; or salted coconut and mango salsa.