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Sydney Festival's Colourful Spots 2023

Home > Sydney > Art | Bars | Circus | Festivals | Performing Arts
by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
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Bringing the good times back, Sydney Festival is taking over various sites and venues from the City to Parramatta in celebration of creativity through art, theatre, music, comedy, culture and a whole lot more.

From the outdoors to the indoors, there's plenty to explore. Here's some of the most colourful experiences to be had:-


At Tumbalong Park, you can't miss the magical marine world of Cupid's Koi Garden. Consisting of the world's first inflatable fountain, it's a huge 6m tall immersive water play installation splashing summer fun on all within its reach.

Sydney Festival, Cupid's Koi Garden, Darling Harbour

From 10am, you'll be serenaded with submerged sounds, whilst the cheeky cherub Cupid and his 10 friendly koi fish spritz you through squirting choreographed water jets. You can also wander and play amidst brightly coloured fish and terrazzo ponds under the watchful gaze of Cupid's motion-tracking LED eyes.

At night (until 10pm), it's bathed in lights that produce a colourful kaleidoscopic glow. With trickling soundtracks and the multi-sensory playground of gushing bubblers, it's an inviting way to have fun and cool down in the heat, and it's free.

Within the same Park, a neon-lit night of amazement awaits at the Maho Magic Bar. With a curated bar of Japanese cocktails and spirits, together with an exclusive magic show at your table, every one of your senses will be stimulated at this dazzling event.

Sydney Festival, Maho Magic Bar, Darling Harbour

Five of Japan's master magicians and one incredible sleight-of-hand bartender will have you in disbelief as they present a spin on magic traditions dating back to the Edo period. Enjoy tricks with a storytelling twist from pin-up boy pioneer Shirayuri and a crazy and hectic repertoire from daredevil Sarito. See Jonio turn everything he touches to gold (even his beard) and take in the illusions of the kawaii princess Kaori Kitazawa.

Shows to see this troop of tricksters range in price from $68-$85, depending on the time and the day of the week. Running for 1hr, with sessions from 3.15pm-9.15pm, you can get your tickets here.

Down the other end of Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum has an undersea playscape and performance experience called Shipwreck Odyssey that will have you diving into a lush reef adventure.

Sydney Festival, Shipwreck Odyssey, Darling Harbour

Voyage beneath the turquoise waves and coral cays of Queensland's Wreck Reefs as the ghost ship Jenny Lind leads you into the wild wonders and mysteries of our oceans. Dance with stingrays, bask with whales, swirl through the shipwreck reefs and run with vistas of plankton in this magical story with state-of-the-art responsive projection from the acclaimed Box of Birds and Stalker Theatre team that invite a love for our blue planet.

Sessions for this odyssey are available for the majority of the festival period. The performance runs for 30mins and you get a further 30mins to explore the playscape. You can book here for this family-friendly escapade that's priced at $15 per person.

For more shipwreck fun, the museum will also have you discovering maritime history with Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in Lego Bricks. Marvel at master Brickman Ryan McNaught's fascinating LEGO models of famous shipwrecks, along with real-world objects found on these sunken ships.

Sydney Festival, Brickwrecks, LEGO, Darling Harbour

Hands-on interactives and visual experiences also bring to life astonishing stories through activities that include rebuilding the portico from the Batavia wreck, sinking the Vasa, piloting a remotely-operated vehicle beneath the ice to find the Erebus, cleaning oil pollution from a penguin and seeing if you'd survive the Titanic sinking. You can also build your own LEGO models.

Tickets for this one are $20 per adult and $12 per child under 15yrs, with under 4's free. Sessions, with timeslots from 9.30am- 3.30pm, are 90mins each.

Darling Harbour certainly brings the colour and activity, and aside from these festival events, you can also enjoy pedal boats on Cockle Bay and Pixar Putt mini golf, all within range of great shopping and dining options.


Sydney Festival, Frida Kahlo, Barangaroo

The Cutaway space under Barangaroo Reserve is the place to be for a very colourful exhibition titled Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon. One of the most influential artists of all time, this immersive journey is a spectacular biography of the woman whose perseverance, rebellion and talent placed her eons ahead of her time.

Several transformational spaces with collections of historical photos and films, captivating holography, 360-degree projections and a virtual reality system will transport you inside Kahlo's most famous works.

Sydney Festival, Frida Kahlo exhibition, Barangaroo

Opportunities are available for you to get creative too, by making your own flower crown, turning your drawings into Frida-esque artwork and immortalising yourself through an illustrated souvenir photo.

All of this is accompanied by fresh arrangements of traditional Mexican music and live performance. But wait, there's more with Frida Kahlo: Up Late. Each Friday and Saturday night (from 5.30pm-9.30pm) you can indulge in spicy margaritas, tasty tacos and warm churros mixed in with immersive art, live music and dancing that includes traditional Mexican wedding dances, together with other dances inspired by Frida's life and culture.

Sydney Festival, Frida Kahlo Up Late, Barangaroo

The well-stocked bar will also be serving up a classic Negroni, a selection of spirits and mixers, Hawkes Brewing beers and Bunnamagoo wines to get you in party mode.

The exhibition is open from 10am, with tickets for morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Priced, from $39-$49, you can use the same link for the Up Late event by choosing a Friday or Saturday evening timeslot.

After you've explored the exhibition and had your fill of food and drinks, check out La Tienda gift shop stocked with Frida Kahlo and Kahlo-inspired merchandise.


The Sydney Theatre Company is hosting a cabaret kick-starter on 8Jan, titled Smashed: The Brunch Party. It's a fabulous femme-tastic smorgasbord of foot stomping, whip cracking, sequin-soaked cabaret, drag and circus, all served with morning mimosas.

Sydney Festival, Smashed The Brunch Party, Dawes Point

This adults-only event is full of flamboyance with acts ranging from burlesque beauty to camp cowboy, high-flying bogan to violin playing, hangover-soaked hostess searching for her stilettos and fan favourite Kween Kong from Drag Race Down Under runway.

The brunch and show experience includes a mimosa on arrival. Various seating arrangements are available, with cabaret tables including a themed snack item. Two performances will take place, a morning one at 11am and a matinee at 1pm. Tickets are priced from $69.

Located on Wharf 1 at 15 Hickson Rd, it's sure to be a riot with this bunch delivering sass, satire, colourful gender-bending style and eye-popping aerial acrobatics.


Sydney Festival, Paul Yore exhibition, Eveleigh

Carriageworks arts hub sees a number of solo artists exhibiting their works as part of Sydney Festival, with one of the most colourful installations being Paul Yore: Word Made Flesh. Put together using makeshift structures, it combines mixed media sculpture, recasting of random objects found, collage, painting, video, pulsating sound and light.

The kaleidoscope of elements engage with pop culture and an imagined queer alternative reality that multidisciplinary artist Paul Yore is known for. You can see it all for free at Bay 21 in the hub, from Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm.

Another bright sensory overload is that of The Huxleys: Bloodlines, which honours and worships legendary artists lost to HIV/AIDS. The exhibition of multi-art forms evokes the colourful, rebellious and creative spirit of the influential voices that helped shift the world of queer art and culture into new realms and inspired the practices of The Huxleys and numerous other artists working today.

Sydney Festival, The Huxleys Bloodlines exhibition, Eveleigh

Utilising skills of costume design, performance and photography, The Huxleys' work is designed as a joyous sparkling sťance that celebrates queer excellence through the interpretation of each artist's influence and body of work, bringing a unique Huxley style. Also free to see, this one can be found in Bay 19 at Carriageworks, from Wed-Sun (10am-5pm).

Alongside these solo exhibitions (at 245 Wilson St), you can enjoy performances spanning opera, dance, puppetry and music.

On the other side of the railway at Innovation Plaza, you'll find Jenny Kee: The Aunties with visual arts installations towering into the summer sky. The globally loved Sydney artist responsible for the iconic UniOz Stripe artwork in galleries, on outfits and crockery, is blowing it up like you've never seen before.

Sydney Festival, Jenny Kee The Aunties exhibition, South Eveleigh

With the help of her highly-skilled and successful sewing aunties, Marge and Una (who supported and guided Jenny to the top echelons of design and couture), this charismatic exhibition sees enormous alien-like squiggly creatures in their brightly knitted best sprouting up in the conservation-conscious precinct. It's a bold new interpretation of Jenny's most recognisable work, with the concept realised by the Inflatable Event Company.

You can view it for free, gracing Locomotive St in South Eveleigh, from 10am daily up until 24Jan. When hungry, stop in at one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars that populate the street. Many of them are partnering with Sydney Festival to bring your curated $30 & $55 menus.


Sydney Festival, Afrique En Cirque, Parramatta

The Riverside Theatres complex is set to explode, from 6-15Jan, with a showcase of strength, agility and joy as circus arts meet music in Afrique En Cirque.

Dizzying new levels of fun from a handful of daring acrobats, accompanied by skilled musicians, will sweep viewers up in amazement with a performance that sees an authentic and original choreography matched to the pulsating rhythm of the djembes (goblet drums) of Guinea in West Africa. Together with the serene twang of the Kora (a stringed instrument), it's a celebration of the diversity of traditional African arts.

Sydney Festival, Afrique En Cirque, Parramatta

The man behind it all is Yamoussa Bangoura, who kicked up the sand practicing circus arts on the beach near his home in Conakry Guinea, back in the 90's. He worked his way up with the finest circus companies in the world before his dreams led him to opening his own company, Cirque Kalabante Productions, in 2007.

Now based in Montreal, after seizing every opportunity to share his platform and learnings with the community of his West African home, he continues to put the development of young African circus talent in the forefront and share the fame with them and the wider world.

This show draws on the Nyamakala tradition of circus in West Africa and Yamoussa's experience in Guinea's Circus Baobob and Canada's Cirque Eloize. With his troupe, the show takes contemporary circus to new heights.

Sydney Festival, Afrique En Cirque, Parramatta

Ticket prices range from $35-$79, with afternoon and evening timeslots. Each show runs for 90mins. Note there will be smoke and haze effects as part of the show.

You might also be interested in the Drumming & Dance Workshop, where you will find yourself immersed further in the exuberant beats combined with the liberating joy of dance. This one is $10 and takes place onstage on 10Jan. There are two sessions, 5.30pm and 7pm, each with a duration of 1hr. Click here for tickets.

Riverside Theatres are located at Cnr Market & Church Sts. The courtyard will be transformed into a tropical festival garden featuring live DJs, a pop-up bar and street food. Come early or stay after the show for a drink and free music.

The above items are just a part of what you can see. For the full festival program, check out the dedicated website.

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