Unusual audience experiences

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December 8, 2023
Sydney Festival
From the weird and wacky to the once-in-a-lifetime, these ain't your everyday audience setups.

The Sydney Festival 2024 program is bursting at the seams with events that invite you to dance, sway or stay blissfully still in a good ol’ theatre seat. However, for every show that fits the traditional mould, there’s something out of the box to try too.

From the weird and wacky to the once-in-a-lifetime, these ain’t your everyday audience setups. With no stalls or dress circles in sight, you’ll be on the water, on cushions, on your phone – or even onstage as part of the action. Read on for a selection of the unique and unusual Festival experiences you won’t forget in a hurry.

Ensemble Apex: Come Sweet Death

Sydney’s Ensemble Apex is a collective of charismatic musicians taking classical music to new audiences through bold, unconventional experiences.

Inspired by one of JS Bach’s most sorrowful and devotional songs, Ensemble Apex’s Come Sweet Death features music from across three centuries that lifts the veil between life and death. For this event, you’re invited to lie down on the floor, with the lights flickering low, and let this absorbing experience take over.

Night Songs at Coney Island

Coney Island at Luna Park has surprised, delighted and overstimulated Sydney’s children for generations. Now, at Sydney Festival, the iconic funhouse (complete with Mirror Maze, vintage slot machines and giant slides) will host the world premiere of Night Songs at Coney Island, a deeply moving work exploring innocence lost, performed by artists from the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and other celebrated vocal talents.

Patrons will take a ferry from Pier One to Luna Park, then be immersed in an eerie scene and soundscape as this visit to a childhood wonderland takes an unusual turn.

House of Fast Fashun

Ever watched a runway show that made you think, ‘I could do that’? Well, now’s your moment. House of Fast Fashun is a fun, hands-on experience from Melbourne’s Fast Fashun art collective that invites you to get into the seams and make something fabulous.

Artists will be on hand to help you create unique fashion pieces from old clothes and textile waste, in a workshop-performance hybrid that upends the wasteful fast fashion industry. Participants are then encouraged to showcase their creations, with highly supportive and music-filled runway shows every hour, on the hour. All ages are welcome, and no previous tailoring experience is necessary to get in the vibe.


Join Aseel Tayah, a Melbourne-based Palestinian artist, activist and passionate cook, for an inviting evening of food, stories and songs at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres.

A true sensory experience, A’amar includes a four-course Arabic meal, which you’ll enjoy while seated on cushions on the floor. In between the dishes (including perhaps the best hummous you’ve ever tasted), Tayah will weave a story of friendship, love, community and resilience. In short: not your regular dinner and a show.

Cambodian Circus Workshop

Not many shows require you to limber up and get your stretches in beforehand, but this is no ordinary show. From 10 to 19 January the esteemed Cambodian circus, Phare, is running workshops at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre to get you ring-ready.

Phare is the troupe behind the highly anticipated circus show, White Gold, which has its Australian exclusive showing at the Festival. In these workshops, participants can expect to expand their skill set with juggling, human pyramid and acrobatic activities. It’s the rarest of chances to not only actively practise circus skills with internationally touring circus professionals, but also learn Cambodian circus styles (and stun your mates at parties).


If ‘join a world-class performance onstage’ is on your New Year’s resolutions list, you could be ticking it off early.

In Soliloquy, multi-award-winning musician and recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey undertakes a radical re-invention of the solo recital, sharing the stage with renowned contemporary dancer Stephanie Lake and 32 bodies moving in unison.

Of those 32 bodies onstage at City Recital Hall, one could be yours. We’ve put the call out for curious, art-loving volunteers (no dance or performance experience necessary) to take part in Soliloquy alongside Lacey. You’ll be guided by a multi-award-winning Australian choreographer and other leading professionals in the industry, and meet other lovely volunteers. Find out more about this one-of-a-kind experience and what’s required from participants here.


An interactive dance event with three Deaf hosts and a DJ, SPIN is inspired by club culture and social dance scenes in San Francisco, Mexico, Cuba and Berlin. Get those endorphins flowing as you discover ways to experience music and movement you may never have accessed before.

The creation of Deaf performer and advocate Anna Seymour, this exciting event series celebrates the connection, escapism and hedonism of the dancefloor, while playfully interrogating who can belong and coexist in the rave realm. SPIN is a guided dance event suitable for ages 10+, with no dance experience necessary.

Te Wheke-a-Muturangi: The Adversary, Sydney Harbour Kayaks' Tours

Created by the multi-disciplinary Māori artist Lisa Reihana and made from more than 1000 pieces, the floating Te Wheke-a-Muturangi sculpture will take up residence in Watermans Cove (Barangaroo), gently animated by harbour breezes and shifting currents, bathed in sunlight and moonglow.

You could stand and admire its majesty from afar, or even better, hit the harbour for an up-close encounter, courtesy of Sydney Harbour Kayaks. As an added bonus, you’ll learn about the beautiful vessels of the Australian National Maritime Museum and the comings and goings of the Harbour, while also sidling right up to the face of Reihana’s aquatic creation.

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is a wild ride down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and murder mystery podcasts, centred around the brutal murder of Iranian pop star and sex symbol Fereydoun Farrokhzad in 1992.

Far from a passive theatre show, the production includes an ingenious multimedia element that draws the audience into the search for clues and the tangle of information available online about a decades-old tragedy. If you’re a pop music-loving amateur sleuth with a flair for the theatrical, this is your ultimate summer night out.

Hive Festival: Trains by The Kids

For an immersive artistic experience that also gets you from A to B, check out this self-guided audio journey between St James Station in the CBD and Blacktown Station. With each passing station a new chapter will unfold, revealing sounds and stories of big cities, neighbourhoods and dreams by Blacktown arts collective The Kids. There are no set guided tour times, so you can enter headphone reverie at your own convenience.

So there you have it – however you like your entertainment, there’s a unique and unusual experience waiting at Sydney Festival 2024.


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