Adelaide Festival 2024 began with hundreds of punters seated on the sand of Glenelg/Pathawilyangga beach at sunset. Enormous whale bone-like forms back-dropped the stage to a new dance theatre piece by acclaimed Australian choreographer and director Stephen Page.

Titled Baleen Moondjan, it dove deep into the story of an elder, their granddaughter, and a poignant meeting with a baleen whale, celebrating the connection between First Nations’ communities and Cultural totems.

Woven through contemporary and traditional song, were the natural lapping ocean sounds of Kaurna Country.

Elaine Crombie and Zipporah Corser-Anu sing among dancers in Baleen Mondjan.(Supplied: AF / Roy VanDerVegt)

In this year’s Adelaide Festival, works encompass an array of tones, from the curious and playful, to the urgent and political.

Featuring big international names alongside local voices, here are some highlights from this year’s program — some that have already taken to the stage, many you’ve still got time to catch.

The Jungle Book reimagined

Akram Khan’s Jungle Book reimagined.(Photo by Ambra Vernuccio)

News reports from an imagined near-future fill the theatre, blasting updates about climate catastrophes which seem all too real.

Projections of animation envelop the stage and set the apocalyptic scene. And contemporary dancers animate their bodies as growling wolves, chuckling monkeys and a dancing bear.

It’s the story of the Jungle Book, but not as we know it. The animals still speak, but their message (and the art form) is very different.

In this dance theatre piece, Jungle Book remained, world leading choreographer Akram Khan renews this well-known work with an urgent message for today’s audiences.

Mowgli, the human child at the centre of this famous story, is now a climate-refugee adrift in a deserted modern city.

A work for all ages, Khan told RN’s Stage Show the inspiration came from his three children, and questioning, what’s being passed down to them in the times we live in?

The character of Mowgli amidst dancers in the Jungle Book reimagined.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/ Camilla Greenwell)

“One of the points was, we’re passing down something extremely dangerous, and that was the climate crisis,” he said.

“And really, climate crisis is a crisis of culture, because as modern culture, we’ve separated nature [and human actions].

“Fundamentally, it’s about humankind being reminded of the consequences of our actions. And if we’re not careful, nature will take its revenge.

“We have to learn to listen again.”

The Jungle Book Re-imagined runs 15–16 March at Adelaide Festival.


Hanging from the ceiling in Adelaide’s ACE (Adelaide Contemporary Experimental) Gallery, is the exhibition’s lead artist Sam Petersen — not the actual person, but a nifty life-size cardboard cutout.

Petersen is pictured laughing in their wheelchair, and from their mouth descends a long string of drool, forming a growing pool on the gallery floor.

A string of drool pools on the floor of ACE Gallery, in the work Drool Fountain (2023) by artist Sam Petersen.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/Photo by Sam Roberts)

“We have eight litres of drool, and we’ve worked out it drips about 24 gobbets a second,” ACE artist director Danni Zuvela told RN’s The Art Show.

“So we think we’ll make it through to the end of the exhibition at that rate.

“It’s taking on a whole life of its own, the drool puddle.”

The Yucky exhibition brings together local and international artists to confront prejudice towards people living with disabilities, chronic illness, or neurodivergence.

This collaborative artwork by Finnegan Shannon and Sam Peterson is titled, Do you want use here or not (2023).(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/Sam Roberts)

Multi-disciplinary artist Petersen describes themselves as the “pissed-off wheelchair and AAC (augmented alternative communication) user”, and wants able-bodied audiences to question how they interact with people living with disability, and the effect it can have.

People seeing me and yet pretending not to see.

The fear is palpable sometimes.

They fear me because I’m yucky.

Yeah, drooling and weeing all over the place.

Like you ables don’t.

— excerpt from Fear by Sam Petersen

“I know I am cleaner than most people,” Petersen said.

“But I know people really think I’m yucky. So I’m yucky. And I have asked other artists with disabilities if they feel yucky, too.”

Yucky runs until May 4 at ACE Gallery.

Marina Abramović Takeover

Li Binyuan performs in Elder Park, on the banks of Adelaide’s River Torrens.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Andrew Beveridge)

On the banks of Adelaide’s River Torrens, I grimaced watching a performance by leading Chinese artist Li Binyuan. Standing on top of a brick pillar, several metres high and about a metre wide, he was working to break it down using just a hammer.

It was a repetitive, relentless task of forcefully tapping at the bricks, breaking them and pushing them to the ground. Four hours into a process that would take more than eight, his body was clearly already fatiguing from the task. His experience of pain meeting perseverance was palpable for the audience.

Will the pillar or the artist collapse first? In a performance artwork titled Breakdown by Li Binyuan.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Andrew Beveridge)

Binyuan was one of a small, curated group of leading artists from Asia and Australia invited to create ‘durational performance art’ as part of the Marina Abramović Institute: Takeover.

A form that can baffle the uninitiated, it involves artists pushing their bodies and minds to limits, performing repetitive acts over hours. But for the artists who do it, and the audiences who view it, it can have a transformative effect.

In one room, continuously over four days, Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo sewed identical black shirts, placed them over her head, then made chalk marks on the wall whilst she recited the words ‘I’m sorry’, which grew more laboured and sorrowful each day.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Andrew Beveridge)

Speaking with ABC Arts from New York ahead of Takeover, Marina Abramovic (the 77-year-old Serbian pioneer of this form), explained how it impacts both the performer and viewer.

“Because we human beings always like to ‘go easy way’, we always choose the same way of doing things, we are always in the same pattern,” she said.

“In order to change that, you have to do something that you’re afraid of, something you don’t know, something different. This is the only way that you can actually learn the lesson. Otherwise, you’re just repeating your life.

“So of course, [performance art is] not comfortable, of course I’m afraid, of course there is all this happening. By doing it, you transform yourself. And it’s the transformation that matters.”

Leading Australian performance artist Mike Parr spent 12 hours on a ladder painting large black and red squares with his eyes closed, persevering through physical and mental anguish.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Andrew Beveridge)

Marina Abramović Institute: Takeover was held over four days of the opening weekend of Adelaide Festival.


The stories told in Guuranda are described as vital, violent, delightful and dangerous.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Tim Standing)

Guuranda is a dynamic new theatre work, bringing various art forms together on stage to tell the Narrungga Creation stories of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

“It’s quite a multi-disciplinary — in a true sense of the word — theatre performance. We have song, language, puppetry, dance, theatre, AV, lots of projection,” Narungga/Kaurna theatre-maker Jacob Boehme told RN’s The Stage Show.

Even large puppetry dingoes face off, along with an emu and lively owl, as the piece shares stories of Narungga Dreaming and cultural Lore.

First Nations dancers tell Narungga Creation stories in a new theatre work at Adelaide Festival.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Tim Standing)

It’s a highly polished production, and a monumental family project. On stage we hear Narungga songwoman Sonya Rankine and songman Warren Milera, supported by the Narungga Family Choir. The songs came from years of Boehme and Rankine walking on Country, listening to elders, and sifting through all the Creation stories they’d known and gathered.

“This project has been a revitalisation project, it’s been a huge family project,” says Boehme.

“This is the next level of bringing the stories we’ve been telling in English, now we can actually tell them in Narrunga”

Guuranda made its world premiere in the first week of this year’s Adelaide Festival.

Tips for the rest of the fest

The Promise

The Promise has been staged in London and Amsterdam, and New York — now in Adelaide.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/ Fabian Calis)

What: Music.

Where: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.

Intimate and powerful, this contemporary song cycle brings the stories of modern women (identity, self-discovery, motherhood) to the stage in a way we rarely hear. Co-created and performed by Dutch singer and composer Wende, it was co-written with leading writers from London’s famous theatre of new writing, the Royal Court. Expect standing ovations.

Little Amal

Puppet Little Amal began her journey walking from Syria-Türkiye border to the United Kingdom in 2021. She has since travelling to 15 countries.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival / Andrew Liohn & The Walk Production)

What: Large-scale puppetry. 

Where: Various locations, including Festival Plaza, Rundle Mall, and Riverbank Pedestrian Bridge.

Little Amal in an earlier appearance at the Luminato Festival in Toronto.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival)

Little Amal is a large puppet of a refugee girl. She will be walking through the centre of Adelaide on her first visit to Australia. Her walk began with a 9,000km journey from the Syria/Turkey border to the UK in 2021, and has gone on to become a symbol of human rights in the places she visits.

Time Machine

“If [a] person’s not out of the way they will get landed on, and not in a good way,” says Extreme Action founder Elizabeth Streb.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/ Anja Beutler)

What: Physical theatre and dance.

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre.

“If [a performer’s] not out of the way they will get landed on, and not in a good way,” says Extreme Action founder, and acclaimed NY choreographer, Elizabeth Streb. In Time Machine, dancers are described as ‘action heroes’ and push their bodies to the limit.

The Threepenny Opera

Director Barrie Kosky revives iconic music theatre work, The Threepenny Opera.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival / The Threepenny Opera)

What: Musical.

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre.

If you’ve heard the song Mack the Knife, you already know the basic premise (and theme tune) of The Threepenny Opera. First premiering in 1928 in Berlin, director Barrie Kosky and the Berliner Ensemble add new dazzle to this iconic work of 20th century music theatre.

Inner Sanctum: Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art

The eighteenth Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Inner Sanctum 2024, featuring works by Nik Pantazopoulos, Art Gallery of South Australia.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival. Photo by Saul Steed)

What: Visual art.

Where: Art Gallery of South Australia.

The Adelaide Biennial is the longest-running survey of contemporary Australian art. This year titled Inner Sanctum, artists explore the private and sacred spaces we access in our lives, which create space for us to see the world around us differently.


Thomas Weatherall, writer and performer of Blue.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival /Photo by Daniel Boud)

What: Theatre.

Where: Scott Theatre, The University of Adelaide.

Fans of the new Heartbreak High will be familiar with Logie-winning breakout actor Thomas Weatherall. In Blue, the Kamilaroi man takes to the stage, telling his own story and showing the breadth of his artistry.


Dance work Marrow uses smoke, movement and light to create potent imagery.(Supplied: Jonathan VDK / ADT)

What: Dance.

Where: Odeon Theatre.

A new work from Australian Dance Theatre, artistic Director Daniel Riley describes Marrow as “elemental…using smoke, movement and light to create potent images for the viewer”.

Taking place alongside Blak Futures, a gathering of First Nations artistic directors from across Australia, together they will offer platform for big questions and vital conversations.

Floods of Fire

The Adelaide Citizens Orchestra will reunite for Floods of Fire.(Supplied: Adelaide Festival/ Andrew Beveridge)

What: Music.

Where: The University of Adelaide (free concerts), and Adelaide Festival Centre.

In this two-day festival, an array of SA voices will creatively and collectively explore one of the biggest challenges of our time — climate change. Featuring musicians ranging from Electric Fields and the ASO, to the Citizen’s Orchestra, it’s described as a call to hope and action.