The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival kicks off on Friday 15 February 2019. This year’s fearless arts program features an exciting mix of local and international queer performance, theatre, music, dance, burlesque, cabaret and the return of the fabulous Mardi Gras Festival Club.

“Our expanded 2019 Festival program of arts and cultural events is made up of a wonderfully diverse array of incredible experiences that explore identity, sexuality, gender, ceremony, social justice, body image, power, fearlessness, vulnerability, celebration and desire,” says Mardi Gras CEO Terese Casu.

Mardi Gras Creative Director Greg Clarke adds: “We have some truly unique special events at the Festival ranging from the poolside camp fun of Strictly Kaftan Party featuring New Zealand’s hilarious comedy music duo the Topp Twins to the moving and emotional Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite featuring the Sydney Chamber Choir and Mardi Gras Community Choir at the City Recital Hall. This remarkable choral work is a remembrance for those we have lost and those who have suffered persecution for their sexuality or gender expression.”

“Also new in 2019 is Mardi Gras Central at the Seymour Centre, featuring our fabulous Festival Club and a season of amazing queer theatre, burlesque, circus, music and dance. With incredible LGBTQI artists coming from all over the world, and from all around Australia, the program at Mardi Gras Central is going to truly be something very special for everyone to enjoy,” adds Clarke.

Strictly Kaftan Party is a brand new pool party with a fabulously camp, retro vibe. Hosted at the luxe Ivy Pool Club, guests are encouraged to don their most glamorous poolside couture – with prizes awarded for best dressed. Frolic by the pool and enjoy a wash of entertainment as New Zealand’s comedy music duo The Topp Twins perform live in concert. These ‘hosts with the most’ are flying into Sydney especially for the summer’s best soirée of the year. Choreographer Virginia Ferris joins the party with the debut of the Fabulous Drowning Flamingos – a water ballet troupe like no other. So get ready to sip retro cocktails as the sun-sets while DJs from Heaps Gay and Club Kooky spin your favourite tracks from the last five decades on Tuesday 19 February.

Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite is an evening length choral work by American singer and composer Holcombe Waller, to remember those we have lost and those who have suffered persecution for their sexual orientation or gender expression. The piece is an emotional and personal work, informed by research into the pivotal gay history from the 1980s through to present day. Driven by community engagement and input, Waller’s Requiem calls on the community to unite and reflect, exploring the theatricality of ceremony as a means for collective catharsis and cultural introspection around the intersection of religion and LGBTQI identity. Special guests at the event include celebrant Victoria Spence and broadcaster Julie McCrossin. Experience this uplifting night of soulful song on Thursday 21 February.

For the very first time festival goers can find world-renowned and local queer art under the one roof with the Seymour Centre transforming into Mardi Gras Central, a hub of cultural wonder and experiences that will be illuminated with a brand new, late-night Festival club. Over 12 nights leading up to the Parade, the Seymour Centre’s theatres, foyers and courtyard will be transformed, providing a welcoming space to share, celebrate and explore diverse queer identities through performance, plus the family and dog-friendly Courtyard Sessions featuring live music, drinks and vintage games at dusk.

Highlights of the Mardi Gras Central program include:

Cult cabaret hooligans and mischief-makers Briefs in a season of their outrageous ‘adults only’ show Club Briefs, a wild romp of disco dancing, circus, variety, and burlesque. Club Briefs is a variety show unlike any other, celebrating diversity and inclusiveness, challenging stereotypes and exploring notions of gender, sexual orientation, race and politics. Expect a pumping soundtrack of your favourite dance floor hits and ridiculous performances from the Briefs boys, plus a cavalcade of hand-selected special guest cabaret and circus artists. Club Briefs takes place from Wednesday 20 February – Friday 1 March.

Over two spectacular nights (Saturday 16, Sunday 17 February), the world premiere of Bent Burlesque will feature the crème de la crème of underground cabaret, music, circus, satire, drag and performance art with a wild and eclectic mix of international and national burlesque acts each night. Directed by Imogen Kelly and hosted by the award-winning queen of queer cabaret Yana Alana, starring Jacques Patriaque (Vienna), Mr. Gorgeous (New York) Isaiah Esquire & Johnny Nuriel (Portland, USA) from the Vienna Boylesque Festival and with Australian artists Fancy Piece, Jess Love, Rhys Lightning, Trigger Happy, Lillian Starr, Bunni Lambada and the Amazing Ari. Bent Burlesque promises to take audiences on an ever-bending journey into the outrageously fabulous world of queer burlesque.

The official place to party every Tuesday through to Sunday of the Mardi Gras Festival, the late-night Festival Club is free entry and features the very best in DJs, drag, burlesque, cabaret, physical theatre, dance, performance art and more. The rotating line-up of hosts, performers and DJs includes Miss Poodle, Estee Louder, Jonny Marsh, Rhys Lightning, Lillian Star, Stereogamous, Harry K, DJ Smithers, Charlie Villas, HipHopHoe, Betty Grumble, Nick Spurway, Yana Alana, Beth Yen, Rosie Rivette, Bunni Lambada, Garret Lyon, Ivo Dimchev, Kyptonite, Jeremy Santos, Andrew Bukenya, Kilia Tipa and Aaron Manhattan. The Festival Club will also be the official after-party venue for Fair Day, so after a day of soaking up the rays in Victoria Park with Sydney’s LGBTQI community you can head to the Festival Club come sun down for a night of rocking entertainment and dancing. Entry to the official Fair Day after Party is $5 or free with any show ticket.

Mardi Gras Central will also play home to the Festival’s outstanding line up of theatre, dance and music and features five Sydney premieres. A delicious new interactive cabaret banquet, Cake Daddy explores one gorgeous queer man’s experience of fatness in our body obsessed culture, laying bare the fortitude and fabulosity required for him to live in an image obsessed world. This Irish and Australian collaboration combines original music across a range of genres from disco to punk, and features Belfast based actor, cabaret singer and theatre-maker Ross Anderson-Doherty. Cake Daddy runs from Saturday 16 to Friday 22 February.

The Butch Monologues comes to Sydney from the UK and presents a powerful and often humorous collection of secret stories exploring sexuality, vulnerability and desire taken from interviews with butches, masculine women, gender rebels and transmen living worldwide. Incorporating true stories from the UK, Europe, USA Caribbean and now Australia, the cast is made up of local butch identities including Ari Burkhurst, Kel Watson, River Heart and Sam King. The Butch Monologues runs from Saturday 23 February to Friday 1 March.

Also premiering at Mardi Gras Central is The Rise and Fall of Saint George; KING – a new music-dance collaboration between award-winning director/choreographer Shaun Parker and internationally renowned Bulgarian-born songwriter/vocalist Ivo Dimchev; and The Moors – a cleverly crafted black comedy about love, desperation, and visibility. Plus an exclusive show from one of the industry’s most prominent musicians, Gavin Rayna Russom, best known for her work as the lead synthesist for New York City dance icons LCD Soundsystem.
The Rise and Fall of Saint George has already sold-out, and as all of these exclusive Mardi Gras shows only have a very limited number of performances we recommend booking your tickets early, make a night of it and you may even meet your favourite artists over a Mardi Gras cocktail at the Festival Club afterwards,” says Clarke.

Check out all of Mardi Gras’ incredible events in the 2019 Festival here!