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It’s hard to deny that Sydneysiders are spoilt for choice come summertime.

With a raft of Christmas concerts, all those never ending splashy New Year’s shindigs, music festivals up the wazoo, and of course the glut of theatre, performance, art and gigs that is otherwise known as ‘January’, we tend to limp out the other side of our extended silly season poorer, tireder, but definitely sated and feeling rather superior about this harbourside city we call home.

Our Hot Summer Guide is a shortlist of what we reckon are the standouts and definitely deserve a slot in your diaries. Enjoy … and see you on the other side!

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CONTRIBUTORS: Angela Bennetts, Deborah Erwin, Dominic Dietrich, Georgia Fullerton, Leanne Elahmad, Marilyn Hetreles, Nicholas Jordan, Shannon Connellan



The always wonderful Greta Scacchi is set to star in David Williamson’s latest production, Nothing Personal, playing from December 1 at the Ensemble Theatre.

The production coincides with Williamson’s celebration of 40 years in the playwriting business. Audiences are no doubt in good hands with the accomplished playwright, who once again brings his sharp wit and social observation to this tale of a power struggle like no other, guaranteed to provoke hilarity. (GF)

Dec 1-Jan 28, Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli, $27-58, 9929 0644,


Witness local outfit Songs finally come out of hiding – with an all-new line-up and fresh ditties, as the five-piece have been busily working on a new album. The hypnotic Melbournian Teeth & Tongue (aka Jess Cornelius) will join them for the rare show. (AB)

Dec 2, 11pm, GoodGod Small Club, 55 Liverpool St, Sydney, $12+BF,


Sick of doing your Christmas shopping in overcrowded malls and waiting in endless queues? (Who isn’t?!) Now you might even be able to clean up your Christmas to do-list before the eleventh hour thanks to the City of Sydney’s annual Christmas Markets.

Held at various Sydney locations, there are gifts for everyone from design lovers to handicraft fanatics, fashionophiles to outdoorsmen and more. The markets will run throughout December leading up to Christmas. (LE)

Until Dec 20, check for your closest market venue


Get ready for the witty, gritty and often offensive antics of Wil Anderson. The multi award-winning comedian and TV show host will take to the Laugh Garage stage for some intimate and no-doubt pun-tastic jabs at everything from politics to pizza commercials.

Fresh from a sell-out overseas tour, Anderson has been described as, “the rock star of the Australian comedy world” and is a must see this summer. (GF)

Dec 7-10, The Laugh Garage Sydney, Sydney, $10-25, 9264 1161,


If you liked the Oscar-scooping, crazy, psychological take on the ruthless world of ballet, Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, you’ll love Fat Swan. Based on the recent film, this saucy, musical romp is strictly adults-only. It’s a heady mix of audience interaction, burlesque and ballet with a live band. Lovers of traditional classical ballet beware. (MH)

Dec 7-17, Seymour Centre, Chippendale, $42.50-48.50, 9351 7940,


The Sydney Philharmonia Choirs has posted an epic and festive conclusion to the year with both Handel and Tchaikovsky filling the December spots.

Handel’s Messiah kicks off on the 8th, 10th and 11th while Tchaikovsky’s classic Nutcracker will be playing on the eleventh only. With over 400 choristers belting out timeless Christmas cheer, this suite of concerts is a much-loved mainstay in the Sydney advent calendar. (NJ)

Dec 8-11, Sydney Opera House, $30-80, 9250 7777,


The choir’s performances this year will be a festive broth of choral works infused with hints of Baroque, European and Latin American rhythms, Medieval chant, and carols. Expect an evening of musical celebration and ample Noëls, Noël! (DD)

Dec 10, 5pm & 7pm, Dec 14, 7pm, City Recital Hall, Angel Place, from $36, 9328 7581,


As part of the Sydney International Art Series, the Museum of Contemporary Art is bringing over one of the world’s leading interactive artists, Mexican-Canadian Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. You’ll not only get to play with his intriguing art installations, you’ll also get a sneak peek into the refurbished MCA galleries. (AB)

Dec 16-Feb 12, 140 George St, The Rocks, free, 9245 2400,


Around 400 people will be boozing and hollering at the world’s newest sport on December 17 with Australia’s second ever Barcraft… What’s Barcraft, you say? It’s a new event at the Paragon Hotel in Circular Quay which brings a heap of e-sports enthusiasts together to watch professional video games in a bar. The game scheduled for the bigscreen showdown is Starcraft, hence Barcraft.

If you’re still scratching your head, there’s only one way to find out … (NJ)

Dec 17, Paragon Hotel, 1 Loftus St, Sydney, 9241 3522,


Each year the Coogee Carols brings together locals and families from surrounding areas to celebrate community and Christmas. Presented by Randwick City Council, the free event is sure to be a nice antidote to a sizzling day at the beach, featuring local celebrities and performers, a 12-piece band, and even a special visit from Santa. (MH)

Dec 18, 6:30pm, Goldstein Reserve, Coogee Beach, Arden St Coogee, 8399 1613,


Have you ever wanted to chuckle at the lives of celebrities without the shame of devouring a stack of tabloids? Now is your chance. Emmy-award nominated writer-performer Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel are bringing ridiculous and cringey celebrity memoirs to the stage in Celebrity Autobiography.

The event will include homegrowns: Georgie Parker, Daniel Macpherson, Mikey Robins and more. This show has sold out everywhere and won awards in the same places – get in quick! (NJ)

Dec 28-Jan 29, Sydney Opera House, $64-69, 9250 7777,


If being trapped in a vat of sweaty, trashed strangers watching some repetitive bright sparks go bang doesn’t sound like an ideal way to ring in the year, then perhaps you should consider Peats Ridge.

The annual indie music festival set in the lush Glenworth Valley is to New Years what bean bags are to living rooms: not usually very pretty but extremely comfortable and guaranteed to make you super chilled out. This year the hippie-turned-hipster fest will feature Goyte, Xavier Rudd, Salmonella Dub and others, plus theatre shows, art installations, workshops and more. (NJ)

Dec 29-Jan 1, Glenworth Valley, 1 hour north of Sydney, $320+BF (season pass plus camping), 1300 762 545,



Talk about punchy theatre: Short+Sweet Sydney will feature 180 of the best ten-minute plays from local and international writers. “The biggest little play festival in the world,” this year’s lineup is sure to be just as exciting as previous years, with playwriting workshops and an awards night with cash and industry prizes to top it all off.

Don’t miss out on seeing some fresh theatre at the festival that has launched the careers of countless professionals. You might even be inspired to put pen to paper yourself. (MH)

Jan 3-Mar 3, Newtown Theatre, 9519 5081,

Miss Polly Rae & The Hurly Burly Girlys

“Stockings are languorously unrolled, the final inch removed with a little wiggle of toenails. Soon the stage is littered with lingerie…” When UK journalist Quentin Letts took in Miss Polly Rae’s London show, he was not left for want of a good time. Consider the corsets tightened and feathers fluffed.

The leading UK burlesque queen is strutting back to Sydney this January, bringing her seven-girl troupe to Marrickville’s Factory Theatre for a run of rambunctious debauchery. Leave your goody two shoes behind. (SC)

Jan 5-15, The Factory Theatre, from $69,


This Belvoir Theatre production for the Sydney Festival teams up with Urban Theatre Projects to excavate ideas of how cities are defined and how in turn, we are defined by them. Centred on the all-too-familiar Sydney scene of a construction site, the cast also includes much-loved Sydney troubadour Perry Keyes. A must see. (AB)

Jan 6-Feb 5, Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, $42-62, 9699 3444,


Do you want to experience the best of both worlds this summer?  Sydney’s most iconic beach will provide just that by bringing together big-screen entertainment and outdoor action with the 21st Annual Flickerfest Short Film Festival. Judging from opening night – which includes a cow with a yen to become a hamburger, two trekking peasants, a schoolyard love triangle and more – it’s set to be a spicy summertime mix. So enlist your friends, lovers and family and enjoy the vast collection of films under the stars. (LE)

Jan 6-15, Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, $13-130 (season pass), 9365 6888,


The host of National Public Radio’s (NPR) This American Life, Ira Glass, is radio royalty. In January, he will regale a captive Australian audience for the first time as part of an Australia-wide tour and the Sydney Festival.

His mellow voice has been heard by millions for 16 sweet years as he guides listeners through an hour-long themed show.  Glass has single-handedly proven that video did not kill the radio star, instead people keep coming back for more heartfelt stories, blended with chuckles and sniffles. (DE)

Jan 11 (7pm and 9.30pm), Sydney Town Hall, $35-45, 1300 668 812,

Sons AND Daughters

Described as, “brilliantly bloodthirsty” and inspired by the serial murderers of Scotland, foursome Sons and Daughters sure know how to play a killer set. After a lengthy hiatus, the rocking Scots are returning to Sydney, ready to unleash their latest release Mirror Mirror.

The Glaswegians will be joined at the swanky Keystone Festival Bar by Sydney favourites Songs and The Laurels. Those keen to raise their glasses a little higher can stick around for Popfrenzy DJs cranking the tunes until the early hours. (SC)

Jan 12, Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Keystone Festival Bar, $42, 1300 668 812,


The third year in this annual event finds it hitting a sax-solo-style high-note. Featuring free outdoor gigs at Prince Alfred Park, late night jam sessions, discussions on ‘Sydney’s Sound’, a gala night, kiddies concerts, workshops and an impressive $10,000 recording prize package for one lucky bunch of musos, the festival takes place from January 13 to 15 at a range of venues and kerbside lurks. (NJ)

Jan 13-15, variety of venues, head to for the full line-up


For a passionate and funny theatre experience with singing and dancing, go no further than Ordinary Days. Set to tell the story of four New Yorkers in the tradition of intersecting stories and surprising connections, this musical will leave you pondering how you might make meaning from your existence on this earth.

Sure to be both honest and brutal, Ordinary Days will bring you back to the importance of the simple things in life, with some beautiful music to boot. (MH)

Jan 19-Feb 19, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point, $28-33, 8356


It’s time to brush off your best boxers and nighties and join Australia’s biggest slumber party. Eighty lucky Australians will get the chance to participate in the Big Summer Sleepover – VIP style. The sleepover will be spread over two nights of fun at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Summer at the House program.

Winners will receive a once in a lifetime VIP tour of the Opera House, a private dinner in the House and tickets to the Illusionist show. Enter the draw at (LE)

Jan 19-20, Sydney Opera House,


Big Day Out will rock Sydney showground once again, with a well-rounded line-up set to please all music lovers. American hip hop sensation Kanye West headlines the festival, with My Chemical Romance, The Living End, Hilltop Hoods and pro-skater Tony Hawke ready to please the crowds.

Oasis fans are in for a treat, as Noel Gallagher brings his new band the HighFlyingBirds to the stage. With locals like Architecture in Helsinki, Art Vs. Science, Foster the People and Drapht also set to perform, this day out promises to be bigger and better than ever. (GF)

Jan 26, Sydney Showground, $165+BF,



Directed by Darren Gilshenan, has already tread some impressive boards – the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre in London – before settling down for a season at the Bondi Pavilion. Neurotic, jingle-writing duo Leigh and Loman have their cloistered lives thrown into turmoil when they spy a lovely lady through their keyhole. (AB)

Jan 31-Feb 18, Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Bondi Beach, 8019 0282,


They’re at it again! It’s round two of Tim Minchin Vs The Sydney Symphony. Minchin, a darkly hilarious musical comedian, will perform new and classic songs from his repertoire, accompanied by the Sydney Symphony.

At times blunt, at times subtle, Minchin’s lyrics entangle humour, politics and controversy through songs which are catchy and often complex. Expect the Symphony to add its harmonious touch to the whole affair. (DD)

Feb 2-4, 8pm,The State Theatre, 49 Market Street, from $69, 9373 6852,


This mysterious, mask-wearing beats wizard will once again grace Australian shores (having recently headlined the Musica Festival in October 2010), but this time he will be joined by his knockout vocalist sidekick Sampha, making this a live show not to be missed. (AB)

Feb 3, Metro Theatre, 624 George St, Sydney, $41.90+BF, 9550 3666,


If you’re a yarn teller or a yarn listener you’ll have something to give at the Australian Youth Hotel on the first Monday of the month. Yarn hosts storytelling nights where anyone can get up and spill some beans as long as the stories are not offensive, last no longer than seven minutes and they’re real… which should be easy, for as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction. (NJ)

Feb 6, 7.30pm, Australian Youth Hotel, 63 Bay St, Glebe, 0407 173 780 or email if you want to tell a tale


Known for her crushingly honest tales of love and loss, UK songstress Laura Marling heads to Sydney’s Concert Hall for an intimate night of bare bones acoustic storytelling set to break hearts. Marling will debut tunes from her third studio album, A Creature I Don’t Know, released in September to worldwide critical acclaim. But Marling is never one to leave her guests out in the cold, she’ll be visiting some crowd favourites and revisiting an old ghost or two. (SC)

Feb 9, Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall, From $59-80, 9250 7777,


It’s not every day you hear the words red carpet, live entertainment, short movies and free in the same sentence, however Tropfest goes out of its way to offer just that.

The most prestigious short film festival in Australia (next stop: the world) takes over the Sydney Domain for one special night in February – the films are also broadcast to various other locations. (LE)

Feb 19, get there early with a picnic blanket!,


Be sure to put a visit to the edgy Darlinghurst Theatre on your list this summer, with the provocative The Paris Letter sure to be a hit. Written by Jon Robin Baitz, the creator of the hit American TV series Brothers and Sisters, the play tells the tale of a complex and dangerous affair, moving from New York in the 1960s, to enchanting present-day Paris.

The Paris Letter will challenge existing attitudes about sexuality and will expose some of the hidden desires we so often try to suppress. (MH)

Feb 24- March 25, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point, $28-33, 8356


The Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is on again. Get immersed in the spectacle: frilly colours, pulsing rhythms, and messages of tolerance and political change.

Join hundreds of thousands of people as a procession of vibrant floats and ebullient dancers stride along Oxford and Flinders street. It’s a popular evening, so arrive early and don’t forget your milk crate. (DD)

Mar 3, Oxford and Flinders Street, Darlinghurst, free, 9383 0900,