Lieven Bertels has launched his third program as Director of the Sydney Festival with a mixture of the old, the new and the intriguingly obscure. The Belgian auteur is nothing if not original – as recognised last year when the board of directors extended his contract to include the 40th Sydney Festival in 2016 – but meanwhile, 2015 sees perhaps his most intriguing (and occasionally offbeat) season to date.

The headline act is James Thierrée in his largest and most extravagant work to date. Thierrée, acrobat, musician, dancer, actor, mime and choreographer is reckoned one of the most creative contemporary circus performers in the world. Hailing from a talented lineage – he’s the son of circus performers Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée, grandson of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandson of Eugene O’Neill – his latest show, Tabac Rougehasn’t exactly wowed reviewers abroad but Bertels is confident that Sydneysiders will flock to this ambitious conflation of circus, physical theatre and illusion. “We feel the work will benefit from being presented in a Festival context, where a broad range of genres are programmed from dance and theatre to circus,” says Bertels. “It is in this contemporary circus field where James’ work shines...