There are an overwhelming number of things to do in Melbourne in any given week – let alone theatre. Our guide to the best theatre right now should help you narrow down all the Melbourne shows to a guaranteed good-time.
Recommended: the best musicals coming to Melbourne.
What do an actor and an asylum seeker have in common? At first, you mightn't spot many similarities, but that question is a driving force in this new theatre piece by Outer Urban Theatre Projects. The work brings together theatre veterans Irine Vela (who is directing the production), Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas and Melissa Reeves (known for their collaborations on the landmark Who's Afraid of the Working Class and the recent Melbourne Festival hit Anthem) with Iranian artists, Sahra Davoudi and Milad Norouzi. Davoudi and Norouzi are appearing in the piece, alongside actors Mary Sitarenos and Peter Paltos.
She enters from the auditorium, pregnant to bursting, two fags sticking out of her mouth, clutching some shopping bags and a blow-up donkey. She’s come from London, and had hoped to be performing at Royal Albert Hall, but they were fully booked. Sydney Opera House was also unable to accommodate her. No room at the inn at the Melbourne Recital Centre (even the bloody Salon!) either. So she’s rocked up at the Malthouse like a Madonna of the follow spot, to give birth to a cabaret act of messianic proportions. That’s right, Meow Meow’s back in town. Apocalypse Meow: Crisis is Born is a crazy dumpster fire of a show, part cabaret, part Christmas special, with a liberal sprinkling of variety-hour cheese; in other words, pure Meow Meow. She premiered the work at London’s Southbank Centre all the way back in 2014, and while it has taken its time in getting to us, the show seems to have lost none of its anarchy. In fact, it feels strangely relevant. The pregnancy is less than immaculate – it turns out to be a belly full of inflatable farm animals – but it does provide us with a manger and a little Christmas cheer. It’s a mood our hostess tries desperately to maintain, but every time she seems about to buck herself up, something goes wrong and she’s plunging into the pits of despair. As she reminds us, Christmas can often feel precisely like this, a rollercoaster through hell. She initially tells us that some famous guests will be joining us for this yuletide extravaganza, but some
Melbourne’s west is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and home to a whole range of vibrant communities and artists making edgy, provocative and inspiring work. That’s why Footscray Community Arts Centre launched Due West Arts Festival last year to celebrate just about every aspect of Melbourne’s west with an eclectic and wide-ranging program of arts and entertainment. The festival is returning for its second year from November 15 to 24, with an even bigger program, headed up by local contemporary artists and some international acts. The festival is designed to be properly inclusive, meaning there really is something for everybody. There are a whole bunch of free events and the most expensive ticket is only $35. So where do you begin? If diving into a program of more than 40 events is a little intimidating, here are some of our highlights: The free Opening Night party at Footscray Community Arts Centre is a good place to start and get your bearings. Led by Indigenous elders and artists from the west, the party will feature free art and music, and audiences will be invited to participate in making a new sound work. Footscray by Night (A Second Call) will take over the Nicholson Street Mall with karaoke videos and performance, in tribute to the Little Saigon market, which was lost to a fire in 2016. It’s the work of Hoang Tran Nguyen, designed to pose questions about gentrification of community spaces. In Children of the Evolution, youngsters will be armed
This Graeme Murphy production of Turandot is one of Opera Australia's great evergreens, having debuted in 1990. It still looks fabulous, driven by dance and and an otherworldly design. Lise Lindstrom will sing the title role opposite Walter Fraccaro as Calaf – who sings Pavarotti’s greatest hit, ‘Nessun Dorma’. See what else is in Opera Australia's 2019 season.
In 2017, Melbourne suffered a mighty blow. Dracula’s, arguably Melbourne’s premiere theatre restaurant and cabaret venue, closed its glittery doors after 37 wild years of G-strings, pasties and ghost train rides. Luckily, Melbourne’s other two theatre restaurants were available to fill that void: Witches and Britches and Williamstown’s Titanic Theatre Restaurant. But in 2019 something new came along to add to the list. Say hello to the Gaol Experience, a dinner and show experience. As you might have guessed, it takes place in the Old Melbourne Gaol and dredges up the site’s 174-year history for a show that combines burlesque, sideshow and comedy. Guests are served a two-course dinner in the original cell block of the City Watch House, which is the place where felons were brought to face justice when the jail was in operation. Fancy taking things up a notch? VIP guests can serve more time, kicking back cocktails in old jail cells as the evening goes on. The show itself includes the talents of a team of inmates (also known as cabaret performers Queen of the Damned) and includes lots of classic songs – think anything from Tina Arena and Queen to Wolfmother and Beyoncé. And because it’s burlesque, you should expect some risqué scenes – these inmates were charged with indecent exposure, after all. The show takes over four areas of the old jail and includes anything from laser beams to wanted photos and even a flash mob. Tickets start at $75, and you can organise special hen
This musical from Kander and Ebb (the songwriting team behind Cabaret and Chicago) has never before had a professional mainstage production in Australia. Melbourne Theatre Company's artistic director Brett Sheehy says he’s reversing that “unconscionable neglect” with this new production starring Australia’s own Broadway and West End star (she played the leading role in Chicago on Broadway), Caroline O’Connor. It’s based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel set inside a South American prison where two men are sharing a cell. One is a Marxist revolutionary, and the other is a gay window dresser who escapes into a fantasy world of movies starring the fabulous diva Aurora. That’s where O’Connor comes in. The cast also includes Adam Jon Fiorentino, Natalie Gamsu, and Bert LaBonté (The Book of Mormon). Helpmann Award-winner and musical theatre dynamo Dean Bryant directs.
It’s 1889 in Cornwall. It’s a freezing winter night. A suited stranger interrupts a family dinner and introduces them to a strange, black substance pooled within a lantern. This is oil, and it shocks everyone into excitement or doubt – it ignites into a warm, thick tongue of flame, but gives off a peculiar smell. After the stranger leaves, May, the pregnant wife of a farmer, decides to go outside. She picks up the lantern and starts to walk. She walks through time. It’s now 1908. Tehran. May, a servant, with her eight-year-old daughter Amy in tow, scrounges up one last job. Time jumps forward again, and May and Amy, now in a car, drive through decades, to 1970, where they thunder at each other in a kitchen in Hampstead. Time jumps forward again. May flies. It’s 2021, in the bomb-stricken sands of Baghdad. Time jumps. It’s 2051. Cornwall. And so goes Oil, by British playwright Ella Hickson. It’s a play that moves forward through the centuries like the crawling spread of a flame, tracking the destruction that ambition or love can leave in its wake. Under the direction of Ella Caldwell, this latest Red Stitch production is an experience so full of ideas and feeling that it ought to burst: it’s a mad swirl of hope, love, greed and progress; of geopolitical, ecological, commercial and maternal concerns. It’s the type of play that’s so gargantuan in theme that a review may do little but list. At the heart of Oil, however, lie two major ideas: the oil industry’s knotted co-depen
There has always been a stalking, uneasy relationship between science and art; mutual distrust and suspicion keep both camps in perpetual intractability. But they aren’t as ideologically opposed as they seem. Both disciplines are preoccupied with a search for truths, for insights that can make our journey across this planet smoother, and both are crippled by what the late Harold Bloom termed the anxiety of influence. Nothing in art or science (or criticism, for that matter) is achieved in isolation. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Just who gets to be a giant and who gets forgotten, and why this should matter if indeed it does, is the subject of Anna Ziegler’s play Photograph 51. At the centre of the piece is Rosalind Franklin, one of the key scientists whose work led to the discovery of the famous “double helix” structure of DNA, but who was denied a Nobel for reasons the playwright attempts to disentangle. Nicole Kidman triumphed in the role on the West End, and even though the part is too insular and understated to be considered a traditional showstopper, Nadine Garner does the same for MTC. Franklin was certainly a fascinating figure; a woman who achieved an enormous amount in a life tragically cut short by ovarian cancer, she nevertheless butted heads with her key research partner, and eventual co-winner of the Nobel, Maurice Wilkins (Paul Goddard). She was dogged and precise, which was central to her success as a chemist and X-ray crystallographer, but
The first rule of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that you don’t talk about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Safeguarding spoilers is an expected responsibility for anyone who attends the Potter-verse’s first on-stage outing. There’s even a hashtag: #KeepTheSecrets. But in truth (as far as theatre critique is concerned, at least), JK Rowling needn’t have worried. This marathon, five-hour spectacle has a plot so dense and sprawling, so wonderfully, unashamedly elaborate, it would take many thousands of words more than any theatre review to even scratch the surface. While we may have been sworn to secrecy about Cursed Child’s plot, we can reveal that the hype – and rarely has a piece of theatre ever generated such fever-pitched buzz – is entirely deserved. And not just because of the quality of the production. The masterminds behind the show – led by Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany – have not merely set out to put on a play, but rather craft a rich and detailed immersive experience. To this end, Melbourne’s Princess Theatre has undergone a top to bottom $6.5 million makeover, transforming its interiors to match a Hogwartsian, Potterfied aesthetic. If this sounds like an unnecessary extravagance, it’s probably an indication this play isn’t for you. The success of Cursed Child, which has smashed box office records on Broadway and the West End, is powered by its unapologetic exclusivity. Those without any prior knowledge of Harry and co will be b
When Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins premiered in 1990, George Bush Sr was in power and the Gulf War was underway. Audiences during war time weren’t really ready for a musical about the dark heart of the American dream, and it closed early. In 2004 it was remounted on Broadway and won four Tonys. Its time had come. Come from Away feels like the reverse: a musical that suits its time, is perhaps even flattered a little by it. It’s of course impossible to predict, but it seems unlikely that this show will play quite so well in 15 years. Something about its message, its attitude and its structure relies heavily on the audience’s willingness, even hunger, to receive it. We are living in dark times, and a show like this certainly hits the sweet spot. Does that necessarily make it a great show? Certainly, it tells a warm and reassuring tale about a community who rallies for people it doesn’t know, and in that regard it is a necessary and timely one. On the morning of September 11, 2001 a total of 38 planes carrying 6,579 passengers were diverted to the remote airspace in Newfoundland, near the town of Gander. They didn’t know why, nor even where they were, but they soon learnt just how kind and welcoming the locals could be. Gander (and neighbouring towns) took them all in, almost doubling the local population in a single day; they fed them, clothed them and housed them. They broke the news of the terrorist attacks in New York, and they gave them phones to contact loved ones. And the