What happens on stage is only half the story. Step behind the curtain to experience theatre from a different angle in these intimate behind-the-scenes tours of Melbourne's most impressive theatre spaces.
You can also get behind the scenes of many more of Melbourne’s theatres during Open House Melbourne, held annually over a weekend in July. Discover the secrets of the Athenaeum Theatre, La Mama, Meat Market and The Substation through guided tours.
Backstage tours in Melbourne
The Arts Centre’s famous spiral is just the tip of an enormous network of underground passages, archives, performance spaces, dressing rooms and offices, extending five floors underground. On this weekly tour, your friendly host will regale you with stories of famous performers who have tread the boards of the Arts Centre’s theatres since it opened in 1984, and tales of backstage mishaps and urban legends from over the years. They’ll also give you an insight into the technical aspects of putting on large-scale shows at the State Theatre, which seats 2,079 people and has a ceiling covered with 75,000 tiny brass domes. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to glimpse sets being constructed for upcoming productions.
Arts Centre Melbourne. Sun 11am. $20.
This tour kicks off at 11am, but arrive early for free coffee and cake. Like the Arts Centre’s Backstage Tour, this journey through Australia’s largest performing arts centre will take you deep into the passageways and through vast empty theatres – but you’ll also learn about the impressive collection of Australian art (much of it by Indigenous artists) throughout the complex. Participants are then led to the gallery at street level, which showcases highlights from the Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Archives.
Meet at the Concierge Desk, Arts Centre Melbourne. Mon-Sat 11am. $15-$20.
If you love getting lost in the graceful, ethereal beauty of ballet, then it might be a surreal experience encountering ballerinas in casual rehearsal gear at the Australian Ballet Centre, learning the choreography for their next big production. Jeté into the Australian Ballet headquarters and watch dancers hard at work, visit the pointe shoe room (yes, a whole room: dancers can go through one pair per performance!) and marvel at the intricacies of the costumes in the wardrobe department.
The Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre. Thu & Tue 10.30am. $39.
Take your ballet obsession to the next level at the Australian Ballet’s custom-built warehouse in Altona. This 10,000 square-metre space – which opened in 2015 – is packed with costumes and props from the last 50 years of performances. Led by the great Colin Peasley OAM (the longest-serving member of the Australian Ballet), this is your chance to get up close and theatrical with everything from the cygnet tutus from Graeme Murphy’s seminal 2002 Swan Lake to large-scale sets from over 90 productions.
Meet at Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre. Tours run several times a month, dates vary. 10am. $160.