Best things to do in Melbourne in February
Drag superstars, cult cabaret artists and gender-bending performance artists take over the city every summer – not to mention the swag of free parties, events and more. In the past few years, LGBTQIA-focused festival has begun to come into its own as an international arts festival, pairing a suite of free events and parties with a program of theatre, cabaret, live art and music. It's been more than three decades since the first Midsumma launched, and the festival now attracts talen from all corners of the globe. Whether you're queer or an ally, there's an event for everyone at Midsumma, so break out those rainbow threads and get celebrating!
The only thing better than a music festival is a free music festival. The St Kilda Festival happens to be Australia's largest free music festival, showcasing the best of homegrown talent against the glorious natural backdrop of the St Kilda foreshore. During this year's festival the Cat Empire, the Preatures, DZ Deathrays, Saskwatch, Troy Cassar-Daley, Mojo Juju and more will be hitting the stage on February 10 (that's the day after Laneway for anyone thinking of making a weekend of it). The huge beachside festival is family friendly and features a kids' zone complete with roaming and stage performances that will keep the little ones entertained.
At long last Melbourne muggles will be able to get a glimpse inside JK Rowling's Wizarding World with their own two eyes: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is now on at Princess Theatre. After becoming the highest selling play on both Broadway and the West End, Melbourne is the third stop on the Hogwarts Express. The official opening is set for February 23, 2019, but there'll be preview performances from January 18. If you don't know a lot about the play, then here's the lowdown: it's a sequel to the series, based on a story conceived with Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. It's presented in two parts, which you can watch on the same day or across two consecutive evenings. We won't give too much away about the plot, but audiences can expect to find the gang 19 years on from the Battle of Hogwarts. The play won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards in London and six Tony Awards in New York. It's also received rave reviews from just about every major publication in both cities.
South Melbourne Market's annual night market has returned in 2019. Returning for eight consecutive Thursday evenings, Melburnians can enjoy a balmy night of eating, drinking, and dancing as live music performers take the stage. You can expect 18 food trucks, four food marquees and six food carts, with many of the market's regular food traders also open. The night market will also feature local makers and designers from the market's SO:ME design space so keep a look out for beautiful homewares, jewellery, clothing, vintage collectables, and art pieces.
Some people like to go for a swim on a warm summer evening – and then some people like to listen to symphonies. If you're the latter then you're in luck because the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is putting on three free concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in February. 2019 marks the 90th anniversary of the Sidney Myer Free Concert Series. Admission is free on a first-in, best-dressed basis with the gates opening at 4.30pm each concert day. The first concert will take the audience through the music of famed composer George Gershwin for 'Gershwin and Friends' on February 8. Kick things up a notch with the 'Saturday Night Symphony' on February 16, which will feature songs from Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and more. The final concert on February 20 will be 'A Symphonic Celebration' featuring the Holdsworth's Fanfare and works from Saint-Saëns, Dukas and more. BYO picnic blanket and nibbles.
If you're the type of person who likes to keep checking the time when you're watching a movie, American artist Christian Marclay's The Clock is perfect for you. It's a 24-hour compilation film made up of clips from cinematic history which all feature some reference to the time – whether it's vision of a clock or somebody saying what the time is. The wild thing is that Marclay has synced this all up so that the time in the film matches the actual time of day at which it's playing. So if you're watching in the lead-up to noon, expect frantic action sequences building up to the Gary Cooper flick, High Noon. If you're watching around 4pm, you'll see people on the commute. The film, which features more than 12,000 clips, premiered in 2010 at White Cube gallery in London, and it's been touring the world ever since then. It's packed out gallery spaces, attracting lines of visitors waiting and waiting for some quality time with the film. It might all sound a little strange – and there's obviously no connective narrative running through the whole thing – but we caught it when it was in Sydney in 2013, and can confirm that it's absolutely addictive and has a strangely meditative effect. ACMI will be showing the film for free, and there will be no bookings. So be prepared to wait, especially if you're hanging around on weekends.
Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple's unbreakable bond and the African-American family's empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.
"It's only 20 minutes," I think to myself. "How scary could it get for 20 minutes?" I'm sitting in a pitch-black shipping container with my hands on a table in front of me and noise-cancelling headphones over my ears. The headphones are the only sensory input I have – for now, at least. And what they're telling me is pretty damn scary. Séance is an immersive sound experience created by Brits Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, in collaboration with Melbourne team Realscape Productions. It relies on psychology and our inclination towards superstition to alter guests’ perception of reality, all while never leaving the shipping container. But boy howdy, it sure feels like you are in a real séance. The host of the séance goes around to each guest in turn, asking if they are alone, asking if they are believers, and giving instructions. The soundscape is exquisitely precise – I could point with unerring accuracy to where in the room the host is at each moment, and I dread the time when he comes to ask me some hard questions. And of course, as is usually the case with séances in art, things don't go strictly to plan, and spirits don't stay contained in the places you'd hope. That's when things get really scary – and 20 minutes will feel like a lot more.
Alberto Di Troia had a reading of this play about a Britney Spears-obsessed gay couple (and Savage Garden doppelgängers) at Melbourne Theatre Company earlier this year. Now it’s getting a full staging at Theatre Works, following the couple as they embark on a pilgrimage to retrace the steps of Britney’s 2007 breakdown. But everything goes wrong when they get to Vegas and discover their meet and greet with the popstar has been cancelled.
Is your New Year's resolution to learn to make better cocktails? It should be. Having a few go-to cocktail recipes up your sleeve will lift your party game (and your casual Wednesday nights), and knowing how to mix a mean drink is one of those adult skills you really need to pick up along the way. Red Spice Road is here to help. For five consecutive Thursdays, the Asian hawker-style restaurant is offering cocktail masterclasses in the bar area. Each class focuses on a twist on a classic cocktail, such as a hot mint mojito. Punters learn to make the Red Spice Road variation, plus they also sample the classic cocktail it is based on.
More things to do in Melbourne this month
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Looking for a movie to see this week in Melbourne? Check out the latest releases in Australian cinemas, all reviewed by Time Out critics.