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Projections of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper at the Lume
Photograph: Supplied

Things to do in Melbourne in May

There's plenty happening in Melbourne this May, so get amongst it

Adena Maier
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Adena Maier
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Wondering what to do in Melbourne this May? We've got you sorted with this list of free things, art exhibitions, stage shows, festivals and more. Get up your calendar and start planning.

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Melbourne in May 2024: best events and things to do

  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • Melbourne

Rising is back for sixteen nights across three weekends from June 1-16. As a chill settles over the city, the festival returns with a nocturnal vengeance boasting a packed line-up of 116 events. Choose from a mix of free and ticketed options for performances and installations encompassing theatre, music, dance and art.  Wander through large-scale installations, micro-bars and everything in between as our landmarks and labyrinthine laneways are drenched in a new light. A whopping 651 Australian and international artists will gather to warm Melbourne’s spirits, in a festival celebrating contemporary creativity of all kinds. There’ll be eight Australian premieres, six global premieres and 32 new commissions – nice! This year, the festival’s action-packed Night Trade Hub will sprawl through the laneways around the Capitol Theatre to Howey Place, featuring interactive art, dumplings, dance and more — with free entry. The line-up for this area has also recently been expanded to include psychic readings, karaoke and a full club program. Night Trade Stage Door will host six different late-night DJ parties throughout the festival, for those who want to dance with somebody. Down the road, Fed Square will play host to The Blak Infinite, a vibrant free program of First People’s art and politics. Kimberley Moulton (the curator behind last year’s Shadow Spirit installation) and Kate ten Buuren (Taungurung) have curated the expansive exhibition, anchored by Embassy, Richard Bell’s installat

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne

Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond is a magnificently complex creation. Originally depicted by Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s magnetic 1950 movie, she’s the star of countless silent movies, a living legend accruing thousands of adoring fans during her heyday. But the talkies took over Hollywood, and her light was cruelly dimmed, sending her retreating to her decaying hilltop mansion with loyal butler Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). While Norma cuts a tragic figure in her middle ages as the story begins, she can still command a room. “I am big. It’s the movies that got small,” she acidly enunciates at down-on-his-luck movie writer Joe Gillis (William Holden in the movie) when he unexpectedly shows up at her door. Spying a way back to the spotlight through his words, she sets him to work on her chaotic Salome screenplay, abusing her money as power over him. As a noir-tinged chamber piece, Sunset Boulevard hangs on this increasingly twisted relationship, dancing between dark and the light as moments of hope are dashed to doom. It’s just the stuff The Phantom of the Opera maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber thrives on, eventually securing the story after a tortuously long ‘will they, won’t they’ that thwarted both Swanson and Stephen Sondheim. Webber’s soaring musical adaptation – with Phantom-like stirrings over a book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton – returns to Australian stages, care of Opera Australia, almost thirty years after Debra Byrne and Hugh Jackman ta

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  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Mount Martha

Grab your wands and your Hogwarts house tie, because a brand new magical experience that is every Potterhead's dream is coming to Melbourne. Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is apparating to the Mornington Peninsula in 2024, with a mystical encounter that will have you living out your witch or wizard fantasies in the muggle world. Follow in the daring footsteps of Harry himself through the infamous Forbidden Forest, where you'll meet hippogriffs and unicorns, as well as cast powerful spells. The outdoor trail adventure will lead you on a fully immersive journey, finishing with a Potter-themed village that has food, drink and merch on offer. Warner Bros is bringing this exciting experience Down Under after whirlwind success in the US, UK and Europe, with the Forbidden Forest making its Australian debut deep in the woods of Mt Martha next April.  Suitable for fans of all ages, tickets for this magical experience are on sale now. You can find out more on the website here.  Looking for more fun things to do in Melbourne? Check out what's on this week here. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Southbank

After acclaimed performances in Sydney last year, Melbourne Theatre Company is bringing Julia to the Southbank Theatre stage from May 31 until July 13. This production from Sydney Theatre Company and Canberra Theatre Centre documents one of the most pivotal moments in Australian political history: former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's famous 2012 'misogyny speech'. Demand for this play looks to be robust, so we recommend heading to the Melbourne Theatre Comany website to secure your tickets sooner rather than later. Time Out Sydney reviewed Julia when it played at the Opera House in 2023. Read on for that four-star review:  When Julia Gillard’s distinctive ocker voice first emerged from Justine Clarke’s mouth on Opening Night of Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Julia, the audience literally gasp-screamed. It was, without mincing words, pretty freaky.  STC’s production of Julia is a long-awaited response to one of the most iconic (and spicy) speeches made in Australian history. Written by Joanna Murray Smith, directed by Sarah Goodes, and starring national treasure Justine Clarke as Julia Gillard herself, this deeply Australian story is an amorphous re-imagining of all the forces that led up to that moment in 2012 when Julia Gillard so perfectly and viscously roasted Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives.  Julia is an intoxicating and fascinating experience that hits something deep and resounding within us We all know *that speech* (and if you don’t, watch it right

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne

My first encounter with the viridescent power of Wicked was through the sliding door of a suburban dance studio. Face pressed against the glass, I strained to hear the optimistic refrains of ‘One Short Day’, eyes bulging and dopamine levels skyrocketing. So widespread is the pop-cultural impact of this fan favourite musical, that half of Melbourne likely has a similar memory of discovering Wicked.  This faithful revival of the bewitching blockbuster sees the show fly into Melbourne for the third time in 15 years with an abundance of pine-hued pizazz, after celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Broadway premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. It’s also worth noting that the Gregory Maguire novel that forms the basis of the plot was published back in 1995. After all this time, it’s only fair to check in and ask: does Wicked remain evergreen? The costumes, choreography and sets are as slick as they come, which is exactly what’s expected from a show that’s had this many chances to get it ‘right’. This version of Wicked is not reinventing the wheel – instead it’s the cast who keep the cogs turning in a fresh way.   There’s no mistaking that these performers are magical. While Melbourne always loves to get a show before Sydney, our advantage here is that the cast has had time to fully take command of their characters – and they’re flourishing.  Courtney Monsma’s G(a)linda is slap-your-knees, let-out-a-squeal funny. She re-shapes the virtue-signalling mean girl role and makes Glinda

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Flemington

For most of us, Lego is a nostalgic hobby from bygone childhood years, but there are an exceptional few who took these tiny building blocks from a fun pastime to the next level. Lego artist Nathan Sawaya is one of these talented individuals who is showcasing his fascinating sculptures with a new exhibition that has to be seen to be believed.  The Art of the Brick Immersive Experience exhibition features more than 100 contemporary artworks, all crafted using more than one million Lego bricks to make large-scale, life-like creations.  After a sold-out season back in 2011, it's returning to our city as part of a huge world tour with brand new pieces, having already visited 100 cities across 24 countries. Sawaya is the only person in the world who has the double title of Lego Master Model Builder and Lego Certified Professional. Whoa.  Some of the works showcased in the exhibition include a giant version of Sawaya's most famous sculpture, 'Yellow', which stands at more than six feet tall, plus an installation with 250 kinetic Lego skulls, a piece called 'Infinity Rainbow' that features seven life-sized sculptures, the 30-foot long 'Big Swimmer', dazzling 360-degree digital projections and lots more. The Art of the Brick Immersive Experience opens on April 14 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Tickets go on sale on March 21 at 7pm, and you can sign up for the waitlist here. Find out more about the exhibition at the website.  Looking for more things to do? Check out our guide to what's

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  • Things to do
  • Pop-up locations
  • Brunswick

Consider yourself formally invited to the Bridgerton Ball, courtesy of the Queen herself. Step back in time to the Regency era in London and dance across a grandiose ballroom with other esteemed guests at this immersive experience based on the hit Netflix TV show. The Queen's Ball: A Bridgerton Experience is coming to Melbourne for its Australian debut, after smashing success across the United States (and plenty of viral TikTok moments). At the Queen's Ball, prepare to be entranced by beautiful period costumes, live music (straight from the show's soundtrack) and elaborate theatrical performances. You will also get to meet enchanting characters and witness a love story unfold before your eyes.  Bridgerton's mysterious columnist Lady Whistledown will be your guide for the event as you learn Regency dance steps, visit Madame Delacroix's modiste for a fitting, uncover secrets and try to win Her Majesty's favour as she looks to choose her 'diamond of the evening'.  Plus, there are recreations of the show's set that are perfect for photo ops and special themed cocktails to enjoy at the after-party when you cut loose on the ballroom dancefloor. The attraction's arrival in Melbourne is almost perfectly timed for the highly-anticipated release of Bridgerton's third season on May 16, so there's no better way to get around the hype.  The Queen's Ball will waltz into Melbourne on May 24, with a party every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until June 23. You can sign up for the waitli

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Brunswick

What's better than a pasta and vino dinner? A pasta and vino dinner that won't break the bank, of course. So let's thank the spaghetti gods in the sky that in the midst of this cozzie-livs crisis, culinary maestro Adrian Richardson (La Luna Bistro) is hosting a winter pop-up restaurant where you can get dishes of slurp-worthy pasta squarely below the $22 mark, cocktails starting at just $12 and glasses of wine that won't cost you more than a tenner a pop.  Pasta Bambino has sprung up at Adrian's Bouvier Bar on the Brunswick East end of Lygon Street, and it's set to be your go-to cosy destination this winter for affordable northside date nights, get-togethers with friends and everything in between.  “Some of my fondest food memories are helping my Italian grandparents in the kitchen and making pasta from scratch. That’s how I first got my feeling for food,” says Richardson.  These memories are the inspiration behind Pasta Bambino's simple but humble rotating menu, which is comprised of beloved dishes his Nonna taught him to cook as a child. From traditional favorites like casarecce bolognese to indulgent delights like fresh ricotta gnocchi with pesto, there's something to suit every craving – and true to Richardson's ethos, each sings with locally sourced ingredients and ethically procured meats.  You'll also discover an enticing array of appetisers you can get stuck into, such as crispy fried mozzarella and stuffed arancini, perfect for pairing with a Spritz or glass of som

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  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Melbourne

The colourful creatures that make up ACMI’s latest, world premiere exhibition burst to life from a single drawn line, before growing and changing right before your eyes. The more you move and interact in the space, the more animated these curious characters will get, morphing between forms and textures for a hyperreal experience.   Beings is the name of this innovative exhibition, which will open from May 22 and stick around until September 29. The name refers to the friendly digital critters seemingly ‘living’ in the exhibition’s large-scale digital screens, just waiting for you to come and play. These generative digital artworks are constantly changing, which means no two people will see the same exhibition, and each time you visit will also be unique. So, how do these joyful (and seemingly magical) creatures remain so responsive to their environment? The technology behind Beings is an impressive mix of video game engines, evolving algorithms and visual effects software usually used in film. All these fancy technologies combine to produce what promises to be a bunch of fun lil’ (or not that little) guys who want to hang out and play, becoming more active in response to your presence.  The folks behind this exhibition are a UK-based art and design collective called Universal Everything. They specialise in “soulful technology” and they’ve created 13 brand-new artworks for this premiere curated by ACMI.  Beings is suitable for all ages, so you can bring along the whole fam. Ti

  • Art
  • Textiles
  • price 0 of 4
  • Carlton

Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion arrives at Melbourne Museum's Bunjilaka Aboriginal Culture Centre after being created for Bendigo Art Gallery. The exhibition shines a light on 36 of Australia's leading First Nations creatives, tracing an Indigenous design movement that has evolved into a national phenomenon.  Witness the beauty and story of 24 hand-crafted garments by Indigenous artists and designers, created across the nation from the inner city to remote desert art centres. The diversity of these garments reflects the strength and breadth of the rapidly expanding Indigenous fashion and textile industry in this country.  The exhibition is the first major survey of contemporary textiles and fashion by First Nations artists in Australia. Piinpi features artists including Grace Lillian Lee, Maree Clarke, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Lisa Waup x Verner, Hopevale Arts and Culture Centre, Maara Collective, Lore, Aarli Fashion, Yarrenyty Arltere Artists and Lyn-Al Young (who was commissioned to create five new pieces for the exhibition).  This remarkable collection is curated by Bendigo Art Gallery First Nations curator and Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson, who says the exhibition will be unlike anything else audiences have seen. “Throughout the gallery, we present beautifully crafted fabrics and wearable fashion items, each expressing a connection to culture and to Country through very bold and exciting ways – distinct from anything else being produced around the world.” The e

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