Best things to do in Melbourne in September
White Night is lighting up Ballarat once again this year, with the after-dark arts festival headed to the regional city on Saturday, September 21. Between 7pm and 2am there will be 44 artworks to discover across Ballarat. The works have all been created around the theme of 'lighting a spark', with 22 of the works made by local artists. This year the line-up features a mix of installations, exhibitions, music events, performances and of course dazzling projections onto Ballarat's heritage buildings. Look out for 'Action Reaction' (a Rube Goldberg machine); 'Spidergoat and the Insect Electro' (an eerie, glowing installation that mimics walking through spider silk); and Stuart Walsh's 'Cherubim on a Sunday Drive Through Hell' (a projection work that makes grim allusions to the Garden of Eden). The festival will also bring 12 works from White Night Melbourne to the city (including some of our program highlights like 'The Guardian' and 'Iris'). This isn't the first time that Ballarat has hosted the glittering event, with the 2018 iteration of White Night Ballarat drawing 60,000 people out into the streets (15,000 of which came from out of town). Visit the White Night Ballarat website for more information.
It’s pretty common to get caught in the rain while walking around Melbourne. What’s less common is to get caught in the rain while walking around indoors in Melbourne – and even weirder when you realise that the rain is inexplicably falling everywhere except on you. Melbourne is the first city in the southern hemisphere to host ‘Rain Room’, an immersive artwork by London-based collective Random International. ‘Rain Room’ is one of Random International’s most famous works and has previously shown at the Barbican in London, MoMA in New York and at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai. Guests are invited into a darkened room filled with continuous rain. No need to bring an umbrella though because this rain won’t dampen your clothes or spirits. Thanks to motion sensors in the ceiling ‘Rain Room’ detects where visitors are and ensures a dry six-metre radius around guests. The artwork has been brought to Melbourne thanks to a collaboration between the currently closed ACMI and uber-luxe hotel Jackalope. Until October 27, you can experience the installation for yourself at the Jackalope Pavillion, a pop-up space on the corner of Acland and Jackson streets in St Kilda. Tickets are available now.
The last time audiences saw a big budget musical adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel was when the Royal Shakespeare Company teamed up with Tim Minchin for the incomparable wonder that was Matilda. So naturally – even though no two shows are alike and you can’t bottle lightning and yada yada – we are going to compare Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to that, and naturally it’s going to come up short. Best to get that out of the way early. But, once you’ve brushed away the fog of expectation, it’s pretty easy to enjoy yourself here; you don’t even need a particularly sweet tooth. This is largely because Dahl’s original, like all his work, is as brittle and nutty as it is sweet. The story of poor Charlie Bucket (Benjamin Belsey, Elijah Slavinskis, Edgar Stirling, Lenny Thomas, Lachlan Young), so impoverished he can only have a single bar of chocolate on his birthday, winning a golden ticket to the magical wonderland that is Willy Wonka’s (Paul Slade Smith) Chocolate Factory, is a morality tale of the most gruesome and delectable kind. Charlie’s fellow winners – Augustus Gloop (Jake Fehily), Veruca Salt (Karina Russell), Violet Beauregard (Jayme-Lee Hanekom) and Mike Teavee (Harrison Riley) – are all hideous creatures of desire and self-gratification. Only Charlie is pure of heart, and deserves the ultimate prize. This adaptation has gone through many iterations since it opened in London on Drury Lane in 2013, with massive changes in scale and content. The original sets were lavi
Melbourne's largest literary festival brings together fascinating talks and discussions by authors from all over the world. Readers and writers from all walks of life are welcome at the festival with a program of events to suit the casual Saturday afternoon reader to full-time word nerds. Better still around a quarter of all festival events are free (that means more money to buy books). Amont the speakers this year is Kim Gordon, who co-founded Sonic Youth in New York in 1981. Gordon also wrote the bestselling rock memoir Girl in a Bandand is a visual artist and a music writer. "Kim Gordon revolutionised alternative music and changed perceptions about women in music," says MWF artistic director Marieke Hardy. Also coming to Melbourne for the festival is Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Lipstadt was famously sued by David Irving for calling him a Holocaust denier (Irving has written that Adolf Hitler did not know about the murder of Jews and that Jews were not gassed in Auschwitz). Lipstadt won the case. Her latest book is Antisemitism: Here and Now. Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson is also speaking at the festival. He hosts the podcast 'Pod Save the People', in the Crooked Media family (known for 'Pod Save America' and 'Pod Save the World'). He is the author of On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope. Visit the MWF website for the full program.
Ever dream of being abducted by aliens? It's a terrifying prospect (unless you're really into probing) but you'd probably encounter some pretty awesome sights and sounds along the way. This new immersive theatrical experience by Melbourne's Citizen Theatre will take you to the moon and back and is designed to give you an otherworldy experience. The choose-your-own adventure work at Kingston Arts Centre is inspired by local UFO sightings in the area, and will offer audiences a chance to get out of their own world. Expect close encounters with singing aliens, giant, spinning planets and an enormous silver spaceship. Using innovative lighting and installation, the producers are creating a space age wonderland, complete with a giant silver wormhole for you to explore and a patch of astroturf perfect for star-gazing while listening to dreamy live tunes from indie musician Imogen Cygler. Forgotten Places is being described as a "living gallery" telling a story of space travel and aliens. And if you're really keen to send something back to earth, you can pick up a "selfie map" to guide you to all the most Instagrammable locations.
Living in the city sure is convenient, but sometimes we all need to trade the concrete jungle for an actual jungle. The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens are giving you the chance to experience the restorative powers of nature by offering forest therapy (or forest bathing) classes for city stress-heads. Just what is forest therapy? The idea began in Japan, where it’s called ‘shinrin-yoku’ and is said to improve your wellbeing by immersing yourself in nature. It’s since been recognised as an effective (and cheap) way to improve public health. The Royal Botanic Garden’s forest therapy walk includes a guided tour through the gardens designed to lower your blood pressure, pulse and stress levels through a series of activities. The gardens currently have two-hour and three-hour forest therapy session available – visit the website for the complete timetable and to book.
How much classical music is too much? There's no such thing at this all-day classsical music extravaganza at the gorgeous Abbotsford Convent. The repertoire covers all classical bases, from Beethoven to contemporary composers Elena Kats-Chernin and Liza Lim. Artists include pianist Aura Go, chamber music group Ensemble Liaison, soprano Jacqueline Porter, accordion player James Crabb, violinist Edward Walton and pianist Ian Munro. Performances will be going on in different spaces of the convent at the same time, so you'll have to choose which artists most excite you. There are four different packages available, and all include lunch from the Convent Bakery.
Arj Barker is looking for guinea pigs. Well, not actual rodents, but audience members he can test out new material on for a big upcoming theatre tour. It's pretty standard practice that stand-up comedians will book in a bunch of smaller shows to test their funnies before getting in front of big crowds and critics. Even the best can't always tell what gags will soar and which will fall flat, so they need live opportunities to hear an audience response. But Barker is doing things a little bit differently to prep for his tour next year: Each Monday, from August 19 through October 14, he'll be performing in the basement of the European Bier Café and charging just $20 a ticket. No two nights will be the same, and you'll have the unique pleasure of witnessing his comedic failures as well as his wins. There may also be special guests on some nights. He hasn't exactly got this all locked in yet, which is why the show is dubbed Arj Barker's Safe Space. Barker has been a comedy star since the early 2000s, with his own show Arj and Poopy, several specials and even an appearance on Flight of the Conchords. But he's enjoyed maybe the most success in Australia with his regular appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He even married an Australian woman in 2017 and spends a lot of his time here.
Drawing inspiration from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory showing at Her Majesty's Theatre, the Westin is bringing a dedicated dessert and cocktail bar to its lobby, named the Wonka Bar, until January 2020. Darren Purchese from Burch and Purchese has teamed up with the kitchen crew at the Westin to create some truly remarkable and over-the-top desserts. Expect the likes of the Black Forest (in dessert form) with an actual chocolate river surrounded by cherries, chocolate sponge, a crunchy biscuit base, chocolate twigs and chocolate mushrooms. Unlike Charlie, you'll be able to purchase your golden ticket in the form of a gold chocolate bar, dark chocolate mousse, smoked vanilla ice cream with a salted caramel cream. For those with an 18+ palate, four candy-inspired cocktails will be available to buy from the Wonka Bar, like the vodka-based Blueberry Gumball, with blue curacao, raspberry balsamic and an ice sphere, garnished with popping candy and Persian fairy floss; or the chocolate lover's Pure Imagination, made with chocolate liqueur and sauce, garnished with actual chocolate. Those with kids can buy into the Children's High Tea at $49, which includes chocolate river cupcakes, golden ticket chocolate bars, an array of savoury finger sandwiches and drinks. For the full-service experience, the Westin is also offering golden ticket packages, which include overnight accommodation, two A-reserve tickets to the musical, a copy of the book and two desserts from the Wonka Bar
You might remember Razzmatazz as the party people responsible for some raging nights out at the Exford and the since-closed Ding Dong Lounge. But you can't stop indie music and Razzmatazz is back in action after a hiatus. Razzmatazz Indie Disco runs on the first Friday of every month at its new home, Globe Alley. Resident DJs Caity and Ted are back too, spinning the indie classics from every era. Expect bangers spanning Bowie, Blur, Oasis, the Arctic Monkeys, the Cure and Chvrches. Better still, the newly reincarnated Razzmatazz night is free to enter. That's more dosh to spend on Globe Alley's drink specials (or their jalepeño poppers).
More things to do in Melbourne this month
Find all the best art exhibitions in Melbourne over the next few weeks.
Major musicals are a bit thin on the ground in Melbourne this July, but there's one biggie opening: Broadway hit Come from Away. There's plenty of other shows on this month, including Malthouse's blistering one-woman version of Wake in Fright, and Melbourne Theatre Company's biggest show of the year, Shakespeare in Love is opening. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is still going strong at the Princess Theatre, but if you prefer something a little left-of-centre, immersive theatre experience A Midnight Visit is making its Melbourne debut.
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