What to see at Midsumma Festival

Melbourne's annual queer festival continues to grow with a diverse and jam-packed arts line-up
MDLSX
Photograph: Nada Žgank
Advertising

The appropriately named Midsumma Festival takes over the city every January with an explosion of LGBTIQ pride. It's largely known for its killer parties and Pride March, but the festival's greatest asset might just be its extraordinary line-up of theatre, cabaret, visual arts and live music.

From drag superstars to a surreal but strangely provocative exhibition of mounted Barbie heads, here are our picks of Midsumma's cultural offerings.

1
The main stage at Midsumma Carnival
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Fairs and festivals

Midsumma Carnival and T Dance

icon-location-pin Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne
icon-calendar

Fans of Midsumma (Jan 19-Feb 10) will be well-acquainted with Carnival and T Dance, which open the festival every year. This year is set to be louder and prouder than ever, with a talent-packed line-up of live music, performances, food trucks, stalls, and of course, the famous Dog Show. Can you believe the whole day is free? Our first tip for getting the most out of Carnival: check the schedule before you go and plan your highlights in advance. The main stage action kicks off at 11am, where you'll see drag performances, clever comedy and musical acts. No Carnival is complete without the Dog Show at 3pm – register your pup at the Guide Dogs stall before 2.30pm to be involved. The whole of Carnival is family friendly, and there'll be plenty of food trucks to keep you partying all day long. The celebrations don't end with Carnival. At 6pm, T Dance begins – this time packing a queer-tastic line-up that will have you moving well into the night. Check out our top picks of all the best theatre, cabaret, visual arts and live music at Midsumma.

2
Midsumma Extravaganza
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Variety

Midsumma Extravaganza

icon-location-pin Arts Centre Melbourne, Southbank
icon-calendar

Some of comedy's hottest stars are going to be performing at Midsumma's night of nights, the Extravaganza. The night is hosted by comedy superstar Rhys Nicholson, and it promises to be an absolute riot.  Trevor Ashley (Fat Swan, Little Orphan TrAshley, Diamonds Are For Trevor, I’m Every Woman) is producing and performing in the show, and he says it's going to be an absolute hoot.  "Last year it was just comedians, but this year, of course, they’ve got a fabulous nine-piece band on stage, fabulous singers getting up on stage and singing songs, drag queens, burlesque, as well as comedy. It's got a bit of everything." As well as Nicholson and Trevor, the show will include Barry Award winner Zoe Coombs Marr, Take Me Out host and household name Joel Creasey, cabaret superstar Carlotta, GLOBE Artist of the Year Mama Alto and cabaret/circus/burlesque YUMMY.  And it's not over when the house lights go on. "It will be a great night out, the Arts Centre are keeping the bar open after the show so everyone should stick around after the show and have a drink," says Ashley. "There will be a DJ. It will be really fun to have so much campness in one grande dame of a hall."

Advertising
3
Midsumma Pride March
Photograph: Alexander Legaree
Things to do

Midsumma Pride March

icon-location-pin Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
icon-calendar

One of the most fun Midsumma events is the triumphant pride march down Fitzroy Street in St Kilda, followed by an afternoon of partying at Catani Gardens by the sea.  Whether you identify as queer or you're a queer ally, Pride March is a wonderful act of solidarity towards LGBTQIA people all over the world who live without the respect, rights and dignity they deserve.  So don your best rainbow colours, grab your friends and head down to St Kilda for Pride March. Afterwards, Catani Gardens becomes a big, family-friendly party.

4
Merciless Gods 2017 Little Ones Theatre at Northcote Town Hall production still 01 feat Paul Blenheim and Charles Purcell photographer credit Sarah Walker
Theatre, Drama

Merciless Gods

icon-location-pin Arts Centre Melbourne, Southbank
icon-calendar

Little Ones Theatre's Merciless Gods is based on Christos Tsiolkas' short story collection and was one of Melbourne indie theatre's major hits of 2017, picking up five Green Room Award nominations and two actual wins.

Advertising
5
Miss Behaves
Photograph: Supplied
Theatre, Comedy

The Miss Behave Gameshow

icon-location-pin Arts Centre Melbourne, Southbank
icon-calendar

The first thing to know about The Miss Behave Gameshow is that it does exactly what it says on the tin: it is an actual game show with competitors, points, winners and losers.

Time Out says
6
Third Nature Midsumma 2019
Photograph: Hayden Golder
Dance

Third Nature

icon-location-pin Arts House, North Melbourne
icon-calendar

Raina Peterson and Govind Pillai are co-directors of Karma Dance, a Melbourne-based Indian Dance Company that covers both contemporary and classical styles. But for Midsumma, they’re joining together as performers, imagining a world where South Asia was never colonised and rules on sexuality and gender were never imposed.

Advertising
7
Truly Madly Britney
Photograph: Supplied
Theatre, Drama

Truly Madly Britney

icon-location-pin Theatre Works, St Kilda
icon-calendar

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.

8
Chorus Midsumma The Substation 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Art, Film and video

Chorus

icon-location-pin The Substation, Newport
icon-calendar

There’s a big visual arts program at this year’s Midsumma, but this video installation at the Substation in Newport is our pick of the bunch. It features Melbourne artist Melanie Jame Wolf playing a series of characters engaged in gossip.

Advertising
9
The Butch Monologues Midsumma 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Theatre

The Butch Monologues

icon-location-pin Theatre Works, St Kilda
icon-calendar

This collection of monologues from butches, transmen and those who defy gender conventions played in London’s Southbank Theatre last year and is heading to Melbourne for Midsumma.

10
MDLSX 2017 Carriageworks production still 02 2016 photographer credit Renato Mangolin
Photograph: Renato Mangolin
Theatre, Performance art

MDLSX

icon-location-pin Arts House, North Melbourne
icon-calendar

Don’t bother trying to categorise Italian experimental artist Silvia Calderoni. In MDLSX, a post-punk performance of identity that melts her ‘coming out’ story into the plot of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Middlesex, Calderoni’s androgyny is not a puzzle for you to solve.

Show more

More shows to see

The Book of Mormon 2017 Princess Theatre Melbourne production still 05 feat Ryan Bondy and Augustin Aziz Tchantcho photographer credit Jeff Busby
Photograph: Jeff Busby
Things to do

Theatre in Melbourne this week

Wondering what to see in Melbourne this week? Check out our guide to the theatre, opera, musicals and dance shows on Melbourne's stages for the next seven days.

Kick on afterwards

Drag queen on stage at Sircuit
Photograph: Dean Acuri
Bars, Gay bars

The best gay bars in Melbourne

Here’s our guide to the Melbourne’s gay venues, our home ground where communities not only come together, but where the can relax and enjoy themselves. 

Advertising