The Melbourne International Arts Festival is a cornerstone of Melbourne’s arts scene.
Happening annually every October, the MIAF showcases a plethora of dance, theatre, music, circus, visual arts, multimedia, and outdoor events. Spanning across an entire month (October 2nd-20th), it’s hard to pick out what to see – below are some selected highlights from each category to give you a taste of the amazing and diverse program.
UK // THEATRE AUSTRALIAN EXCLUSIVE
THE NICO PROJECT | Maxine Peake & Sarah Frankcom
One of pop culture’s most original female artists, Nico has long remained one of its most enigmatic. In this Australian exclusive presentation of The Nico Project, performer Maxine Peake (Black Mirror, Shameless) and director Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre), alongside 15 female musicians from Australia and the UK, lead an exhilarating exploration into the world of female creativity and its devastating cost in a field dominated by men. Inspired by the vocalist’s stark, bleak and beautiful 1968 album The Marble Index, a highly regarded masterpiece of 1960s counterculture that was ignored on its original release, The Nico Project opens the line between Nico’s potent imagination and us and commands from the shadows a figure who should never have been consigned to it.
AUSTRALIA // THEATRE WORLD PREMIERE
ANTHEM | Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas & Irine Vela
Twenty one years ago, four playwrights and a composer came together to create Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?, a series of powerful interwoven vignettes that captured the zeitgeist of Melbourne and Australia in the 90s. To mark its 20 year anniversary, Arts Centre Melbourne commissioned the same team of some of Australia’s greatest contemporary playwrights Andrew Bovell (Things I Know to be True), Patricia Cornelius (SHIT), Melissa Reeves (Happy Ending), Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap) and Irine Vela (The Audition) reunite to take the pulse of our nation today. What emerges is a portrait of a country unable to reconcile its past, uncertain of its future and political vision.
AUSTRALIA // THEATRE
BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE | Nakkiah Lui
Australian satire Black is the New White arrives in Melbourne following two sell-out seasons in Sydney. Paige Rattray (How to Rule the World) directs an array of brilliant, unpredictable and loveable characters in this layer cake of racial politics, sexual tension, parental expectation and class privilege. There’s the small problem of their respective fathers, but as it turns out, this holiday season everyone’s getting a disaster of their own.
AUSTRALIA // THEATRE
BLACKWRIGHTS SHOWCASE | Ilbijerri Theatre Company
An ultra-blak invigoration station of deadly inspiration awaits featuring a selection of daring works from three fresh new scripts by cutting edge First Nations playwrights Monica Karo, Nazree Dickerson and Blayne Welsh. Developed through Ilbijerri’s BlackWrights Creators Program, an industry incubator empowering artists in the development of new First Nations theatre, this is a showcase of some of the leading writers of today.
AUSTRALIA // DANCE WORLD PREMIERE
TOKEN ARMIES | Chunky Move
Token Armies is a symphony of action, image and sound, and a collective experience through which audiences will make their own journey. Featuring a leviathan sculpture by Creature Technology Co. – the renowned creators of works such as King Kong and Walking with Dinosaurs – bio-mechanical forms that query the boundary between the living and the inanimate and an ensemble of 23 performers, this immersive spectacle explores the way labour becomes ritual and opens up opportunities for a future humanity.
AUSTRALIA // DANCE
COLOSSUS | Stephanie Lake Company
With 50 dancers on stage, choreographer Stephanie Lake’s latest work Colossus promises to be epic. From darkness they emerge, a boundless mass of pulsating bodies. This riveting dance work explores the tensions between the individual and the collective, solitary striving and joyous union with a cast of 50 young dancers performing as one. In recent years Melbourne-based choreographer Stephanie Lake has cemented a reputation as one of the most exciting and prolific talents of their generation, and Colossus is Lake’s biggest achievement in every sense.
SCOTLAND // THEATRE AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE
WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF | Raw Material, Traverse Theatre Company & Regular Music
Real life teenage indie pop hopeful Cora Bissett stars in the Australian premiere of her coming-of-age gig-theatre memoir What Girls Are Made Of. This is the true story of Cora’s rollercoaster journey from the girl she was to woman she wanted to be. In a tiny corner of Scotland circa 1992, a restless teenager perusing the local paper came across those age-old words: Band Seeks Singer. What followed was a record deal that launched Cora’s band Darlingheart into the stratosphere. Twenty-five years later Cora returns to the spotlight along with director Orla O’Loughlin with an arresting snapshot of youth blown to global proportions. This cavorting portrait of a life well-lived is bound to inspire new generations to follow suit.
AUSTRALIA // THEATRE
GENDER EUPHORIA | Mama Alto & Maude Davey
Cabaret icons Mama Alto and Maude Davey are joined by an ensemble of transgender legends to bring Gender Euphoria back to the Melbourne stage following a sold out Midsumma performance. Gender Euphoria explores and celebrates gender diversity, gender identity and LGBTQIA+ especially the trans, gender- diverse and non-binary experience where emerging talents rub shoulders with some of our stage greats, and familiar faces show a new side to theatre. Humming beneath the laughter and delight is a sincerity and optimism that allows for real change and acknowledges the complex, messy humanity we all share.
US // MUSIC
THE FLAMING LIPS | The Soft Bulletin
It’s been 20 years since The Flaming Lips released the one-of-a- kind aural hallucination that is The Soft Bulletin. There are few acts as distinctive and idiosyncratic as Oklahoma’s The Flaming Lips, which is less of a rock band and more a perpetual motion machine flipping the finger to our expectations. But even in a 36-year career of constant self- reinvention, The Soft Bulletin stands out as a high point in musical innovation. Its groundbreaking use of sonic manipulation combined with lush orchestration and complex harmonies left critics comparing it to The Beach Boys pioneering Pet Sounds, but there’s little else that so successfully manages to combine radical experimentation with sheer earworm catchiness.
AUSTRALIA / UK / INDONESIA // MUSIC
GHOST GAMELAN | Susheela Raman
British/Australian singer Susheela Raman’s creative journey has embraced the diverse: from Byzantine chant, post-punk art-pop and ecstatic Pakistani Qawwali to the South Indian music her parents gifted her. For Ghost Gamelan Raman and longtime co-writer and guitarist Sam Mills travelled to Indonesia to transform their songs with contemporary Javanese gamelan composer Gondrong Gunarto. It’s a haunting combination. With its compulsive rhythms and otherworldly harmonies, Ghost Gamelan is full of ancient echoes but achieves something unique, thrilling and contemporary.
AUSTRALIA // VISUAL ARTS
MELBOURNE ART TRAMS
Melbourne’s grandest festival is indelibly linked with one of its most visible expressions: the annual transformation of trams into moving canvases proudly wearing some of our most arresting artworks. Welcoming all comers and weaving their way through the city, these trams are as much a part of Melbourne’s fabric as Melbourne International Arts Festival itself.
AUSTRALIA // OPENING EVENT
Each year the first words of the Festival come from those who have carried this land’s stories the longest—the First Peoples of Melbourne. Tanderrum is a ceremony bringing together the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nation—a ceremony of celebration that reaches across Aboriginal time.