Midsumma festival, Melbourne’s magnificent celebration of all things gender and sexuality diverse, is looking to heat up summer.
Kicked into high gear with Midsumma Carnival in Alexandra Gardens on the first Saturday and encompassing St Kilda’s Pride March on the penultimate Sunday, with Arts Centre Melbourne’s Midsumma Extravaganza.
Hosted by comedian Rhys Nicholson, he is joined by fellow funny bones Zoe Coombs Marr and Joel Creasey, as well as non-binary trans femme diva Mama Alto and the iconic Carlotta, amongst other shining queer stars.
With so much on offer, here are ten of our must-see shows:
The LGBTIQ+ immigrant Australian experience is brought to breathtaking life at Arts Centre Melbourne in a series of startling vignettes by queer stage maestros Little Ones Theatre. Adapted by Dan Giovannoni from the Christos Tsiolkas short stories, this Stephen Nicolazzo-directed and Green Room Award-winning show will leave you shook.
Melbourne Museum will be transformed for one night only into a wild party celebrating queer people of colour and their histories. Part-dance party, part-museum tour after dark, featured performers included South African singer, activist and The Wound star Nakhane alongside the likes of spoken word powerhouse Candy Bowers and First Nations mob the Cocoa Butter Club.
As a trans masculine identifying performance artist and Cocoa Butter Club co-curator, Krishna Istha is all about pushing the boundaries of gender expectation. Questioning whether the trans masculine identity means you have to trip into regressive patriarchal tropes, this Arts House show is directed by fellow whip-smart wit Zoe Coombs Marr.
In the unforgettable words of pop diva La Spears, “You better work, b****,” because the American Dream doesn’t come easy. Gay couple Adam and Steve learn the hard way when their VIP backstage tickets for Britney’s Vegas show fall through, splitting open the fault lines in their relationship in this darkly funny show written by Alberto Di Troia and directed by Hannah Fallowfield, staged at Theatre Works.
Radio host Kellyn Lee likes to joke that she’s “Australia’s second favourite South African expat lesbian comic,” and we’re here for her, Urzila or not. Joined by Raw Comedy finalists Gabe Hogan and Sharon Anderson, plus a few of their besties, they’ll thoroughly dismantle the gross ‘women ain’t funny’ slur in this stand-up smash at the beautiful Bluestone Church Arts Space.
Love is messy. We all know this, but Mike Bartlett’s award-festooned show prods at the fine line where questioned sexuality blurs the edges of an already fraught dilemma. Directed by Beng Oh and staged at fortyfivedownstairs, John meets the girl of his dreams then begins to second-guess his boyfriend waiting at home.
Strike a pose. Queer kids have long embraced dance to maximise joyous pride in the face of homophobic adversity, and choreographer James Welsby (drag queen Valerie Hex) smooshes half a century’s worth of outré styles into this interactive celebration at Dancehouse. Plus get involved in a stellar series of talks, dance classes and workshops orbiting the main performance.
Mythology dorks will know about the doomed love between golden demigod Orpheus and his tragic Eurydice, but far less has been said about his infatuation with fellow Argonaut Calais. The Forest Collectionartistic director Evan Lawson gifts Midsumma with its first opera based on this three-way heart tug, as danced by rising ballet star Ashley Dougan at the Abbotsford Convent.
Too often the 'I' in the queer alphabet gets overlooked, with intersex people’s lives, when acknowledged, perceived as a problem needing fixed, medically or otherwise. This free talk at Arts House brings together jeweller and artist Kelly O'Shea (check out POISE) with filmmaker, sculptor and performance artist Bonnie Hart (also check HR) to change the narrative to one of strength and pride.
Predominantly used by queer men back when their very act of being was criminalised, Polari is a code language birthed on the streets and in the theatre. This exhibition at Footscray’s Trocadero Art Space plays with the notion of how we communicate through multiple mediums, including photography, illustration, video art, performance and animation.
Midsumma festival runs from January 19 - February 10.