When Midsumma Festival returns to a post-Yes Melbourne this summer, it will be the biggest and best extravaganza of all things queer to date. This year’s celebrations will showcase 170 events, up a whopping 40 per cent on last year.
Obviously unmissable are Carnival’s day of celebration down at Alexandra Gardens, the festooning of Fitzroy Street for St Kilda’s annual Pride March, and the State Library’s Horizon art-party celebrating queer history, but here are another 15 of our top picks.
Melburnians were flabbergasted by Taylor Mac’s awe-inspiring A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at Melbourne Festival 2017. Now, director Daniel Clarke and St Kilda’s Red Stitch Actors' Theatre bring Mac’s play Hir to Midsumma. A darkly comic look at a post-patriarchal family, a soldier returns to find a very different dynamic, not least because his sibling Max has come out as a trans man.
2. Midsumma Comedy Extravaganza
Inimitably cheeky chappie Joel Creasey will corral fellow queer comedians for this one-night-only gala at Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM). The stellar line-up includes Black Comedy creator Steven Oliver, drag queen Dolly Diamond (who’s also celebrating 15 years of Midsumma appearances), Lost In Pronunciation’s Lori Bell, and stand-up stars Bobby Macumber and Kirsty Webeck.
3. Mama Alto: Queerly Beloved
Gender non-binary cabaret diva Mama Alto has a voice that transcends any attempt to silence queer history. Part rallying cry, part siren song showcase, new show Queerly Beloved will see that divine spirit soar high above Prahran’s Chapel off Chapel, accompanied by Daniel Brace – aka Mr Ginger – on piano.
The undisputed queen of hearts of Ireland and marriage equality warrior Panti Bliss will return to Melbourne this Midsumma, looking to start a Riot at ACM. Bringing a cabaret troupe as back up, expect high flying circus acts, queer politics, and dance floor hits in a glorious mash-up that shows some saucy skin and then spins unexpected segues that’ll have dust in your eye.
Shakespeare gets a dramatic makeover La Mama-style when Kimberley Twiner and Lily Fish, co-creators of queer comedy troupe PO PO MO CO – celebrating their second birthday at Midsumma – camply queer the tragic story of loved up teens from competing houses. #romeoandjuliet promises a fun mangling of the text as featuring star-crossed clowns.
6. Black Magic
Moonee Ponds’ Incinerator Gallery will play host to Black Magic, an artistic celebration of the work of indigenous artists including Peter Waples-Crowe, Neika Lehman, Dianne Jones, Kent Monkman, Todd Fernando, and Jeremy Anderson. Curated by Maddee Clark, she’ll also host a talk with the artists, First Nations Pride. And while you’re at it, check out The Cocoa Butter Club at ACM.
7. Strangers in Between
Fresh from hosting a spectacular season of seminal HIV-related play Angels in America, fortyfivedownstairs will showcase Strangers in Between by Holding the Man scribe Tommy Murphy. Directed by Daniel Lammin, it follows the misadventures of Shane, a naïve young man freshly arrived in Sydney’s Kings cross who’s heavily reliant on the kindness of two gay strangers.
8. John Barrowman in concert
Doctor Who, Torchwood and Arrow star John Barrowman will take over Hamer Hall to discuss his illustrious career in geek TV as well as his great love of musical theatre. In between reminiscing, he’ll belt out show tunes and pop hits ranging from Sting to Sondheim via Motown.
9. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Newport’s arts centre The Substation will welcome Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the fascinating English poet, musician and founder of COUM Transmissions art collective. P-Orridge, who uses the pronouns “s/he” and “h/er”, will perform a live art electronic set with long-term collaborator Edley ODowd, and the gallery will host Loyalty Does Not End With Death, a retrospective of h/er art.
Fluid takes on a new meaning as Uncovered Circus interprets all the colours of the LGBTIQ rainbow in their latest body-popping work, Spectrum, eliciting incredulous gasps at Gasworks Art Park. While you’re there, check out artist J. Rosenbaum’s augmented reality sculptural exhibition Beyond the Binary.
Chapel off Chapel brings Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos to Midsumma. Written by William Finn and James Lapine, it explores the HIV/AIDS crisis through the perspective of a married man who discovers his gay male lover is positive. Focused on family, and its unusual shapes, director Tyran Parke has assembled an all-star cast including Don Winsor, Sarah Shahinian and Sam Ward. Also check out We Were There, a verbatim show illuminating the role of Australian women during the epidemic.
12. Bent Bollywood
Gender non-binary classical Indian dancer and bisexual performance artist Raina Peterson fuses Kerala’s mohiniyattam tradition with Bollywood’s camp theatrics in this queer floorshow at the Brunswick Mechanics Institute. It explores post-colonialism, the diaspora, and sexual transgression with twink in tow.
13. Some Strings Attached
Puppetry meets burlesque in performance artist Mikey J White’s latest Midsumma provocation, Some Strings Attached, hosted at beloved bookshop Hares & Hyenas’ Hare Hole. An interrogation of our app-based obsession, it asks, can sexual interactions ever truly come with no strings attached? Also check out Andy Miller’s queer community photography exhibition Scene from the Scene.
14. Antigone X
Family is pretty complicated in the ancient Greek myth of poor Antigone, both daughter and sister of Oedipus. Zeb Fontaine presents AntigoneX, a contemporary re-imagining at Theatre Works replete with a clone chorus of Bondi boys, dramatic global warming and a leader in red budgie smugglers.
15. Midsumma Youth Spectacular
The Melba Spiegeltent will welcome queer families of all shapes and sizes to celebrate a cornucopia of the city’s hottest up and coming talent at the Midsumma Youth Spectacular, in a team up between the festival and Minus 18.
Midsumma Festival runs from Jan 14 – Feb 4. Click here for more details.