Melbourne’s reputation as the cultural capital goes deep and is founded in the likes of Carlton’s legendary La Mama Theatre. Established by Betty Burstall in 1967, and under the artistic direction of Liz Jones since 1976, La Mama is the bedrock of contemporary theatre in this town. Generations of Australia’s performing artists, writers, producers and production crews developed their crafts from its intimate Faraday Street venue.
Having celebrated 50 years in 2017, La Mama suffered a devastating fire in May 2018 following an electrical fault. Despite this profound loss and in the midst of managing the reconstruction, La Mama has forged onwards and presents a season of all-new productions from August to October. Performances are relocated around the corner to La Mama Courthouse on Drummond Street, and Trades Hall on Lygon Street. Plans to rebuild the original venue are underway.
In the meantime, here are some highlights of the season and reasons anew to rediscover the magic of La Mama’s indomitable spirit.
Artist Liz Skitch unpacks the taboos and challenges of transforming from a woman, into a mother. Comedic, dynamic and honest, Mothermorphosis combines intimate confessional and absurdist physical theatre with soundscape. At Trades Hall, 22 August to 2 September.
In a Heartbeat
Directed by Penelope Bartlau, the artistic director of Barking Spider Visual Theatre, In a Heartbeat is described as “a meditation on time, impermanence and mortality”. This show sees five performers, five tea-party settings and five performances taking place simultaneously. At La Mama Courthouse, 5 – 9 September.
The debut collaborative work between interdisciplinary artists Neil Morris (DRMNGNOW) and Brent Watkins (Culture Evolves), Muniak Mulana explores Aboriginal sovereignty through a meeting of Yorta Yorta, river water man and Gunai Kurnai, salt water man, across past, present and future. The production features dance, spoken word and sound elements. At La Mama Courthouse, 11 – 16 September.
Winner of the 2015 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award, Emily Sheehan’s Hell’s Canyon finds two teenage runaways on a journey of self discovery as they struggle to escape a haunted past. This much anticipated production is at Trades Hall, 12 – 23 September.
A star is born as Chi Nguyen presents her debut solo cabaret show. Having moved to Australia at 16 to pursue her dreams of becoming a performer, Nguyen takes the audience on a fresh and witty journey as she falls in and out of love with her Vietnamese identity. Lotus is packed with catchy original tunes, unapologetic confidence and dry satire and was supported by City of Melbourne’s Signal Young Creatives Lab. At Trades Hall, 25 – 30 September.
Just a Boy Standing in Front of a Girl
Director Beng Oh and writer Jane Miller have established a reputation for exciting contemporary theatre under the collaboration 15 Minutes from Anywhere. Their latest project is a darkly comic take on Medea, exploring contemporary gender politics and the struggle for connection and community in modern Australia. See it at La Mama Courthouse, 4 – 14 October.