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Melbourne is throwing a city-wide party

The Melbourne Festival is an 18-day celebration of arts and culture that brings the whole city out onto the streets – and it kicks off next month.

By Paul Chai
Published: 05 September, 2017

You can’t get much more “Melbourne” than the Melbourne Festival. This annual celebration sees city streets transformed with pop-up art spaces, bustling theatres and bars packed out with festivalgoers over 18 days of film, dance, music, theatre and visual arts. For a city that loves the arts, it’s a calendar highlight.

“A festival is the time of year when you totally immerse yourself in your passion or interest,” says festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway, “and this year’s festival explores just how incredibly brilliant people can be – from artists and musicians to writers and technical teams.”

But that’s not all – this year’s calendar is a little more ambitious than previous editions. According to Holloway, the schedule asks audiences to “dig deeper”, exploring challenging topics in ground-breaking formats. “The depth and breadth of the events in this year’s festival is unprecedented.” Here are a few highlights to look out for.


The Season, Melbourne Festival, Melbourne, Victoria

You won’t want to miss the opening ceremony on October 4 – the festival kicks off with Tanderrum, a traditional welcome from the five Aboriginal clans of the Kulin Nation, who are local to the region. In fact, Aboriginal culture is woven throughout the entire program – watch out for the Aboriginal music showcase Our Place, Our Home featuring bands with Indigenous and refugee backgrounds on the last day of the festival. The Season is its arguable highlight. Over 100 minutes, this play by Nathan Maynard, a Tasmanian Aboriginal, sketches a humorous portrait of Indigenous Australian family life on an island between mainland Australia and Tasmania. “Nathan is a funny, fast-talking and thoroughly exciting young playwright from Tasmania, so it is great to realise his work in Melbourne with a largely Aboriginal cast and crew,” says Holloway.


A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol, Melbourne Festival, Melbourne, Victoria

Other program highlights include A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol by Rithy Panh. Panh was nominated for an Oscar in 2014 for his moving stop-motion film The Missing Picture, a deeply personal story of life under the Khmer Rouge. With this new creation, Panh – and fellow Khmer Rouge survivor and composer Him Sophy – seek to heal their country via an epic stage performance. Bangsokol is a traditional Buddhist ritual bringing peace to the dead. Catch it in Melbourne before it heads to New York and Paris.


Taylor Mac, Melbourne Festival, Melbourne, Victoria

The festival centrepiece will unveil itself over the course of 24 hours and more than 200 songs. 

A 24-decade history of Popular Music is essentially a day-long pop concert, presented in four six-hour epics spread over the course of the festival. Taylor Mac – darling of the New York cabaret scene – radically reinterprets American history through song, discussing themes from women’s liberation to black slavery through a combination of performance art, poetry and burlesque.

“Taylor Mac will be one of the music events of the decade and a thoroughly unforgettable theatrical experience,” says Holloway. “Every element of this Australian exclusive will be thrilling, unforgettable, and a genuine life experience for everyone fortunate enough to see it.” Buckle up for a long, challenging and crazy ride – the festival runs from October 4 to 22.

Speaking of the arts, Melbourne’s most fashionable are flocking to The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture exhibition.