Category: Opportunities

Melbourne Festival 2017: ALL MY FRIENDS WERE THERE

Fun, whimsical, evocative, and full of birthday surprises

By Myron My

Many of us would agree that spending your birthday with a room full of strangers would generally not be the most ideal way to celebrate the occasion – however, with The Guerrilla Museum‘s new interactive and immersive live artwork All Of My Friends Were There, that’s exactly what we get to do. The show is a lucky-dip of adventure, where you are allocated to a group and led through a number of rooms with performances and experiences revolving around birthdays.

All My Friends Were There.jpg

We are split into our groups before we even enter the venue and my plus-one is not to be seen again until the end, so it’s time to make new friends and party like it’s all our birthdays. It’s difficult to review this type of show when you only get to participate in about one quarter of it, but the conversations post-show made it clear that there was a lot more happening than that which a single person is able to experience.

One of the first rooms my group is taken into, for example, involves a pair of highly entertaining hosts supervising us through some traditional childhood games such as musical chairs and pass the parcel, allowing a fun, free-spirited atmosphere to take over the room. While each room visited had amusing and cheery performances, there were some where I was left wondering how the birthday theme linked in. At one point, we are left in an authentically decorated 90s-style bedroom – which could easily have been mine back in my teen years – but with no context about this room, we spent our time looking at the posters on the walls and the video works playing on the television. However, as each evening has an entirely new story based on the questionnaire completed by an attendee prior to the show, each performance is tailored to reflect that person’s real-life birthday experiences.

The entire design of All Of My Friends Were There is exceptional and what the team at The Guerrilla Museum have been able to set up inside Theatre Works is highly impressive and transforms the venue into a labyrinth of surprise and fun. While acknowledging that this was a preview performance, there were times of substantial waiting between rooms, which began to draw me out of the experience, but hopefully as the season develops these timing kinks will be ironed out. The show culminates with everyone coming together to celebrate the surprise ‘birthday’ of one of our own with champagne, fairy bread and dancing.

My plus-one’s experience was vastly different to mine in terms of what they participated in and how it made them feel, and perhaps this is the point of All Of My Friends Were There. Taking something as personal as a birthday is always going to mean different things to different people – some people love them and some people don’t – but where this show succeeds is in highlighting the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who care for us and love us, and in never underestimating the role that we play in each other’s lives. Knowing that is worth more than all the lolly bags in the world.

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 11 October | Mon – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $49 

Bookings: Melbourne Festival

Barking Spider Theatre and The Johnston Collection Present HOUSE OF DREAMS

A mesmerising meander through arts, antiques and imagination

By Myron My

William Robert Johnston was a Melbourne-based antique dealer and a collector of beautiful things, and he wanted to share these unusual and visually arresting items with the public. Upon his death in 1986, the not-for-profit museum, The Johnston Collection was established. The Collection has had a rotation of guest curators including The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister, milliner Richard Nylon and design studio Hecker Guthrie, who were given the opportunity to explore, regard and share the curiosities within the collection.

House of Dreams.jpg

With its current exhibition, House of Dreams, guest curators Barking Spider Visual Theatre – a Melbourne-based multi-art form company – have spent the last 18 months designing the nine spaces to create a highly evocative and imaginative environment to be experienced. Led by Artistic Director Penelope Bartlau, the theatre company is known for its exemplary productions and varied methods of creating and sharing stories with audiences.

While we were advised to wander around the space and devise our own story based on what we saw and heard, I personally enjoyed learning about Johnston’s childhood and family from the highly knowledgeable volunteers, and being able to gain a deeper understanding of the symbolism and purpose that the various items being used held. The meticulous effort that Barking Spider has put into each room is evident. You could easily spend half an hour in the one location, discovering new pieces, seeing things from different perspectives and mulling over the effect a particular room or item has had on you.

House of Dreams is both joyful and saddening. It is filled with hope and also loneliness, but the story you choose to create is completely in your own hands. While I can still vividly recall so many of the striking items on display, the experience of walking through The Collection, and more specifically, doing so under Barking Spider’s curating, made it feel like a dream in itself – and one that I am keen to re-visit over the coming months.

The Johnston Collection runs daily tours of House of Dreams until 20 September.

For booking details please visit The Johnston Collection website.


Life drawing gets glamorous

By Christine Moffat


Drawing Straws is a life-drawing class crossed with a burlesque salon that takes place in the downstairs parlour of The Butterfly Club.  Surrounded by knick-knacks and trinkets, seated on comfy cushions, the friendly organiser Sarah Pemberton takes the group through some ‘drawing star jumps’.  This is right and left-hand drawing exercises of fully-clothed quick poses from Sarah and sometimes volunteers.  It’s a workout for your hands and eyes to get you limbered up for the main event.

These sessions are for people with varied levels of artistic skill and experience.  You are asked to show your drawings to the group, which can be daunting at first.  Be brave, they’re kind!  You may be surprised at what people admire in your work, as difference is valued.  Also, the room is an intimate space and it starts to feel quite private after a few minutes.

The next part of the evening is the ‘main event’.  A fabulous burlesque artist performs a song for the group, and is then your life model for the rest of the evening.  There is a different performer every week, and our group was graced with the beautiful and talented Autumn Evergreen.

It’s not exactly a drop-in class – you need to let them know you’re coming – but you are not tied into going every week.  This reviewer recommends that you go with a friend, grab one of The Butterfly Club’s many delicious cocktails, and be prepared for an entertaining night.  The feel of the evening is very low key, with drawing and chatting with the model and each other being the main focus.  It’s a lot of fun, and a good way to give your creativity a night out on the town in style!

Tuesday nights 7 – 9pm

The Butterfly Club

12 Carson Place (off Little Collins St) Melbourne

Cost $15.00 (includes help of professional tutors, drawing materials plus a performance)

All bookings & enquiries phone 0434 555 075

REVIEW: Side Pony Productions Presents THE CONFIDENCE MAN

Like nothing you’ve ever experienced

By Tania Herbert

When an audience sees a show, and then afterwards won’t leave because they are too engaged with talking about the performance (frequently, it appeared, with people they had never met before), you know something pretty special has just happened. And last night was the night where I picked my hands-down winner for most engaging and original piece of theatre for 2013.

 Side Pony Productions took a huge risk on this one. The creativity to just come up with the concept is phenomenal, much less to have executed it..  There are three possibilities for audience members. Before the show begins, they may be invited to don a magnificent puppet mask (by designer Rebecca Bauman) and perform as one of the six characters of the show with instructions being fed to them through headphones.

Photo Credit Ponch Hawkes

For the rest, they can select whether they would like to hear the narration of the story from the sidelines, or they can choose an interaction option, where they can don the headphones and switch between channels of characters, hearing that character’s inner thoughts, outer dialogue and stage directions.

On entering the venue, you can choose your seat and headset, and the stage is marked out into rooms. Each character begins on their own story, finally coming together to a terrible conclusion. Even as a modern thriller, this is a great show. The characters are intriguing, and the inner monologues are poetic and powerful. The whole effect is something like watching a giant, sinister dollhouse after the children have gone to sleep.

The whole piece is beautifully soundtracked, and switching between channels was absolutely flawless. The timing and complexity of weaving the stories so that you can receive a full experience no matter how long you spend with each character is mind-boggling to say the least, and the sound designer (Sam Price) must be the most patient man in the world.

As expressed by the director, Zoe Pepper, it was a show where so much could go wrong – and there may have a been a few missed cues, a costume malfunction, and I think there may have even been a finger pistol at one point after a prop was misplaced. However, the director also speculated that so much could go right – and right she was. This was one of the most powerful, unique, and immersive theatre experiences I have ever had the privilege of being witness to. I had thrills. Several times over.

A wise person told me that the best indicator that a show is amazing is that the reviewer will then go back independently to watch it again. I’m booking my ticket for the weekend.

Season: Wed 28 Aug – Sun 1 Sept

Time: Wed- Fri 6.30 & 8.30 / Sat 4.30, 6.30 and 8.30 / Sun 2.30, 4.30 and 6.30

Duration: 60 minutes no interval

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry St

Tickets: Full $30 / Conc $25 / Student $20

Bookings: or 03 9322 3713

REVIEW: The Stand-Up Experience Present EXIT LAUGHING

Stand up and make us laugh!

By Deborah Langley

What can you learn in a week? Well, according to Stand Up Comedy coach Robert Grayson, you can learn how to be more confident, make people laugh and potentially launch a national comedy career.

On Sunday night, I went along to The Last Laugh Comedy Club to see what all the fuss is about.

You Stand Up

For the week prior to this performance, nine aspiring comedians took the plunge into Robert Grayson’s one-week intensive stand-up comedy workshop. This step-by-step introduction, for beginners or intermediates, promises to take participants to a whole new comic level and give an anxiously awaiting audience of supporting friends and family a night of belly laughs at the end of the week.

Firstly, my congratulations go out to all the performers. Truly one of the scariest things you can ever do is present your own words in front of a group of people in the hopes that they will find you funny. I’ve done it myself and can honestly say that all the performers I saw on Sunday night did an amazing job.

Some highlights for me were fresh-faced 27-year-old Ben who brilliantly told of getting carded and not being about to pick up because he looks like a 12-year-old; NT tough man, Wing who had some of the most ‘un-tasteful’ jokes I’ve heard in a long time – but made the audience laugh nonetheless; and bed salesman Sam who looked so natural on stage that he’s sure to have a future in the stand-up game.

As this was a workshop demonstration I will leave my performance review there – hit and miss jokes, but a fun night to support your friends.

Unfortunately, if we are going to review the experience as a whole, the sentiment starts to fall down. As someone who had never made it up the stairs to The Last Laugh, it was extremely hard to find, and I actually ended up in a HillSong Church Service (weird) because there was no signage and no information to help people find their way. Once in the right place we, the audience, had to wait almost half an hour after the scheduled start time to see anyone up on stage: a frustration made much worst by having to be subjected to blaring heavy metal music for almost all of that time. After 30mins of the successful and not-so-successful gags and far too much stage time by the Comedy Coach himself, we were given an intermission, which was not needed and was basically taken as an invitation for people who had already seen their friends to leave.

Disappointing, because it had all the makings to be an easy-to-find, laid-back environment for a really great on- hour gig with some cringe moments and some genuine laughs – perfect for friends and family showing support, and the general public after a cheap night of entertainment which some unexpected big laughs – exactly what you would expect from a ‘open mic’-style show.

For more information about the comedy workshop check out the website and give yourself the chance to make people laugh at all the silly things that go through your head.

REVIEW: Melbourne Cabaret Festival Presents ADAM GUETTEL IN CONCERT

You won’t want to miss this

By Kim Edwards

A music theatre icon quietly strolled into Melbourne this week for a few modest and intimate performances at this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival. With a simple entourage of an accompanist and a vocalist, the two-time Tony winner joked gently about his failure to bring sequins or spectacle for the festival, but for his fans a piano, a guitar, a stool, microphones and the man himself were all we wanted. Grandson of the legendary Richard Rogers, performer, environmentalist, and lauded composer-lyricist in his own right for some of the most daring and dazzling musicals you’ll ever hear – and nowhere near enough people know his name.

Adam Guettel

Adam Guettel is the musician’s music-theatre maker: his rich, complex songs and lush, romantic arrangements won his 2005 musical The Light in the Piazza the Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestration, and the chance to hear him personally debut new material and perform old favourites is an irresistible one for all musical lovers.

My prolonged love affair with Guettel’s work began with a chance encounter with the ethereal and enthralling song cycle Myths and Hymns, and then an abiding fascination with his extraordinary musical Floyd Collins. Emotion drives all his music: there is no sense that he thinks up a melody and tries to fold it into plot or character. First there is a sweeping, encompassing feeling, and then his songs strive to capture that illusive, complicated human experience in music and lyrics. There is the contrary simplicity and sophistication of poetry to his work, and a wonderful playfulness and experimentation with how the voice might express ‘impossible’ experiences, from the joyous opening number of Floyd Collins where the protagonist sings with his own echo to create the immensity of an underground cave he is exploring to Light in the Piazza‘s ‘Say it Somehow’ duet as the young lovers try to describe an embrace with their vocalisations.

Guettel’s love for giving voice to characters who struggle to express themselves is glorious, from the immobilised Floyd trapped in a tiny cave to the emotionally-stunted heroine Clara, and he has continued to explore this with new works based on the novel The Invisible Man, the movie Days of Wine and Roses and Danny Boyle’s enchanting Millions. And hearing a composer perform his own songs is always illuminating: ‘Dividing Day’ for example has new poignance, and ‘Saturn Returns’ and ‘How Glory Goes’ soared to new emotional heights.

With extraordinary Broadway MD Kim Grigsby on the piano and the stunning accompanying vocals of his fiancee Haley Bond, Guettel offers an evening of disarming banter, personal charm, and enriching, thrilling, passionate music. Tonight (Sunday June 30) is your last chance to hear him perform in Melbourne – 7:30pm at Chapel Off Chapel… Seize it!


REVIEW: Live on Stage in Melbourne – KING KONG

You’ve never seen anything like this…

By Kim Edwards

Bold, breath-taking – and BIG.

King Kong

King Kong Live on Stage is a wildly ambitious and theatrically daring production that crashes through musical conventions and scales special-effects heights, but has not yet escaped being a rather lumbering and cumbersome beast of a show. However, this production is still in its infancy and therefore evolving, and meanwhile the world premiere now showing at the Regent already has theatre-goers thrilling, puzzling, and debating its merits furiously.

The famous (and admittedly thin storyline) has been reimagined for the stage in an extraordinary and contrary way. The songs are the collected efforts of contemporary artists such as Sarah McLachlan and 3D from Massive Attack: at its most successful, the music forms an exciting and unusual soundtrack that is a distinct relief after the formulaic and expositional offerings of some other musicals. At other times however, songs are jarring and uneven with their musical anachronisms and bland lyrics. The set and backdrop are primarily a dynamic blur of lighting and video effects: at its best in the scenes emulating grainy film footage, the impact is utterly spectacular, from the dance of the Skull Island locals and the moonrise lullaby, to the final battle atop the Empire State building. At its worse however, the lingering impression is of Atari video games, and b-grade music videos.

Esther Hannaford as heroine Ann Darrow is an impressively feisty and funny leading lady, and visually and vocally beautiful. The film director and plot catalyst Denham (Adam Lyon) is full of pizzazz, but has not quite settled into character or singing style securely yet. Chris Ryan is pleasant as love-interest Jack Driscoll, while Queenie Van de Zandt sings the hell out of the incomprehensible role of Cassandra.

But then there is Harley Durst, Danny Miller and Jacob Williams, and Lincoln Barros, James Brown, Adam David, Josh Feldschuh, Brett Franzi, Nathan Jones, Nathan Kell, Pussell Leonard, Brent Osborne, Troy Phillips, Mike Snow, Maxwell Trengrove and Tayo Wilson. Their collaborative emoting, movement and acting was inexpressibly moving and mesmerising – from their first moment on stage, the audience involuntarily drew breath, and they commanded our rapt attention and unstinting admiration until the very end. No – they are not the (excellent) ensemble in this production. These gentleman are the puppeteers that give life to Kong, and they and he are the unequivocal stars of the show.

King Kong Live on Stage provides just that: the sense of real awe and amazement at  what we see when it comes to the breathing, bellowing believability of Kong himself is worth every cent of the ticket price. He and his creators are a united marvel, and it is simply a bonus that the blockbuster musical is also being unleashed from its primal predictable bonds here, and let loose afresh (albeit still chaotically) into the theatre world.

Go for this – King Kong is wonder-full.

REVIEW: Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones are DRIVING MISS DAISY

Don’t miss the ride of two lifetimes

By Kim Edwards

To call a theatre event a once-in-lifetime experience is so often a cliché – but when seeing two golden stars of stage and screen of rare talent and rich careers, both now in their 80s, both in Melbourne, and sharing the stage together at the Comedy Theatre in Alfred Uhry‘s award-winning play, there is no other fitting phrase. Driving Miss Daisy received a standing ovation for opening night, and will no doubt enjoy packed houses for the rest of its Australian tour this year.

Angela Lansbury & James Earl Jones in DRIVING MISS DAISY (c) Jeff Busby

The story is endlessly appealing: a crotchety old Jewish lady (Angela Lansbury) is forced into accepting the services of black chauffeur Hoke (James Earl Jones) by her long-suffering son Boolie (Boyd Gaines), and the unlikely friendship that develops transcends class, race, creed and years. Lansbury was deliciously eccentric and briskly comedic as Daisy: if her portrayal was not quite as acerbic and biting as was needed to heighten the tension and contrast between the characters, her quiet pathos as the years passed was intensely moving and wonderful to see. Jones, reprising his Broadway role, is exceptional: his unexpected warmth and charm, the transformation of that famous booming and cultured voice into the delightful cadences of Hoke, and his beautifully underplayed comic timing made for a delicately crafted performance. Tony award-winner Gaines is a strong tether between the two leads, and his committed interpretation of Boolie is highly theatrical but appealing.

Director David Esbjornson has created a swift and smooth production that runs for ninety minutes without interval, and the deceptively simple set and staging is clearly designed to maintain focus on the famous cast. Sadly, this sleekness and streamlining is at the expense of moments of stillness or audience reflection: the episodic nature of the play means the story must roll briskly between the gentle, elderly pace of the characters’ interaction, but the poignant close of scenes (as when Daisy weeps) were whirled along without pause, which lessened their impact.

This production of Driving Miss Daisy was made for its audience, and if the sparks that fly when Darth Vader meets Mrs Lovatt are a little subdued, and the social commentary a little milder than the play warrants, it does not detract from the fact the fans are provided with everything else they could want: a ripe, heart-warming, engaging performance from two magnificent lead actors we are utterly privileged to see performing live on stage in Melbourne.

Driving Miss Daisy is playing until May 12 at the Comedy Theatre. Booking details are available here.

Move It Or Lose It: The Fight to Save THE BUTTERFLY CLUB

The fate of an amazing Melbourne performance venue is in our hands…

By Myron My

I have been going to the Butterfly Club for a few years now and have had the opportunity to watch some amazing and varied shows there: ones that otherwise would not have seen the light of day had it not been for this curated venue. The Butterfly Club has given emerging and established performers the opportunity to create new works and have them watched by a welcoming and open-minded audience.

Since 1999, The Butterfly Club has presented more than 1300 new Australian works. It has given immensely to the theatre community in discovering and nurturing performers and now it needs our help. The Butterfly Club must relocate from South Melbourne to 256 Collins Street in the city centre in February 2013. Director Mr Simone Pulga said the move was due to the unbearable costs of operating in the current premises. “If we increased the cost of drinks to match the rise in rent, we’d have to charge $12.50 for a stubby. We must move The Butterfly Club to a better location.

The Butterfly Club 1

“Paradoxically, inner-city Melbourne has provided us with an affordable, long-term opportunity to create a new theatre space in an exciting unused building. The show room will be larger with more comfortable seating but the venue will remain just as intimate and quirky with the much-loved decor and regular shows moving with the venue,” he said.

The Butterfly Club has a sustainable arts model which doesn’t rely on any government subsidies and even though this model will be replicated in the new location it first needs funds specifically for the relocation and – when housing Australia’s largest collection of kitsch art – this is not going to be easy!

A community fundraising campaign is currently underway using the popular crowd-funding website Pozible. The campaign is embracing the ‘Buy A Brick’ phenomena, aptly designated ‘Cash For Kitsch’. Supporters will be able to adopt a piece of The Butterfly Club history from among its wondrous collection of miscellany, and ensure it has a home at the new venue.

The artist community including Tim Minchin, Eddie Perfect, Marieke Hardy, Dan Ilik, Tripod and many more have rallied behind the campaign, donating exclusive rewards and experiences. $130,000 is needed for the relocation, and it is hoped at least $20,000 of this can be raised via the crowd-funding campaign, which closes on 16 January.

The Butterfly Club is a Melbourne icon in the theatre, comedy and cabaret world and something we all need to band together over to ensure that it can continue to showcase our home-grown talent. To donate and get some seriously good rewards – not including the tingly feeling of doing something awesome – click for more information.

REVIEW: An Appointment with J Dark

Do you dare?

By Bradley Storer

The event began mysteriously:  a text message calling me to a rendezvous with a stranger named J Dark. Sent directions as if on a treasure hunt, I attended with an equal mixture of anticipation and dread for the coming events.

In this journey through the catacombic backrooms of the North Melbourne Town Hall, the participant is guided through a series of questions, choices, locations, situations and judgements, all incredibly personal but never exploitative, in search of revelation and new knowledge.

The enigmatic but gentle J Dark is at times therapist, partner, confidant, monster, and lover – the only constant in your guide, much like the labyrinth itself, is their unpredictability and mutability.

A piece like this is incredibly difficult to review, as each person will of course experience something as unique and varied as they themselves.  To describe any further would ruin the surprise and inherent joy of this piece, which is the thrill and danger of interacting directly with a performer (who may or may not be a performer) without the restrictions of traditional theatrical performance – like free-falling without a safety net.

While I cannot vouch for everyone’s enjoyment or revelation, this evening left me with a series of beautiful and striking images which haunt me still – a pale vampiric face lit by candlelight; the gloomy gothic ring of striking bells; a mesmerizing love song delivered directly in my ear; and, most important of all, an unopened door behind which lies a terrifying and thrilling adventure.

An Appointment with J Dark is an amazing and vibrant piece of theatre for those willing to take the plunge into the unknown.

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne

Season: Wednesday, 18 April – Sunday, 6 May 2012

Time: Wed – Sun, 3pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. 35 – 50 minutes no interval (pending audience engagement).

Tickets: Full $20 / Conc $15

Bookings: or 03 9322 3713