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The Ten Best Things to See at Midsumma Festival 2016

This year's program boasts everything from rollercoasters to water polo.
By Tom Clift
January 12, 2016
By Tom Clift
January 12, 2016


This year's program boasts everything from rollercoasters to water polo.

Clear your calendars, art lovers. Melbourne's largest queer arts and culture bash, the Midsumma Festival has showcased the talents of local creatives from within the city's LGBTIQ community every year since 1988 — and its 2016 program is due to kick off this Sunday, January 17.

Running for three straight weeks, the festival will be spread across more than 80 different venues, and will cover everything from visual art and performance to community events and parties. As has become tradition, the festival's centrepiece event will be the annual Pride March along Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. This year, the march will put an emphasis on the fight for marriage equality. Other flagship events include the Midsumma Carnival and T Dance, which will once again kick off the festival with a five-hour lineup of free live music and entertainment in Alexandra Gardens.

But there are many more events to get your art-loving self to during Midsumma 2016. Here are our top picks.

  • 10

    Acclaimed musical theatre and cabaret performer Michael Griffiths brings his latest one-man show to Midsumma 2016. Following on from previous shows inspired by the likes of Madonna and Annie Lennox, Cole pays tribute to the life and music of Broadway composer Cole Porter. Written by Anna Goldsworthy, the show was a hit at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival last year. And if you want a little extra bang for your buck, you can catch it on a double bill with Carlotta: Queen of the Cross, featuring local cabaret icon Carol “Carlotta” Spencer recounting her life on the stage.

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  • 9
    Virtual Drag

    It wouldn’t be Midsumma without a good old-fashioned drag show. That being said, there’s nothing old-fashioned about this immersive virtual reality production from artists Allison Bennett, Megan Beckwith and Mark Payne. Using their combined skills in photography, digital media, choreography and animation, the trio have produced 3D scans of local drag performers. Plug in and prepare yourself. This probably isn’t exactly what the creators of the Oculus Rift had in mind — but to be honest, we don’t really care. One week only at the Testing Grounds in Southbank.

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  • 8

    Making its Australian debut as part of the Midsumma Festival, Douglas Rintoul’s Elegy recounts a powerful human story inspired by the work of photojournalist Bradley Secker. Drawing on interviews with gay refugees, the play explores themes of love and shared humanity that are so often lost in the rhetoric surrounding both immigration and LGBTQ rights. A timely and unabashedly political piece of theatre, Elegy debuts on Tuesday, January 19 at Gasworks, with MTC and Bell Shakespeare alumnus John Kachoyan at the helm.

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  • 7
    Midsumma – Taste of the Festival

    With almost 150 different events on the Midsumma 2016 program, trying to figure out exactly what to see can feel rather overwhelming. That’s why we’re recommending Taste of the Festival, a Midsumma tasting plate at fortyfivedownstairs. For one night only, you can catch snippets from a dozen different shows from the three week festival. Not too shabby for just $15 a ticket. And while you’re there, you can also take a peek at the Midsumma Visual Arts Exhibition, featuring works by a number of local artists whose work explores gender and social constructs.

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  • 6

    What happens when director and choreographer Dave Coombs teams up with four of his fellow graduates from the National Institute of Circus Arts? The result is Uncovered, a tale about coming out set to a soundtrack of popular songs, with strobe lighting, smoke and a little bit of nudity thrown in. This steamy, high-energy circus-dance hybrid has been developed specifically for this year’s Midsumma Festival in partnership with Gasworks Arts Park and AfterDark Theatre. Five shows only, beginning Wednesday, January 27.

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  • 5

    One of the grimmer works on the Midsumma program, Member chronicles the spate of gay hate crimes that plagued Sydney throughout the ’80s and ’90s, a period when as many as 80 gay men lost their lives at the hands of roaming gangs. Weaving in witness testimony, legal transcripts and other archival material, writer and performer Ben Noble tells the tale of Corey, a former gang member forced to confront his shameful past when his son comes out as gay. While the material will no doubt be hard going, Member promises to provide an unflinching look into a piece of Australian history that we can’t afford to forget.

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  • 4
    National Water Polo League Pride Cup

    One of the biggest and most exciting events on the Midsumma 2016 program is the National Water Polo League‘s inaugural Pride Cup. Hosted at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), the event will feature men’s and women’s national league matches between the Victorian Seals and the Brisbane KFC Breakers. There’ll also be an exhibition grudge match between Australia’s only two LGBTQ water polo clubs, the Melbourne Surge and the Sydney Stingers. Naturally, we’ll be rooting for the home team. The event also marks the first time that an Australian sporting code has organised a Pride Round as part of its national premiership fixture.

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  • 3
    Yass Pride! at Luna Park

    POOF DOOF, GiRLTHING, Thursgay and CLOSET are all coming together for the ultimate Midsumma blowout at St Kilda’s iconic Luna Park. From 3pm until late, Yass Pride! will see an all-star lineup of DJs, dancers and drag performers working their magic across multiple stages beneath the rickety Scenic Railway. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, once 8pm rolls around, ticketholders will be given unlimited ride access. If your inner child isn’t screaming with glee right now, then we just don’t know what to say. First release tickets have already sold out, so snap up second release tickets while you still can.

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  • 2
    Lesbian Comedy Gala

    The funniest ladies in the country, together on a single stage. The Lesbian Comedy Gala has quickly become a staple of the Midsumma Festival calendar — and with damn good reason. This year’s lineup includes Hannah Gadsby, Cal Wilson, Anne Edmonds, Sal Upton, Lori Bell and Geraldine Hickey. Doors open at 6pm for a 7.30pm start, giving you ample time to grab something to eat from Greek pop-up cafe Angela’s Kitchen. Your ticket also gets you entry into the afterparty, featuring DJ Geraldine Quinn and dance tracks galore.

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  • 1
    Midsumma Carnival and T Dance

    As always, Midsumma starts off with a bang with the Midsumma Carnival and T Dance in the Alexandra Gardens. There’ll be hours of live music and entertainment on the main stage, over 140 stalls in the Carnival Village, plus the return of the Midsumma Dog Show and a grown-up sized jumping castle. Then, once the sun starts to set, the park will be transformed into one enormous dancefloor, with DJs and bands performing well into the night. It’s the perfect way to get into the Midsumma mood – and best of all, it’s 100 per cent free.

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