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The Butterfly Club

Home > Melbourne > Bars | Cocktail Bars | Nightlife | Theatre
by Jeni Wilson (subscribe)
Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published December 16th 2013
Award Winning Cocktails, Foyer Bars and Cabaret
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

At the Butterfly Club, you should expect the unexpected. It is renown for its exclusive edgy performances, its award winning cocktails and the most impressive collection of kitsch.

bar, club,performance, cocktails, drama,
Where did that ceramic boot come from?

This is 'not a real theatre' the barman/manager told me. When I inquired as to what it really was he replied "You decide.' … and I'm still trying to decide. I found out they love cabaret, show burlesque, comedy (comparatively mainstream), sword swallowers and a bit of magic. The other 10% of performances are anything you can imagine!

The location of the Butterfly Club is in direct contrast to the nearby upmarket and bustling Collins St. It is at the very end of a dark alley. If it were winter, I may not have been game and that would have been a crying shame.

bar, theatre, cocktails, entertainment, performance
This sets the scene for something scary to happen

The Butterfly Club was located in Sth Melbourne for 11yrs but was relocated to this building off Little Collins St early in 2013. The move is a story in itself. Thanks to crowd funding, benefactors, volunteers and a miniature army of friends, the relocation all happened by tram (to avoid the city traffic). This is a phenomenal effort given the considerable collection of ornaments, mirrors, painting and furniture.

The stair well in this four story building has each wall screen painted with … you guessed it… butterflies. This might seem an unlikely location and building for a club but it adds to the mystic and surprises when each level has yet another bar or lounge area full of bric a brac and treasures. My first impression was that it looked like an overcrowded ornament shop.

I liken it to a 3D Where's Wally. You never now what you will find if you look hard enough. I spotted a skull and crossbones flag, Babushka dolls, lots of unique vases, a black dial up telephone, Asian umbrellas, plastic retro stools, a boomerang, a photo of the queen at the coronation, vinyl records and snow domes.

After having climbed a few levels of stairs I thought I must surely be at the top, but when the bell rang to enter the theatre I was surprised when yet another door in the corner was opened. I hadn't noticed this before. Behind the door was another staircase to a small attic like theatrette.

What fun we had at the Butterfly Club. I want to go back when it's not as dark so that I can admire all the ornaments and décor. I'm sure each piece has a story and I imagine the many travellers and patriots donated these pieces.

club, bar, performance, drama, theatre, cocktails
One of the award winning foyer bars

"And to me also, who appreciate life, the butterflies, and soap-bubbles, and whatever is like them amongst us, seem most to enjoy happiness." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Intimate Performances – encouraging all

The Butterfly Club presents about 150 shows per year. They are proud of the fact that they give artists space to create. It is perhaps one of the only clubs that has such a number of new artists and works. Zander (the Manager) told me that 99% is Australian work.

They present what could hardly be a called a season (six or less performances) in a small space (seating about 80) but will present to a crowd of one (if this happens). I'd say that would be the toughest gig in town. Often the shows involve a single performer or small cast. They are only 60 minutes, have no interval. They rely on snappy, sharp, confident delivery to convey the artist's message.

No bookings are required and for those out for the fun of it… you never know what you might find at the Butterfly Club.

"Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies."
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

It's not officially fair trade but this is what it reminds me of. They share the risk with performers and split box office rather than charging a fixed fee. The showroom is provided for rehearsals and front of house staff free of charge. You can't get much better than that. Performers (caterpillars and butterflies) of all types are encouraged to apply on line.

Private functions
This would be a great place to take a group of friends or celebrate a special occasion. The Butterfly Club offers a private foyer with its own private bar free of charge. For large groups there is no minimum spend, no hire fee, no nasty surprises at the end of the night. What clever, simple down to earth marketing… they want you to bring lots of people to see their shows.

"Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end." ― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

club, bar, performance, drama, theatre, cocktails
Order a cocktail to your taste

Cocktails as beautiful as flowers
The Butterfly Club foyer bars are the proud recipients of a "Cocktail Glass" from The Age Good Bars Guide. This is apparently the equivalent of a Chef's Hat. Cocktails are personalised to your taste and cost about as much as anywhere else.

"Butterflies are not insects,' Captain John Sterling said soberly. 'They are self-propelled flowers." ― Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

Glee Club
At 6:30 every Tuesday, The Butterfly Glee Club hold a sing-along choir that, by their own assessment, is the best in town. No stress, as you would expect. If you come, you come, just turn up and pay $12 at the door. If you don't you don't.. very casual and no commitment. Sounds like fun.

Getting there

There is no such thing as on-site parking but commercial parking is nearby. Many are only $15 for night parking after 4pm. Many city trams are convenient: Tram lines 1, 3a, 5, 6, 8, 11, 16, 42, 48, 64, 67, 72, 109, 112.

club, bar, performance, drama, theatre, cocktails
So much to see and do at the Butterfly Club

Be Game and just go
I just love everything about the Butterfly Club. I inquired but they don't have memberships yet. They do sell gift vouchers though which I think is a fabulous idea. Don't suppose they will get too many of those and better than the usual towels or book!

You could write several stories about the Butterfly Club but you should go so you have your own story to tell.

So just drop in, take a punt, support a budding artist, sample a unique cocktail or two. With four shows on some nights you might want to take a sleeping bag. What more could you want on a night out in the city?

"You can only chase a butterfly for so long."
― Jane Yolen, Prince Across the Water

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Why? Lots of reasons: Support a local artist, enjoy an award winning cocktail and a fun night out
When: Tues - Sun 5pm 'til late. Occasionally Mon
Phone: 9663 8107
Where: Carson Place, off Little Collins Street (between Swanston and Elizabeth) in the Melbourne CBD
Cost: About $30
Your Comment
lovely article :)
by Joy (score: 3|1916) 2517 days ago
very interesting
may be a good idea for xmas gift
by Grant (score: 2|294) 2544 days ago
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