No sooner is the 'no frills' Fringe Festival winding down, does its 'top shelf' counterpart, the Melbourne Festival fire up. From the 6th-22nd October, at various venues around Melbourne, the Melbourne Festival will rear its bold head, presenting theatre, dance, art and music from both Australia and across the globe. With international acclaim and a significantly higher budget, the Festival is somewhat of a more discerning, sensible, older sibling to its baby brother Fringe. Some would even go as far as claiming the Melbourne Festival is the Snob's Fringe. However you view it, the two festivals are not related, though what can be said of the Melbourne Festival is that it only shows well-established acts, as opposed to warts and all. In short, this festival is full of professionals who have proven themselves before because someone, at some point, has said nice things about them. And rightly so.
Melbourne Festival has an impressive line-up this year
Upon first glance of the programme, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the ridiculously impressive choices. Nor is it hard for your bank account not to feel intimidated. If that last, double-negative-filled sentence didn't confuse you, then get your credit card out, as you're in for a real treat. Hitting a quarter of a century this year, the Festival has over 50 events to choose from over the course of two and a bit weeks. The show which has me in a "must-get-a-ticket-now" spin is "Journeys of Love & More Love", which runs from 11th-16th October at the Arts House Meat Market in North Melbourne. In its Australian premiere, this edible performance is a unique mix of food, multimedia and live theatre, which sees the audience being fed dishes which tie in with the migrant story of the extraordinary Ali Zaidi unfolding before them. This is clearly no normal theatre visit and promises to be a very special shared experience like no other. I dare you to take someone on a first date here.
Not so date-friendly, but equally enticing, is the notorious Back to Back Theatre's production of "Ganesh Versus the Third Reich". The title itself is confronting, provocative and challenging, so it's no wonder that this story of the elephant-headed Hindu God fighting back against Hitler has caused such a flurry of controversy. Indeed, there have been calls for the show to close before it even opens. But controversy aside, the unique Back to Back Theatre ensemble has a solid reputation for dealing with moral, philosophical and political issues in a humorous and subversive manner and "Ganesh" is surely no exception. On at the Malthouse Theatre as part of the Festival from 4th-9th October, hurry along as this will sell out for sure.
If you're after something more fun and vibrant, you can't go wrong with the infectious energy of "Tom Tom Crew", whose funky show is a mish mash of urban dance, acrobatics and some of the most thrilling live percussion you'll ever experience. Having wowed in Europe and the US, Australia's very own "Tom Tom Crew" finally come to Melbourne and can be seen in all their buzzing glory at the Forum Theatre from 4th-23rd October. Perfect for all kids, big and small. Another dance show which comes with an international seal of approval is "Political Mother" by the UK's Hofesh Shechter Company. For those who've seen his work before, Shechter is renowned for his frenzied, jerky, relentless choreography which has his dancers turning into superhuman machines. Having just done the rounds in the UK, "Political Mother" promises to be a beast of a show, exploring authoritarian nightmares of recent human history in a full throttle physical assault. On at the Playhouse, the piece runs 12th-15th October. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Another international gem, this time of a more classical nature, is the Schaubühne Berlin's version of "Hedda Gabler". It's the famous Schaubühne's first Melbourne appearance and we're very lucky to have one of Europe's most revered director's, Thomas Ostermeier dropping by. Not only will he be directing the Ibsen classic, but he will also be speaking as part of the "Come together: Artists in Conversation" free series on 20th October at the Festival Lounge, Arts Centre. So if you like your theatre slick, check out this postmodern, digitised version of Hedda Gabler on at the Playhouse from 19th-23rd October.
Those are my big picks of the Festival for this year, even though my shortlist of shows to see is currently sitting at 17. What's on your shortlist?