Art & Design

Top 10 Must Sees At The Melbourne Festival

By Stephen A Russell
5th Oct 2016


Jumping eastward from the Perth International Arts Festival to take the reins of the 2016 Melbourne Festival, effervescent Englishman Jonathan Holloway is bursting to share the fruits of 18 months of hard work.

“A festival is an act of love and you have to really want to be in the place you are,” he says of relocating to Melbourne from the sunnier climes of WA.

“If the festival could move between cities and still be the same then you’ve got it wrong, so I started from trying to get a sense of what this fabulous city is and then re-interpret it through a series of great events that change people’s perspectives and give them one more reason to be in love with Melbourne.”

Once again, Melbourne Festival festival kicks off at Fed Square with Tanderrum, a meeting of the five clans of the Kulin nation, the Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wadawurrung.

“It’s a nice place to start the festival, with the first peoples of Australia, and then we finish with Our Place, Our Home, a multi-cultural event sharing the voices of the most recently arrived communities,” ‘Holloway adds. “That’s the scope you get with this festival.”

Jonathan Holloway’s Top Ten Tips

Les Tambours De Feu

Basque company Deabru Beltzak lead Les Tambours De Feu’s fire-cracking procession through the city streets from Fed Square. It’s sure to be an eye and eardrum-opener. “It’s a big, fiery, pyrotechnic drumming processional event that that’s totally free,” ‘Holloway says. “I’m excited about it because the city becomes the absolute star. You’ll see the streets you walk through in an entirely new way.”

Lady Eats Apple

Geelong heroes Back to Back Theatre are going gangbusters globally and they’ll transform the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall in their newest work Lady Eats Apple, though Holloway isn’t giving too much away. “The audience is sat on stage and the performance happens in the auditorium and all around them,” he teases. “You’re in an inflatable structure that completely transforms during the course of the performance. It’s one of those moments where the heroes of the show are not only the performers but also the engineers, designers, and technicians.”

The Money

Think large-scale theatre genre-bended with TV game shows and you’re only half way to getting the big idea behind The Money’s fascinating social experiment.  Taking part at Parliament House as well as Footscray and Prahran’s Town Halls, you need to ask yourself, are you a silent witness, or will you put your money on the table as a benefactor?

“Benefactors have an hour and a half to decide how they’re going to spend the collective pot,” Holloway reveals. “It has to be unanimous, legal and must be done within the time limit, otherwise the money carries over to the next group. It sounds simple, but the audience engagement is just brilliant and I’ll be interested to see if the responses are different in each place?”

David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed

When the Starman left us unexpectedly this year, the world shook. Deborah Conway, iOTA, Tim Rogers, The Church frontman Steve Kilbey and Adalita lead the way in this heartfelt tribute to a legend gone to soon. “We have a fantastic line-up of Australian soloists paying homage to one of the greatest voices of the, well, I was going to say 20th century but probably any century to be honest,” Holloway says. “We’ve added a third show.”

Vertical Influences

Forget Disney, Vertical Influences is a contemporary dance on ice at Docklands’ O’Brien Group Arena. “They do everything contemporary dance does in terms of emotions, spirit, energy and quality of movement, but because they’re on skates, they have this extra ability to fly through the air,” Holloway tips. “You get a feeling of elation when you watch this show.”

Thank You For Coming: Attendance and The Dark Chorus

One of the world’s most sought-after choreographers, New Yorker Faye Driscoll brings the first part in her stellar Thank You For Coming trilogy to Melbourne’s Arts House while one of our home-grown, in demand superstars Lucy Guerin unveils her new work, The Dark Chorus, next door at the Meat Market. “Ok I’m cheating a bit combining these, but you can see both of these brilliant young women’s work on the same night and it feels a bit like a double bill.”

The Toff in Town

Pop-ups are so last year, so Holloway decided to embrace Melbourne’s vibrant bar scene and relocate the festival hub to The Toff in Town, where you’ll be able to chill out, debrief and catch some amazing performers including Irish-French singer Camille O’Sullivan, Manic Street Preachers collaborator Cate Le Bon and American icon Grant-Lee Phillips. “That’s where we’ll hang out every night,” Holloway promises.

Buried Country

Showcasing decades of the oft-overlooked history of indigenous performers embracing country music, Buried Country’s incredible line-up includes elders Roger Knox and Auriel Andrew and younger stars Luke Peacock and Leah Flanagan. “It’s one of our big, big stories and really exciting,” Holloway says. 

The Home Within

Spun in textural red string like an enormous spider’s web, The Home Within is the first work by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota to appear in Melbourne. Free for all, it pops up first at Deakin Edge before moving around the CBD and wrapping up at the Melbourne Town Hall. Part architecture, part art, it’s all wow. “It’s huge and it’s beautiful,” Holloway says. “You stand within it and it changes the way you feel.”


Sara Baras is Flamenco royalty and Voces, featuring 14 dancers and musicians. will fill Hamer Hall with unbridled jubilation. “It’s the unadulterated joy of someone living their art on the stage,” Holloway promises. 

Image Credit: Melbourne Festival (David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed)

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